Morgan Newton a starter and a teacher

Teaching part of Newton's new role

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 20, 2011 

  • Scouting the QBs

    The main man: Morgan Newton. The 6-foot-4 junior from Carmel, Ind., didn't have to fight for his starting spot this season and has improved his timing with receivers and his line running on the first team. Coaches also think Newton has become a true leader on the team this off-season, organizing team workouts and 7-on-7 drills with players from other nearby colleges.

    The supporting cast: Maxwell Smith and Bookie Cobbins are the backups, in that order. Smith arrived on campus for spring practices and has had more of a chance to learn the offense. He has been progressing well at camp, coaches say. Cobbins is still learning the intricacies of the system. As a high school player, he was more of a rushing style quarterback.

    Newcomer to watch: Freshman Maxwell Smith, a 6-4 QB from Granada Hills, Calif., has been developing quickly thanks to extra reps during spring camp. His timing with receivers and the line has been improving.

    Outlook: Newton has had his share of growing pains since being called on to start eight games as a freshman. Those included losing out the starting spot last season to senior Mike Hartline, but he says those experiences have made him a better quarterback overall and a more well-rounded individual. Coaches and teammates have been complimentary of his ability to bring the offense together and be a steadying force in the huddle.

    Jennifer Smith

  • This is the second in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position.Coming Sunday: Offensive line

Morgan Newton breathed a sigh of relief and smiled as he opened the Kentucky offensive playbook to start the season.

Now a junior, the quarterback turned page after page and realized he actually knew all of the plays.

"Being able to see that book and open it up and know what's going on is pretty refreshing," Newton said at the team's Media Day.

Newton knows the book so well that the Cats' starter has been able to help teach it to the backup quarterbacks, freshmen Maxwell Smith and Bookie Cobbins.

"Some people say when you try to teach, you learn it better," Newton said. "So it's only helped me having those young guys.

"(I) try to contribute and help them as much as I can because I remember being that freshman not too long ago."

Newton was called into action as a freshman after the injury of Mike Hartline. The 6-foot-4 passer from Carmel, Ind., started eight games, throwing for 706 yards and six touchdowns (and three interceptions) that first year.

He was beaten out for the job last year by Hartline, then a senior, and Newton worked extra hard to make sure he never lost his starting spot again.

It's been a less trying fall camp for Newton this year knowing that he is indeed the starting quarterback.

It's been good for his timing with the receivers and his offensive line.

But it doesn't mean Newton has been able to relax and just enjoy camp.

"He's continued to showcase his leadership ability," student assistant coach and former Cats quarterback Andre Woodson said. "He's really calm out there when things don't go that well. He's doing a good job of keeping everyone going in the same direction."

Part of that, Woodson agreed, is that Newton has become a mentor in his own way to his backup quarterbacks.

"With him going and breaking down film with them so much, it allows him to know what they're thinking," said Woodson, who used to do the same thing with his teammates. "It's great because someone might see something that you don't and that can make you better, too."

Getting Smith, the backup to Newton, on campus for a couple of weeks of spring practice was good for him, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders said.

It's given Sanders a little more comfort in the Cats' depth at that position even though Smith is still just a true freshman.

"I'm not as worried as I'd have been if he hadn't been here, but I'm still worried," Sanders said of Smith. "I have to keep reminding myself that he's really just a true freshman.

"He's still got a million things to learn. He probably thinks I'm one of the meanest people in the world at times."

Newton can relate.

"I just stopped hating Coach Sanders not too long ago," Newton said laughing.

He tries to be a buffer of sorts between Smith and Sanders because Newton knows what it's like.

"You come in as a freshman and there's so much thrown at you," he said. "There's so much to learn and you've got to do a lot. They put a lot of responsibility on you as a quarterback."

But Newton and Woodson are confident that Smith, a 6-4 QB from Granada Hills, Calif., is picking up the system quickly and could step in if it was ever required.

"Max really, really wants to be good, so that helps," Newton said.

Woodson agreed.

"Max has really caught on to the offense," he said. "He's starting to showcase his ability. He's done a great job of anticipating routes and getting it out of his hands and making good throws."

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