I do not envy Morgan Newton.
The senior quarterback came to Kentucky as a four-star recruit, an All-American, the pride of Carmel, Indiana. After an impressive freshman year, in which he filled in for an injured Mike Hartline and led his team to wins over Georgia and Auburn, Newton reverted to backup his sophomore year. His lone start, the utterly depressing BBVA Compass Bowl loss, came as a result of Mike Hartline’s suspension. His junior year was the cruelest; Newton failed to ever get one of the most ineffective Kentucky offenses going before injuring his shoulder and foot late in the season. Short, routine passes seemed to perplex him. The most iconic image of Newton’s career may be the most depressing: taking a snap from deep in UK’s territory against Western Kentucky, Newton stumbled back from the line of scrimmage and fell to the ground at the three-yard line, a victim of his own clumsiness.
Fast forward several months. Newton, whose name is uttered by most UK fans with the same disgust as Jerry Seinfeld’s “Newman,” is finally healthy and apparently turning heads for all the right reasons in workouts and practice. The senior attended the Manning Passing Academy, where he was surrounded by the best in his field. Joker Phillips said he hoped the experience would help Morgan figure out how to be a leader on the field, something he’s struggled with the past two seasons. He may be the forgotten contender in UK’s quarterback competition, not as lauded as sophomore Maxwell Smith, or flashy as super freshmen Patrick Towles. Even Jalen Whitlow, the talented dual-threat freshman, has gotten more headlines thus far. Yet, it was Morgan Newton who impressed the most at Fan Day on Saturday, throwing a 30-yard pass to DeMarco Robinson and 50-yard bomb to Aaron Boyd in the 11-on-11 scrimmages. By most accounts, he was “by far” the best quarterback on the field.
Yet, even if that still rings true come September and Newton is named the starter, he will always play against a stacked deck with the fans. Whether fair or not, Newton will be blamed for every bad play, dropped pass, and loss the Cats endure. Each interception he throws will take him one step closer towards the curb so fans can throw him under the bus. Touchdowns will be chalked up to pure luck. The only person that will garner more criticism than Newton will be Joker for starting him.
One impressive scrimmage does not make a starter. For Newton to win the starting spot, he’ll have to show a MAJOR improvement in his short game. He’s never really had problems throwing long, but the offense operates on short throws, not deep bombs. The experience is there, but is the confidence?
My question to you: if Morgan Newton gives this team the best chance to win, will you accept him as your starting quarterback?