The WBN Kentucky Wildcat Football Position Previews: Quarterback



We’ll kick off the 2011 season positional previews with the Quarterbacks. While the notion that the QB is the most important position on the football team is debatable, the notion that the position is at least extremely important is not. The Cats will look to junior Morgan Newton to take the reins of the offense and replace the graduated Mike Hartline. Newton will begin the season as a starter for the first time in his career, but it’s not like he’s going to be green. In 2009, Hartline was injured against South Carolina and Newton took the majority of the snaps for the remainder of the season after backup Will Fidler proved ineffective in limited time. Newton was able to lead Kentucky to road wins against Georgia and Auburn on the way to their fourth consecutive bowl game as a true freshman that season and followed up 2009 as Hartline’s primary backup in 2010.

Newton was poised to go into this offseason and battle Ryan Mossakowski for the starting job this year, but Mossakowski decided to transfer before the spring and Newton was left as the only quarterback on the roster with any significant game experience. Kentucky was able to add greyshirt freshman Maxwell Smith to the roster prior to spring practice and he gained some positive playing experience working out as the number two quarterback throughout the offseason. True freshman Theltus ‘Bookie’ Cobbins arrived this summer to provide some reinforcements at the quarterback position, but behind him, the rest of the roster is made up of walk-ons.

The Projected Starter:

#12 – Morgan Newton – JR – 6’4 / 235 – Carmel, INAfter Mossakowski transferred, Newton was left as the default starter even though he was likely to be the winner of the battle anyway. A former Parade All-American, Newton came out of high school as highly decorated as anyone Kentucky has signed in the last decade. He came in with high expectations, but was able to contribute as a true freshman and will go into the 2011 season as the obvious leading candidate for the starting job. Newton’s combination of size, strength and speed makes him a dangerous athlete and he will be a sharp contrast from the style of quarterback Mike Hartline was for the Cats. He should have a grasp of the full playbook entering his junior season and the effectiveness of his play will likely determine the success of the offense this year.

The Main Contender:

#11 – Maxwell Smith – FR – 6’4 / 220 – Van Nuys, CA

Smith actually was part of the 2010 recruiting class, but greyshirted for the 2010 season and enrolled in classes for the spring semester last season. Now over a full year removed from high school, Smith has had the luxury of working out an extra year before enrolling in school and will continue in the offseason as a true freshman. His family moved to California while he was in high school and his new football team utilized the spread option offense, which he isn’t really a good fit for. Smith played well enough as a senior anyway, but few colleges came calling. After sending out game tapes to different colleges, Kentucky decided to offer Smith a scholarship. Smith was able to pick up the offense during spring practice and headed into camp as the #2 quarterback behind Newton. He’ll have to hold off the remainder of the roster if he hopes to keep the backup spot, but when you’ve already overcome the type of adversity Smith has, that shouldn’t be too hard.

The Top Newcomer:

#7 – Theltus ‘Bookie’ Cobbins – FR – 6’0 / 187 – New Orleans, LA

Kentucky was able to secure a commitment from Cobbins by being one of the few schools that recruited him as a quarterback. While he may not have ideal height for a passer in the pro-style offense, Cobbins is a freakish athlete that will give the Wildcats their first TRUE running threat at the position since Curtis Pulley was on the roster. There is always a chance that Cobbins is eventually moved from quarterback to receiver or defensive back, but he has the type of dynamic abilities that could make him too valuable under center to move. He is still recovering from a high school shoulder injury, but when he finally gets back to 100%, he’s definitely a player to watch.

The Best of the Rest:

#17 – Jacob Russell – SO – 6’4 / 223 – Lawrenceburg, KYRussell transferred to Kentucky from EKU this year and will be ineligible to participate until the 2012 season. He is a former 5A player of the year in Kentucky and was a multi-sport star in high school.

#5 – Michael Burchett – FR – 6’2 / 205 – Prestonsburg, KY

Burchett came to UK after a standout career at Prestonsburg Highs School. He started the spring at third on the depth chart, and could easily be there once the season kicks off if the staff decides to redshirt Cobbins. Also known to be an excellent holder on special teams, he may see some playing time on field goals and extra points as well.

#14 – Ryan Phillippi – SO – 5’11 / 178 – Lexington, KY

While he doesn’t posses ideal height for the quarterback position, Phillippi is a tough competitor that excelled in high school in Kentucky’s top classification. He is unlikely to be called upon this season, but did enter spring as fourth on the depth chart.

The Future:Patrick Towles – 6’5 / 230 – Ft. Thomas, KYWhile everyone has been fawning over Zeke Pike, Towles has quietly crept up to make a name for himself. He’s currently rated as the #24 quarterback in the country by rivals, the #41 rated quarterback nationally by scout, the #40 ‘athlete nationally by ESPN, and was invited to the Elite11 quarterback camp this offseason. Towles is a great fit for the Kentucky offense and is currently being tutored by former Cat Jared Lorenzen at Highlands High School. He could be a major challenger for playing time very early in his career.

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