LEXINGTON — Morgan Newton obviously needs all the experience he can get with Kentucky's offense after playing sparingly at quarterback last year and starting in the BBVA Compass Bowl only after Mike Hartline was suspended.
However, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips knows he also needs to find a way to play backup quarterback Maxwell Smith, a true freshman, and hopes he can do that tonight in Nashville, Tenn., when the Wildcats play Western Kentucky.
“We don't have a backup quarterback that has any snaps. So we've got to start getting one ready. We've learned a little bit of a lesson from a few years ago with Morgan (when Hartline got hurt). We had to put Morgan out there as a true freshman," Phillips said. "But we had a backup (Will Fidler) that had played a few snaps."
Phillips admitted UK went with Newton when Hartline went down because the staff thought he was a "bit more talented" and the season was only half over.
“Now, we don't have an opportunity to have a guy with experience in front of a talented guy, so we've got to start getting some snaps (for Smith). I would hate, four, five games, he's thrown in there with his first snaps having no experience. We have to find an opportunity to get him some snaps," Phillips said.
Phillips says it's not really possible to prepare a game script with an exact time to use Smith and take Newton out.
“It will just be a feel thing. We'll go from there. Our quarterback situation, I was thinking about it the other day. We have done a really good job of developing quarterbacks. That's my opinion. I don't know what everybody thinks, but I think we have," Phillips said. "We were kind of screwed up in our cycle because we lost a really good quarterback (Curtis Pulley) about five or six years ago. It kind of screwed us up in our cycle of quarterbacks. It was in between Andre' (Woodson) and Mike Hartline. So we lost a couple years in that.
“I think we're back on schedule where this guy (Newton) will have a really good career here for two years, then the next one comes, then we got one (Patrick Towles) already committed to us that he'll be in a perfect situation to take it over after that one. We're now back on schedule with our quarterbacks.”
Freshman curse: Phillips says he has no problem with having either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen composing about one-third of the two-deep depth chart going into tonight’s game.
“I don't think it's a curse. We got to play the best players that are going to give us the best chance to win. Some of these freshmen are talented enough and mature enough,” Phillips said. “We have one offensive lineman (Darrian Miller) in the two-deep that's a young guy. The rest of them are skill positions. We have one defensive lineman (Mike Douglas) that will be in the two-deep also. The rest of them are skill. You see skill players playing every week. Like I say, our schemes will give them a chance to be successful.”
Phillips says the staff expects young players to contribute just as they have in past years, especially with the way UK feels it has upgraded its recruiting.
“We wouldn't have signed them if we didn't expect those guys to come in here and help us. That's just being honest,” Phillips said. “We expect every time we go out and recruit a class that we've got to get better than we have every year. I'll tell these freshmen that just walked on campus, ‘We got to get better than you for us to be successful and continue the growth of the program.’”
One freshman, Alvin Dupree, came to UK as a tight end. Early in practice he was switched to defense and now he’s No. 2 behind Ridge Wilson at linebacker.
“All of those guys have done a really good job. That's the reason we have so many of them in two-deep,” Phillips said. “Like I said, I'm looking forward to watching those guys play. It's a talented group. They look and carry themselves like SEC players are supposed to look and carry themselves. I'm excited to watch those guys play.”
Another Cobb: Phillips admits he’s not quite sure how much UK¿will miss Randall Cobb’s ability as a receiver, kick returner and sometimes quarterback and has no way of knowing if another Cobb might emerge this season.
“Well, I hope like heck there will be. We said there would never be another Tim Couch, and Andre' Woodson comes around,” Phillips said. “We said there would never be another Andre Woodson and Morgan comes around. I'm hoping there will be another Cobb around here. The thing that Randall gave us more than anything was his leadership, his determination. I think that was infectious on this football team.”