How times have changed. Just over ..."/>

How times have changed. Just over ..."/>

Is Hartline the best option at QB?


By Kyle

How times have changed. Just over a month ago, I was sure that Ryan Mossakowski should be the starting Quarterback for Kentucky next year, and not only am I about to explain to you why I have changed my mind, I am also hoping to impact your opinion too.

I thought Moss’ would be the guy because his skill set is precisely what the Kentucky offense is built around. Sure Morgan Newton brings something to the table, but he needs a little more time to get used to an NFL style offense after running the “Morgan-Newton-do-whatever-you need-to-to-win-the-game” offense he ran in high school. The absolute last thing I ever thought was that I would write an article that would explain why I know think Hartline should be the guy (and you should too), only to post it on a website where people could actually read it, and know that I wrote that. I know, right? That’s crazy.

One of the knocks on Hartline is his lack of speed, but when is the last time Kentucky employed a running QB? Woodson was athletic, but not fast. Pulley was fast, but could never win the starting job. Boyd was big, strong, and quick. He was not fast. Lorenzen, well, you know. Bonner, Couch, Haskins, etc. You can keep going if you want, but Kentucky hasn’t had a Pat White/Vince Young type signal caller in recent history. You do not need to be fast for this type of offense to work. Let’s look at the other two. Mossakowski can move around in the pocket well, but won’t be making a position switch to receiver anytime soon, and is certainly no faster than Hartline. Newton had all the publicity as a Parade All-American athlete that could beat you with his arms or legs. Then when he saw the field last year, we saw him get run down from behind by Defensive Ends and Defensive Tackles on those awful QB sweep and stretch plays. Newton is more like Tim Tebow than Pat White. He’ll run over defensive backs all day, but outrunning them is a different story. Hartline’s athleticism is underrated anyway. Most people don’t know that he was a track star in the hurdles as a high school athlete, and his brother (with the same genetics) is fast enough to play Receiver for the Dolphins. If speed were that big of a concern in the offense, why would the staff not keep Randall Cobb at QB full time? Because it’s not.

Of all the complaints fans have about Hartline, the biggest is arm strength, and I’m not going to argue with this one. He does show the ability to put some zip on the ball, but has struggled throughout his career to consistently throw a catchable deep ball. Here’s the question though: What does it matter if Mossakowski and Newton can throw the ball 75 yards if they can’t get it within 15 feet of the intended receiver? Hartline makes up for his lack of arm strength with his accuracy and decision making. Will he ever be a Brett Favre type of gun-slinger? No. But he can be a Kurt Warner style intermediate passer who makes solid decisions and doesn’t get his team beat. If Kentucky continues to be successful with the running game, all Hartline needs to do is keep the defense honest. Anything more than that is just gravy, and at least for spring, he appears to be ready to do much more.

The most important role you want your Quarterback to fill is the role of leadership on the offense. Just about any defensive player can step up and take a leadership role, but on the offense, the only player that can effectively lead your team to the promise land (end-zone) is your signal caller. This is clearly where Mike Hartline is out in front. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several players about their opinions on each QB, and the same three things come up each time they talk about Hartline: Leadership, knowledge of the offense, and accuracy. It’s expected for him to have the upper hand in knowing the offense because he has significantly more experience than his teammates as a red-shirt senior. While fans can find ways to knock Hartline, accuracy hasn’t ever been a credible argument against him. All that considered, the players belief in him has an affect on the way they play and do their individual jobs. If the receivers trust the quarterback, they can run their routes harder and faster, knowing the ball will be where it should be. The Running backs know that the handoffs will be in the breadbasket, that the QB fakes will hold the defense, and that they will get the ball out of the backfield if the primary receivers aren’t open. The Offensive Line knows that if they do their job, the ball will get out quickly and they won’t be forced to pass-protect for seven, eight, nine or even ten seconds against smaller quicker Defensive Linemen and blitzing Linebackers. When your offense has that trust in the QB that Kentucky’s players have, it makes everything run smoother. By all indications, Hartline has earned this trust.

The last point I want to make is that Hartline has extended time on the field against top notch defenses. I know we’ve heard non-stop about the basketball team’s lack of experience and how it hurt them. There are arguments both ways, but in football the game is different. It’s more about thinking and reacting, especially at Quarterback. While very few people would argue that Mike Hartline is more naturally talented than Morgan Newton, you could tell that the staff had to water down the offense for Newton last season, and he still looked lost at times. Is that a knock on Newton? No it’s not, because he was an inexperienced freshman and expecting much more would be asking a bit much. Hartline is battle tested and has been working in the same offense for four years. Here’s a question. Let’s say you have a Toyota Prius that needs some work done. You know that while it’s still just a car, that this specific car is unique from others. You depend on this car to get you to your place of work so you can do a good job and remain employed. When you’re looking for a mechanic, do you want a guy that has worked on Hondas, Fords, and even diesel trucks previously, but has only been working with electric/gas hybrids for a year? Or do you want the guy who’s been working on electric/gas hybrids exclusively for four straight years going on five? It makes the experience argument make a little more sense. You’ve got a lot invested in your car, so you want to take care of it. Joker is in a unique position. The coach in waiting label might actually have hurt him, because there is not honeymoon period like Charlie Strong will get at Louisville. Not much is changing from Coach Brooks’ time here, so fans will likely have a shorter amount of patience than we might have seen otherwise. The offense is Joker’s car. Because he is an offensive guy, he needs the guy running it to do the best job possible to keep his job. If the offense fails, it will largely be seen as a reflection on him. Joker needs to have a good first year, and Hartline’s experience makes winning more likely. So to answer the question asked in the title of this post………Yeah, pretty much.

So there you have it. If Hartline wins the job, I’ll be happy because I know what he brings to the table will put Kentucky in the best position to win. I’m sure there are many out there that disagree with me, but keep in mind that I wasn’t sold on Hartline until recently. Feel free to crucify me in the comments section if you feel the need. I also reserve the right to rescind this post, claim I never wrote it, say I knew it would be Newton or Mossakowski all along and delete it from existence if someone else wins the job.

And yes, I do understand that most of the people reading thi
s still think I’m crazy.

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