Word on the tweet: UK's Newton showing team he's ready to lead

QB pushes team to get better

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 7, 2011 

Morgan Newton looked to throw during Kentucky's Blue-White Spring Game at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. The junior-to-be passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns. The quarterbacks wore red jerseys to signal to the defense that hitting them was off limits.

PABLO ALCALA | STAFF

Twitter messages are required to be 140 characters or less.

But often a big message can be sent in that tiny format.

Just ask University of Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton, who learned that recently when he wondered in a tweet whether enough of his teammates wanted to get better.

"I don't remember that tweet," Newton said with a grin when the media asked him about it Wednesday.

No doubt some of his teammates remembered it.

And they responded to it.

"Sometimes you get frustrated, and that's all that was for a minute or two," he said of the tweet. "It probably wasn't the best way to put your frustration out there, but the guys responded, so it worked."

It's just one of the many ways that the junior has tried to increase his leadership role on a team that lost many of its top offensive playmakers from last season.

A relaxed Newton seemed comfortable in this new role as leader.

His fellow upperclassmen have noticed the changes. Newton doesn't just try to lead via tweet, but by example, they said.

"He's a workaholic," senior cornerback Randall Burden said of Newton. "He's working harder and more than he has in past years. He's getting ready to take this team on and lead it."

Fellow defender Ronnie Sneed has seen it, too.

"Morgan's a different guy (than before)," the senior linebacker said. "I could tell last year Morgan started to change. You could tell he was upset he didn't win that starting position, and I believe that pushed him to prove a point."

Sneed pointed to tangible evidence of leadership such as Newton's coordinating seven-on-seven drills and setting up competitions with players from other schools.

Last week, they worked with players from Georgetown. On Wednesday, it was guys from Eastern Kentucky.

That led one reporter to ask the quarterback whether he planned on calling any players from Louisville.

"We're not scared," Newton said laughing. "But probably not, since we'll see them this year."

It's not just becoming a coordinator that has made Newton a leader, Sneed said.

There are other things, too.

"He's working really hard," Sneed said. "I know he's in the film room, and I know he's in the weight room pushing it hard. He's excited about this season."

Work in the film room has been key, Newton said.

"We've emphasized spending extra time in the film room and seeing what you're doing on film, and seeing what guys before you have done," Newton said.

This leadership role is one that Newton takes seriously. He said he hopes UK's players continue to be accountable for using their time this summer to get better.

"The coaches can't be around, and they can't do that part in the summer, so it's our job," he said of the team's leaders.

And he likes what he's seeing from the veterans and the newcomers.

He sees the younger players watching and learning from the older players and the veterans making a conscious effort to be better role models.

"That's the thing that's pretty neat about this group is, everybody's just responding with wanting to come out here and get better every day," Newton said.

It was a part of a bigger message he wanted to send out with that tiny tweet.

"You don't try to throw anybody under the bus," Newton said. "That's not what I was trying to do. We definitely addressed the team about just having guys out here (practicing) because it's important."

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