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Morgan Newton: Kentucky’s Catch-22

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?

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

70 Comments for Morgan Newton: Kentucky’s Catch-22

  1. Bob Sugar
    12:32 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink


  2. Owen
    12:38 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Ab-so-lutely. For a few reasons, starting with the fact he had extremely high upside and he has yet to reach it for a multitude of reasons. Sure he made mistakes on the field but you can’t blame him for the horrid offense last season. Not to mention, he got the starting job over Hartline 2 years ago after a game similar to what Max Smith did last year–and look what Hartline did his senior season. Point being, Morgan has a lot to prove, this final shot to do it and he’s got the most upside of any QB we do have besides maybe Towles (who isn’t ready yet).

    On top of that I think you’ve got to consider that it makes the program look bad if you have a guy who had that much potential and doesn’t do anything from it. Morgan Newton was one of the best recruits out there and he was a highly sought after guy but if he doesn’t have any success it looks not only like a personal failure on his part but also a recruiting and development failure on the staff’s.

  3. TrueBlue1102
    12:40 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t care if RS freshman punter, Jay Willmott, gives this team the best chance to win at quarterback. I just want to see this team win football games. This team has talent, and a lot more optimism than the majority of the fans. I don’t care if it’s Smith, Newton, Towles, or Whitlow. I just want to see this team succeed and make a few believers of the negative-Nancy’s surrounding the program.

  4. d
    12:43 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    why speak in hypotheticals? UK is awful, will be top 10 worst team in the country. newton isn’t any better now than he was in high school. joker can’t develop talent, but every now and then someone comes in with some.

  5. dick gosinia
    12:48 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Yes! Don’t care who the QB is or who the coach is. I just want UK to win and be exciting to watch. Was at the Fan Day on Saturday and really enjoyed it. The field and the stadium looked great! Rode over to the Nutter Center also. There is nothing wrong with our facilities that should keep us from being able to compete in the SEC.

  6. Champ
    12:51 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    agree w/ 2, 3 , 5.

    1 and 4, you are both great examples of what it means to be a smart, passionate UK fan (possible sarcasm)

  7. Common Sense
    12:51 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    If Morgan Newton is the best, then he better start. I never gave up on him like 99% of the fan base because I know he has talent, and it seems like he is turning heads again. HE HAS TALENT, but the UK fan base sees one bad thing and makes him out to be the devil. I talked to Jared Lorenzen a few weeks ago and the one QB he seemed most impressed about was Newton.

  8. Ares
    12:52 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t care who starts at qb or who coaches the team I want to win I want the boys to win and the coaches to win. I want the fans to win. My first choice is for that success to be under Joker but for Qb’s they are all good kids and I support them all.

  9. Chuck Bronson
    12:53 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    @1 & 4 — You guys make me wanna puke!!!

  10. Steve-O
    12:55 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    If he starts there will be a mass exodus of the remaining fans. Our receivers couldn’t catch a cold last season and then when Smith came in they caught the ball. Newton simply isn’t a quarterback. He should have moved to tight end since there’s now better QB’s on the roster.

  11. OoogieBoogie
    12:56 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    The question assumes that fans will accept Joker’s judgement if he decides Newton gives the team the best chance to win. Many fans will not.

  12. Common Sense
    1:00 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    So you are blaming Newton when the WR’s don’t catch his passes? HA! If so, that is hilarious.

  13. Carl
    1:00 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I think he should be given the first shot at it. He’s earned the opportunity. If he lacks the confidence of a leader it might be because his coach set him up for failure on multiple occasions in desperation to win ball games.

  14. jcatron
    1:02 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink


  15. SexnNursinHomes
    1:03 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t care if he has 6 eyes, 4 legs, and 0 hands and talks tar heel swahili. Just win us some games dammit.

  16. MadTex
    1:04 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Maybe if he holds my wet jock strap

  17. putinrichie
    1:04 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    3 – Nail on head. Play whatever QB that gets the most wins. The anti-UK haters like number 4 will trash the coach and program no matter who is playing. My only request would be to not burn Towles redshirt unless he’s your starter.

