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Newton bringing good attitude, sense of humor to new role

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Morgan Newton is transitioning into a new backup quarterback/H-back role two games into the 2012 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Morgan Newton is transitioning into a new backup quarterback/H-back role two games into the 2012 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There are lots of places Morgan Newton would rather be right now than facing the media.

Less than a month ago, Newton lost out on the starting quarterback job that was supposed to be his. Maxwell Smith won the top spot on the depth chart, relegating Newton to a backup role for his final season as a Kentucky Wildcat.

But there the television reporters and writers are, asking questions that only serve to remind him of the situation in which he finds himself. It would be difficult to blame Newton if he expressed discontent about being the most experienced second-string signal caller in the Southeastern Conference. Instead, Newton acknowledges that the job is rightfully Smith's.

"I think it'd be tough if you thought you were supposed to be playing quarterback," Newton said. "But Max is playing well."

Indeed he is.

Smith has completed 73-percent of his passes through two games, throwing for over 300 yards a game, six touchdowns and no turnovers. Even so, Newton could probably do real harm to his team if he wanted to. By grousing on the sideline, Newton might undermine his coaches and Smith's leadership. Newton, though, is choosing another path.

"That's the thing about him, he's always had a good attitude throughout this," head coach Joker Phillips said.

In addition to his duties as a backup quarterback, Newton is seeing the field at other positions for the first time since the time he was in grade school. Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has praised him for his rare blend of size and athleticism, but Newton sees another reason why Sanders is finding ways to expand his role.

"He just feels sorry for me," Newton joked.

Not only is Newton displaying a good attitude, he's also going about his business with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

"I think you kind of just have to," Newton said. "I've seen a lot of good times and bad times and been a part of good things and seen a lot of success. I've kind of just been in the background so I've been able to watch some of the young guys do a lot of good things. I'm just enjoying being out here with everybody and trying to help contribute."

In reality, Newton knows sympathy is far from the reason why he's playing more.

"It's good that they think I can help," Newton said. "I think I can help too. I don't want to step on any toes. I want to make sure that the offense stays the offense. If I can help out here and there, it's what I'm here to do. Better than signaling."

In UK's opener, Newton saw the field for one play, coming on to take a shotgun snap in a fourth-and-short situation against Louisville. He picked up the first down. In UK's second game, Newton was on the field for "five or six" plays, one of which was at the Wildcat spot, the others as an H-back either split out in the slot or lined up where a tight end would customarily be. Most memorably, Newton laid a block for freshman DeMarcus Sweat that allowed him to turn a short catch into his first career touchdown, a 56-yarder.

The trend is obvious: Newton's role is getting bigger. With tight ends Anthony Kendrick and Gabe Correll unavailable due to academics and injury, respectively, Newton's 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame becomes that much more valuable.

"We're starting to expand on the things we feel like he can do," Phillips said. "We don't really have a package, it's just, 'Go Morgan.' We don't coach him up or teach him anything. He understands it. We have to teach some techniques as far as alignments and those types of things, assignments, we're going to have to teach him those."

This week in practice, Newton has gotten more work in his quickly evolving new position. The nice thing about Newton is that his learning curve is close to non-existent in terms of figuring out where he's supposed to be.

"Obviously if you play quarterback, you should know what to do," Sanders said. "For him, it's learning how to do it."

Catching the ball is coming pretty naturally too. Newton doesn't have a 2012 catch yet, but he did reel in a 41-yarder at Vanderbilt in 2009. Unfortunately, he fumbled at the end of the play. Newton had another funny take on that.

"The first couple seconds of that clip are good," Newton said. "The fumble at the end, that makes a good blooper."

Newton's mere presence on the field gives pause to opposing defenses, making them wonder if a trick play like the one at Vanderbilt could be in store. Most of the time, plays Newton is involved in will be more traditional, but there may come a time when Newton's big arm gets put to use again.

"(Wide receivers) Coach (Pat) Washington, Coach Sanders, those guys are creative," Newton said. "Maybe they can put something fun together."

A lot more fun than talking to the press anyway.

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Anyone who knows Morgan isn't surprised by his attitude, he is a class act through and through. I've watched him compete in football for 7 years and basketball for 4 years. I've always seen a class act whether winning or loosing! Great kid, glad he is a Wildcat!

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  • Uk80grad: Anyone who knows Morgan isn't surprised by his attitude, he is a class act through and through. I've watched him read more