LEXINGTON — Morgan Newton heard others talk about how it took time for everything to “click” for a Division I¿quarterback and that is was not easy to learn a more complicated offense and master reading multiple defenses.
Newton, like many top prep players, didn’t believe it would be that hard for him. Now the Kentucky junior quarterback readily admits it was — just as it was for student-assistant coach Andre Woodson who is now helping Newton.
“I remember people talking about it and me not buying into it very much. Maybe it clicks for everybody at different times,” said Newton Wednesday. “The way it worked out, it seemed like this is kind of the time things are clicking even more in my development as I try to get better.”
Newton has inherited the No. 1 job with the graduation of Mike Hartline. He started eight games as a freshman in 2009 when Hartline was injured and went 5-3. He started the BBVA Compass Bowl loss to end last season when Hartline was suspended. Overall, he’s thrown for 971 yards and six scores.
Like Woodson did between his sophomore and junior seasons before leading UK¿to consecutive bowl victories, Newton has spent more time studying film this summer than ever before.
“The more you come over here, the more you run into coaches and graduate assistants and guys over here trying to make us better. We are all out here,” Newton said. “We had a practice last Thursday night and they had to turn the lights out on us and that has never happened and is different from anything since I¿have been here. That’s something that happened in high school. A lot of times guys have been just ready to get out of here, but guys have been trying to stay here and work and get better and everybody wants to be good. That’s why I have been watching so much more film.
“But all the guys have been emphasizing staying extra time in the film room and seeing what you have done and what guys before you have done. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Andre’s stuff — and Andre talks about it too much — and I can’t tell you how much I have watched him and how successful they were and how we could have been more successful last year.
“Andre has been real valuable. He is a guy that has done it. He has kind of seen the NFL. He has been towards the top of the SEC and been towards the bottom, too. He has seen it all and having a guy like that on your side is helpful.”
Newton says it’s not hard to concentrate on making needed improvements even during summer workouts when there are no coaches on the field or players are not in pads.
“In a lot of ways you work on what you would work on if the coach was out here with you. Sometimes you try to imagine coach (Randy) Sanders in the background telling you to work on every aspect, every detail,” Newton said. “That is what you have to do. You have to make sure you are precise with your (pass) drops and things and try to do everything as if you were in a game.”
He’s also spent extensive time with strength coach Rock Oliver.
“We are just doing a lot of resistance stuff. A lot of times guys will hang on you and you still have to make plays,” Newton said. “ Just being strong in the pocket, quick with your feet, being explosive. All those are things he’s been working on with me.”
Newton has also worked on stressing his leadership role by making sure other players are working out and doing things they should to improve.
“It is really important and it is one of those things that doesn’t start with just coming every day. You have to do it on and off the field and be somebody that people can look up to. That is something you constantly work on and something I¿have tried to do since I have been here is set an example on and off the field for guys and have them look at me as a role model and leader,” Newton said.
The past two years, he watched Hartline make calls to players at other schools to set up 7-on-7 summer workouts. This year he’s arranged for workouts against Georgetown College and Eastern Kentucky.
“It’s just 7-on-7 so you can see where you are at against other guys, but you can’t put much stock into it. It’s just fun to play different guys,” Newton said.
He was asked if he might make a call to Louisville for a friendly summer workout game.
“We are not scared. Probably not. We play them in the year,” he laughed and said.
Newton says the summer heat and humidity are not deterrent for not working.
“I would rather be out here when it was 90 instead of 40. I try to appreciate summer time. I like the summer. That is the time to work on your game and get better. I embrace the summer. Win as many as you can when it is warm and win more when it gets cold,” he said.