  18. Simple
    1:05 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink


  19. Negative Nancy
    1:05 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I see Newton more as a player that was overrated coming out of high school than one that was not developed by his coaches. Yes, #4 these coaches can coach up players. I think Newton struggled in his first clear shot as starter last year for a number of reasons. Short passes are a problem, but also he lacks quick decision making ability. He cannot quickly get up to speed when he scrambles (he can run once he gets a few yards past the line of scrimmage, but just seems like his feet aren’t quick enough to get past it!). Also, he runs straight up instead of with a lean that would help his big body pick up yards. I just think he doesn’t quite have it mentally. One comment I heard secondhand from a UK coach last year before the season was that Smith read his progressions and made quick decisions… Newton, not so much. So I don’t think Newton gives us the best chance to win, and I don’t think the coaches will think that, so the 2nd part of your question is moot.

  20. Dr. Kutaweigh
    1:05 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    IF M. Newton gives us the best chance then let him play/start. But is he really the best QB on the field on GAME DAY. Looking good in a scrimmage is one thing, looking good against the competition is another. NOTE TO JOKER: Give everyone a chance and WATCH CLOSELY to see who performs in a game situation, then put your ‘gamers’ on the field and be surprised! Your REAL players may be sitting on the bench!

  21. stan
    1:06 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t care if they start a middle schooler with two left feet and can’t tie his shoes. I will support whoever is out there, including Morgan, but this team HAS to show some passion this year.

  22. stan
    1:08 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t care if a 55 year old, broke down white guy can make them win…….hold it, that’s me, sorry.

    1:08 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    MAX Smith to me looked like the best QB last year. To be fair however the receivers dropped a whole bunch of passes, the type of passes that are drive killers.

  24. SeaCat
    1:09 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    10 said it best. Joker needs a miracle to save his job.
    Finding a quality quarterback might be it. Newton can’t
    improve that much after 3 lousy years.

  25. ukfaninohio
    1:09 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    i vote start newton if he looks this good but come out now and give him some confidence in knowing he is the man.I think a lot of kentucky fans like having one person to be mad at. There is always the hated guy that gets the most blame for us sucking but guess what if newton never plays again we will go on sucking just like we did before he got here.

  26. what the what
    1:10 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    The thing is, people can try to make excuses for Newton by saying the receivers didn’t catch the balls he threw. However, what separates Smith from Newton is his ability to deliver the ball on time where it’s supposed to be. Newton either leads the receiver too far or throws behind them. There was a lot of hype about Newton coming out of camp last year. I’m not going to get my hopes about him. He is going to have to prove himself.

  27. putinrichie
    1:13 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    10 – I agree that I dont think Newton isn’t a QB. My only point is that this is joker’s make or break season. He shouldnt try to appease the fans. He should just try to win games. That’s his best chance at getting the fans back.

  28. Goose41
    1:14 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Of course…. If he truly gives us the best chance to win, how could you not accept him!?!? Good grief what a question.

  29. bigbluebear
    1:16 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Well yeah. Obviously we would want whoever gives us the best chance to win at QB… I think the main criticism of Joker to this point is that he has a tough time making that decision…

  30. JackB
    1:19 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    if Morgan Newton gives this team the best chance to win, will you accept him as your starting quarterback?

    Uh, helk yeah!

  31. Jacob Adam Brooks
    1:21 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Starting Newton at this point would just retard the other 2 qbs. This happens every year… the scuttlebut in camp is that so and so has majorly improved then when the games start they look the same as they did before. Newton may look great in practice, but in the games his head is just GONE… did you all forget about Newton sacking himself for a 15 yard loss? Max Smith started against SEC competition and did great for a guy that young. Newton started against WKU and literally couldn’t do anything.

    He has a strong arm and is decent at hitting the long throws… but this is a quick hit offense and he can’t hit a guy 5 feet away. That’s the one thing that Hartline was great at which is why he had more success than Newton. Max Smith is a better passer in every facet of the game. Of course Newton looks better at this point… he’s had 4 years with the playbook. That doesn’t change the fact that come game time he can’t get it done againt even the weakest of defenses.

    If you want to continue to think that real game performances don’t matter than we’ll keep being one of the worst teams in the nation. We need to move forward and if starting Max Smith means there’s some bumps in the road, so be it, because in the long run either he or Towles will be the reason we improve down the road.

  32. any boob w/ an arm
    1:22 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    It doesn’t matter… If Newton gives us our best chance – we were gonna lose anyway. Newton was better as a Senior in high school, ya know, before Joker got a chance to f’er him up. I would rather give the Freshmen a chance, at least he’d have experience for next year – when we have a real coach.

    What does it say that a WR could lead us to victory when Newton couldn’t?

