UK Football Notebook

UK QB competition almost over

Phillips could name starter by Tuesday

Herald-Leader Staff WriterAugust 22, 2010 

Joker Phillips isn't ready to name a quarterback just yet, but the Kentucky coach said after Saturday's scrimmage that a final decision could come soon and that a starter could be named by the time the team scrimmages again on Tuesday.

Phillips said Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski all did a decent job of managing the game during the scrimmage. But Phillips is looking for more than that.

"We want a quarterback that can win the game for us," Phillips said. "We've got to go figure out who gives us the best chance to win the game, and hopefully we'll figure that out after watching this video."

When asked whether a starter would be named by Tuesday, Phillips said: "We might have that. We've got to get back and evaluate this film, and it might shake its way out. We've got to go with somebody and try to go with the guy who's been most consistent."

As he did last week, Phillips said it was still a three-man race and again shot down the notion that Mossakowski had been eliminated.

"It will be a tough decision, because all three of them give us something," he said. "Moss has that moxie that you really, really love, the way he has command of the huddle and command of the line of scrimmage. He's a salesman in the huddle as far as selling the play we call. He's that guy."

Phillips said all three quarterbacks missed open receivers on several occasions.

"We've got to get that honed up," he said. "We've got to be more efficient in the passing game to be balanced. We know we can run the football. I'm not sure we were as efficient today as we need to be to win."

Injury issues

Several players who are expected to be a part of the regular rotation missed the scrimmage because of injury. Phillips doesn't disclose injuries on a daily basis like former coach Rich Brooks, but linebacker Qua Huzzie (foot blister) and receiver La'Rod King (stinger) were two of the players he mentioned.

"We've got a lot of kids that we're counting on that we need to get healthy," he said.

With two weeks until the opening kickoff, defensive coordinator Steve Brown isn't hitting the panic button just yet.

"You get concerned if the game's a week away," Brown said. "Hopefully these guys will continue to get treatment and get healthy, but we're trying to make sure they do mental reps while they're watching practice. One thing our guys do really well is communicate with one another when they're on the sidelines."

Phillips said King's absence is being felt at receiver, as there's been a big drop-off after starters Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews.

"A couple of the young receivers aren't stepping up and doing as well as we thought they would," Phillips said. "So many times that's the guy who the quarterback is supposed to go to. If I'm a defense, I'm going to roll coverages to Randall Cobb. And the way Matthews is playing, I'd roll coverages to him. That leaves the third guy, and that third guy's got to get open when we need him. So many times that third guy isn't stepping up for us. We need La'Rod King to get healthy for us."

Young backs continue to impress

Phillips continues to single out freshman tailbacks Raymond Sanders and Brandon Gainer. The duo got the majority of the work in Saturday's scrimmage. The only issue was that both players coughed up the ball.

"They put the ball on the ground, which you can't have," Phillips said. "But that will come with experience and a lot of up-downs. We cannot put the ball on the ground. That thing has to be sacred to them."

Phillips said Sanders is slightly ahead of Gainer because of his knowledge of the offense and the fact that Gainer missed a couple of practices to injury. But both running backs are expected to see action this fall.

Report: Indianapolis offensive tackle commits to UK

The Danville Advocate-Messenger reported Saturday that Indianapolis offensive tackle Nick Martin had committed to Kentucky.

Martin's father, Keith, lettered at UK from 1981-83, and his mother, Pam, is a former athletic trainer at the school. Martin's brother Zack was offered a scholarship by UK before signing with Notre Dame.

Martin is listed as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and received offers from more than a dozen schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee and UCLA.

Big weeks for Smith, Conner

Former Wildcats Alfonso Smith and John Conner opened eyes in the opening week of the NFL pre-season. Smith scored on a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans, and the scoring play was featured on the front of the sports section of the Arizona Republic.

Conner has been one of the stars of the HBO series Hard Knocks, drawing constant praise from New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan. Conner, a fifth-round draft pick, has been pushing veteran Tony Richardson for the starting fullback position.

Battle of the Bluegrass blood drive

Kentucky Blood Center's annual Battle of the Bluegrass, which allows donors to give blood and vote for their favorite team — U of L or UK — runs Aug. 23 through Sept. 3. All donors will receive a Battle of the Bluegrass T-shirt and are automatically eligible to win the following prizes:

■ Donors who give blood Aug. 23 through Aug. 28 will be eligible to win two tickets to the Kentucky vs. Louisville game in Louisville on Sept. 4.

■ Those who give Aug. 29 through Sept. 3 will be entered into a drawing to win a 46-inch Sanyo flat-screen TV.

■ Everyone who registers to donate Aug. 23 through Aug. 31 is automatically entered to win a $5,000 AAA travel package. The vacation details are up to the winner.

"We are urging donors to give blood during the Battle of the Bluegrass for two reasons. It's a great way to show your team spirit and support the Cats, but it's also a way to assure there is enough blood available when the large number of visitors come to Kentucky next month for the World Equestrian Games," said Kentucky Blood Center President and CEO William Reed. "It is prudent for us to have higher than normal blood supplies available during WEG. Battle of the Bluegrass is one way for us to be prepared."

All Kentucky Blood Center donor centers and blood drives are participating. To find a convenient donation location or to schedule a donation, visit kybloodcenter.org or call 1-800-775-2522.

Chip Cosby covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article includes his opinions and observations. He can be reached by e-mail at ccosby@herald-leader.com.

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