UK-Georgia notes: Newton to share time with Whitlow despite ailing shoulder

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 19, 2012 

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Morgan Newton (12) tried a run on 4th down and lost yardage as UK played Kent State on Saturday September 8, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

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    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Truth be told, Morgan Newton isn't 100 percent.

All season, coaches hinted at it. Newton hinted at it.

This week, the former starting quarterback admitted that he still hasn't fully recovered from the surgery he had on his throwing shoulder after last season.

Is your shoulder as bad as we've heard it is, the senior quarterback was asked this week.

"Bad is a relative term," he said. "In comparison to somebody who might not have a shoulder, maybe I'm not doing too bad."

The statement forced several reporters to tilt their heads.

"I guess that came out bad," Newton said. "I didn't have a shoulder almost at the end of last year. It wasn't functional. To be able to do what I can do now is great. I don't want to offend anyone without a shoulder. I'm just happy to be out here with the guys."

Newton has been pressed into backup quarterback action several times this season, including a couple of times last week against Arkansas when coaches concluded that true freshman starter Jalen Whitlow needed to come out of the game to figure some things out.

Whitlow said this week that getting the break was important for him.

"I thought it was valuable because I got a chance to just sit back and think for a minute, just relax and calm down, just go back out there and play calm," he said. "Don't rush, just play my game."

For that reason, coaches said to expect more Newton this week, especially if things seem to be moving too quickly for Whitlow.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said Newton provides a "calming effect."

"Having Morgan in the mix helps Jalen, and having Morgan in the mix also probably helps our team a little bit," Sanders said. "He needs to be in the mix. He's a senior; he has experience. He obviously has some physical limitations, but there are a lot of things he brings to us that we need."

Homecoming support

Averaging just 50,408 fans per home game this season, Kentucky is on pace to have its worst attendance figures since 1996, the final season of the Coach Bill Curry era. In that season (pre-Commonwealth Stadium expansion), the Cats averaged 40,647.

Several players were asked this week about the waning fan support for their 1-6 team, which has lost five straight.

"It's tough when you've only won one game to keep all the fans in the stands that you had at the beginning of the season, obviously, but we know the Kentucky fan base is a good fan base for every sport that we have," senior center Matt Smith said. "We're just happy we have those fans still."

Linebacker Avery Williamson was asked what it would mean to see the stands more full for this week's game with Georgia for homecoming.

"It would mean a lot," he said. "We need as much support as possible. It would mean a whole lot for the fans to show up. We need support."

'Comfort zone'?

Georgia Coach Mark Richt was asked this week about the Kentucky injury situation, which has prompted the Cats' coaches to play 14 true freshmen so far this season, including at key positions like quarterback.

Richt sympathized, to a point.

"No coach wants to make any excuses for anything, but there's no question that if you're playing a bunch of true freshmen on your team and in the back end of your defense, that's tough," he said. "I think they're almost all true freshmen playing in the back end, so it's tough. Those guys all want to play SEC ball, but if you get too many of them playing at the same time, you're going to have some problems."

But he said the Bulldogs want to make sure their own problems, including a 35-7 loss at South Carolina two weeks ago (UGA is coming off a bye), are addressed.

He also offered the UK faithful a sliver or hope while providing a tale of caution for the Georgia players.

"Some teams, especially young teams, play better at home than away, and we'll be at their home and they'll have a comfort zone there," he said. "We just have to get after it because we have our own problems. We have enough problems of our own."

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

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