  33. d
    1:23 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    for those questioning fandom: you’re right. don’t pretend that if joker goes 3-9 you’ll still want him as your head coach. he’s awful and everybody knows it. i don’t support ineptitude.

  34. ATB (Always True Blue)
    1:31 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like or agree with the decision. I don’t see this team being an SEC title contender. So I have to think its Towles or Smith that gives them the best chance long term. This seasons goals should be simple. Get Towles experience for the next four seasons, win the three easy games, beat UofL, beat UT, beat Vandy, pick up one more win you shouldn’t pick up, win the bowl game finish at 8-5 and the season was a monumental success considering where we were at last season and build momentum moving into next year and Towles is your man for at least two more seasons. I truly believe everything I just posted should be attainable goals and the bare minimum this team should shoot for.

  35. ReedyCreekBuc
    1:33 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    No, he had his chance. We have better players than him at that position.

  36. Logic
    1:39 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    If he wins and looks competent, he will be supported as will the decision to give him the starting job. If the first 3 games look and go like the first 3 last year, then no, he won’t be supported and coach will be second guessed. It’s pretty simple.

  37. Laker Cat 18
    1:44 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I think Newton is our best chance to win games right now. I’ve always been a fan of him, even at Carmel. At one point during the season, I thought he was a better option than Hartline. No kidding.

  38. DerbyDemon
    1:48 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I’m still looking for “all that talent” he supposedly has.

  39. Bill P
    1:50 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    The problem is the question “if he gives this team the best chance to win”. He only gives us the best chance to win if there are no other QBs available.

  40. IF's
    1:50 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    IF Joker gives Newton the job, 2 things WILL happen…

    1) Newton WILL throw an INT within his first 5 throws.

    2) The fans (good and bad) WILL ‘BOOOOO’ Newton AND Joker.

  41. ThankfulCat
    1:57 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I think Newton freezes under the pressure of the game. Smith is the guy who must start. Towles needs to be saved for the new coaching staff so he should redshirt.

  42. cracka
    2:00 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    you mean we’re not just going to randomly pick a wide receiver to start at qb right before the game? that worked out pretty well last year

  43. Laker Cat 18
    2:00 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Can’t blame it all on the QB. Guys up front have to give him time and guys have to be able to catch the ball. Other than Cobb, we haven’t had either one since he’s been here.

  44. uk
    2:06 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    maxwell smith wasnt anything impressive last year either, i think newton is gonna come out like a bat outta hell vs louisville and shocck the commonwealth

  45. FTW
    2:06 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    If you weren’t at fan appreciation day, you shouldn’t be commenting PERIOD.

  46. uk
    2:06 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    dont forget those recievers dropped a ton of passes last year

  47. hahaha
    2:16 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    #45 – Please tell me your comment was a joke. So if a “fan” couldn’t get to Lex on a specific summer Saturday night, we shouldn’t comment? You’re as damn dumb as Joker.

  48. JDH
    2:23 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    To answer the question, yes, if Newton gives us the best chance of winning…he should start. Just like whoever gives us the best chance of winning at all the other positions should start.

  49. Blue4ever
    2:25 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Don’t care who the QB is as long as they can get us bowl eligible.

  50. Rob
    2:28 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    YES! In the end, if Newton can win games of course fans will rally behind him; the kid deserves a break, lets give it to him.

  51. UKfansNKY
    2:31 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    # 17 you nailed it!!!! GO CATS!!!

  52. RICK
    2:35 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    shit no

  53. STEVE!
    2:51 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    If he’s the best we have at the start of the season, of course you start him, but if he stinks up the joint, pull the trigger fast and play for the future with Smith. I agree Towles should be redshirted unless he is CLEARLY the best QB at the satrt of the season.

  54. Carvette
    3:11 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I have always liked Newton. I have been frusterated with play call and dropped passes. Newton was not in a great position to be successful.

  55. tyrus
    3:14 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    No. Go with Towles and stick with him. This isn’t a bowl bound team so let’s go with a young QB and let him get the experience. Starting the season with Newton UK will again for the fifth year in a row have a new QB to start off the season net year. Can’t win that way.

  56. nybrasky
    3:53 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Absolutely. I’d love nothing more than for him to come in and fulfill all the potential he came to UK with – the whole team needs it.

  57. Head Bussa
    3:56 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Please God no Newton this year! The dude throws more fast balls in the dirt than did “The Wild Thing” Mitch Williams.

  58. Head Bussa
    3:58 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I’m also tired of hearing how the fans blame the wrong guy all the time. Like our fans are so stupid and we don’t know anything. Morgan Newton has deserved all the negativity that has come to him because of his poor play.

