Newton earns praise for good attitude

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 10, 2012 

Morgan Newton

Morgan Newton stood quietly by as Jalen Whitlow answered question after question in front of outstretched microphones and recorders.

As the true freshman quarterback was peppered with inquiries about his upcoming start Saturday at Arkansas, Newton waited patiently nearby.

The sidelines have become a familiar place for the senior quarterback.

"It's tough on him," friend and UK center Matt Smith said when asked about Newton. "He's a senior and it's his last year, and he keeps dropping down that depth chart, and they keep asking guys to step up in front of him."

But Newton hasn't flinched.

"It's been a tough ride for him the last year," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said, but said Newton's shown "tremendous character, tremendous integrity."

The 6-foot-4 senior from Carmel, Ind., has gone from stud to dud more times than he or his teammates can count, but you won't hear him complain, Smith said.

"He's handled it really well," Smith said. "I was kind of surprised at how he handled it — that he didn't turn sour on things and go against everybody. He's still with us 100 percent, which is awesome."

This season, coming off shoulder surgery, Newton has been limited by what he can do. He's been leapfrogged first by Smith, then true freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles.

But now, with Smith likely out for the season and Towles out for at least the time being (both with ankle injuries), Newton moved back up to the No. 2 spot behind Whitlow. Newton called the recent rash of injuries at QB "just unbelievable."

Having Newton in the game is not an ideal spot for the UK offense or the senior quarterback. Sanders said as much after Kentucky's loss Saturday to Mississippi State.

"Obviously Morgan's limited in what he can do," Sanders said of Newton. "I think we all know that. That's kind of where we're at."

It was obvious after Newton's performance at Florida, where he was thrown into service after starter Maxwell Smith injured his throwing shoulder, that he is limited.

After less than two days' practice at the spot, Newton completed just seven of his 21 passes for 48 yards. He also threw it three times to Florida defenders.

Some days are better for him than others, he admitted.

"It just depends on the day," Newton said Wednesday when asked about his health. "I know (the playbook), of course. Physically, I feel like I can do a lot, but it's got to be the coaches, what they feel like I can do — and then what I can do."

Newton said he's doing everything he can to ready himself to be the backup again, even though he's not getting much practice at the quarterback spot. Whitlow is getting more than 75 percent of the repetitions as coaches try to get him up to speed quickly.

"I've just got to prepare myself mentally as much as possible, because like you said, Jalen is getting all the reps," Newton said. "So if something happens: 'Hello, my name is Morgan Newton.' It's one of those things. I've just got to prepare myself."

While he gets himself ready, he tries to help the younger quarterbacks get ready, too.

That has earned him the No. 1 spot on the character depth chart.

"I appreciate him and the type of person he is more and more every day," Sanders said. "He is all about Kentucky. He wants Kentucky to win. He wants Kentucky to do better. Just to accept that role and embrace it as he has is phenomenal. There's not many people that could do that."

Injury updates

Kentucky's trio of defensive backs — Martavius Neloms (hamstring), Mikie Benton (ankle) and Ashely Lowery (concussion-like symptoms) — did not practice on Wednesday, Coach Joker Phillips said.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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