Yesterday the football team had their first scrimmage of the fall and while it was a closed session, reports leaked out like always. Of course the coaches did interviews afterward. The question that seems to be on everyone’s mind regards who will line up under center in Cardinal Stadium on September 2nd. Joker Phillips reserved any judgment before watching film of the scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders was a little more insightful but still stopped short of giving someone an edge.
Many fans are dismayed that there is any discussion at this point. Most have spent the better part of a year under the assumption that sophomore Maxwell Smith would be the Wildcats’ starter this season. While some entertained the possibility of freshman Patrick Towles giving Smith a run for his money, few realistically believed he would win. Only a few of us believed beleaguered former starter Morgan Newton would be given a chance to compete.
Well Newton is competing and the race is closer than most want to believe. Sanders comments indicated Smith has the lead, but it could be because of Newton’s shoulder injury. The freshmen are behind. People inside the program, along with several who cover the Cats for a living , as well as yours truly, believe Newton was dealt a raw deal last season. No quarterback would have thrived with a banged-up O-line, receivers who dropped half of their balls, and fans openly booing him. Newton’s injury may be affecting his throwing power, but let’s be honest, Smith hasn’t shown much of a ball. Many times a QB with a cannon arm learns about throwing with touch following such and injury. Also do not forget that both Mike Hartline and Andre Woodson thrived in their 4th year in the offense. This is Newton’s 4th season in Lexington.
This isn’t to say Smith is unworthy of the job, just that he has done little to lock it down. At the end of the day Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders will decide which player gives Kentucky the best chance to win football games in 2012. Regardless of who wins, I’ll cheer for them. And hopefully most fans will follow suit. If Newton wins the job and the Cats lose, the turmoil may be too much for the coaching staff. But if Newton is the best chance to win, then it would be a true shame if he were relegated to back-up duty because the coaching staff is afraid of fan backlash.