  59. ukcat58
    4:08 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Yes, the best QB should start – the real question is do you have conficence that the “Joker” can figure out who is the best- Towles is the best shot we have of having a quality 4 year QB, lets not throw him away. The odds are we will have a devestating season, if we are lucky, 3-9 ( winning 3 mid major contests, even though we have a habit of losing to the MAC)If we get trashed by UL on Sept 2, and I mean by 21 or 28 points, for all practical accounts, it is over. You are dreamning if you are thinking we can improve on the 6-7, 5-7, of the last two years. We will ahve to suffer through the embarrasement of this year to start another building program with the Joker out of the card game.

  60. Slick Willy
    4:08 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Please tell me this is a joke. Morgan Newton has proven over and over again that he cannot play quarterback at this level. Period, end of discussion.

  61. ribin
    4:25 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Plan on it — Joker will start Newton — give him many opportunities to show that he can’t play (or can) — we’ll hear how he’s been great in practice etc — and once season is kaput — let smith/towles play — which will be some good and some bad. No real starter with experience for the upcoming year. Oh well —

  62. BravoBigBlue
    4:52 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    He was “most impressive in fan day”. Fan day! Practice! He has gotten more chances than he deserves. Our QB’ing has sucked since 2008. Put whoever you want back there – it WON’T MATTER – 3 or 4 wins at the most. Towles should transfer before the season so he won’t lose a season of eligibility. Fire Joker! Fire Mitch!

  63. JBR
    4:58 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I will start by saying that the QB that gives us the best opportunity to win should be under center. But, #59 hit the nail on the head. Joker has been infatuated with Newton since he has been here. Joker thinks that Newton is something that he is not (as noted by the unreasonable amount of running plays called for Newton). Newton does have a big arm, but has shown he does no have the decision making ability or composure to handle game action. Now, if he has improved, great…but back to the above comment…I do not trust Joker to make this decision. He ran off the best QB from that class…I hope he doesn’t ruin it for our next coach.

  64. BravoBigBlue
    4:59 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Another thing on Newton. He has had four (4) years to get himself in peak shape. He is not in shape. He has baby fat, is not cut in the least, and is at least 15 lbs overweight. Why would you even consider handing the starting QB job to a guy who is not motivated enough to get in shape. Just like Joker would not be a head coach for any other SEC program, Morgan Newton would not be a starting QB for any other SEC school. About half the blame goes on Newton and the other half on Joker / Sanders. Bring in 2 4-star QB’s in the same class and one is a bust and the other transfers. Towles won’t stay here if Joker is not replaced soon.

  65. UFA Cats
    5:12 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    #64, you speak about something you know nothing about. Stupid statement about both players.

  66. Seriously
    5:12 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    For every poster that mentions Mossakowski as the great savior that Joker let get away, you do know that he transferred to a junior college and now is at Lamar right? So, after starting every game in 2011 at a junior college, his best option was to play division I at Lamar. That pretty much says it all about your savior….

  67. notv
    6:17 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Morgan Newton at quarterback means Catch-0

  68. SevenT
    6:41 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Joker better figure out how to find plays that in line with Newton’s skill set. He is the best talent we have at QB. LOCK THAT UP

  69. firejoker
    2:33 am August 7, 2012 Permalink

    for those who say maxwell didnt look that impressive last year you are pathetic. he was a true freshman who noone expected to see play other then mop up duty, and he handled the pressure and got the offense clicking in a way newton could simply not. this season will be a disaster so why not talk possible replacments for the joke? i personally would love to see mitch go after terry bowden, or even his brother tommy. any of those guys would be upgrades from what we have now, not just coaching, but recruiting and bringing back some excitment to this program. people are quick to forget rich brooks had us ranked #7 in the country at one time, always competing hard in the sec and going to and winning bowl games and just generating energy in lexington. it just pains me to see all that work and success rich had his last 4 years putting this program on the map and headed in a positive direction being pissed away by joker. its no coincedence that as soon as joker took over this program has been going downward extremely fast

  70. Beavis
    7:29 am August 7, 2012 Permalink

    Comes down to which QB throws the more accurate and catchable ball. Second,,,will the QB have time to deliver the pass ? As for our coach,,,I can’t understand why a coach would make a statement like ” we are just trying to figure out which players we need to put in which positions to help the team ” ,,after the eight game of the season. You do that during spring practice.