It could be well into fall camp before Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks names a starting quarterback, but if the off-season is any indication, sophomore Mike Hartline has taken a slight edge over junior Curtis Pulley.
Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said reports that he's gotten so far suggest that Hartline has been the quarterback who has shown the most leadership this summer.
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”They both are trying to lead, but Mike's a little bit ahead right now,“ Phillips said. ”He's doing things the right way.''
UK's first practice isn't until Aug. 5, so Pulley still has time to make up ground. But time is running out, and Phillips said the intangibles that are shown in the off-season mean just as much as what happens on the practice field.
”That's important for your starting quarterback,“ Phillips said. ”You've got to be able to gather all the guys together and take charge. That's how you gain the respect and trust of your teammates.“
This isn't the first time that Pulley has lost ground in the quarterback race over the summer. Pulley beat out Andre Woodson for the starting job in spring practice two years ago, but coaches indicated that Pulley didn't take care of business in the summer months that followed and ultimately lost the job back to Woodson in fall camp.
Phillips said that while Pulley hasn't slacked off quite as he did in the summer of 2006, he still expects more out of the talented, 6-foot-4, 200-pound 2005 Mr. Football from Hopkinsville.
”He's improved, but he's got to do better,“ he said. ”If something starts at 9 o'clock, he needs to be there at 8:45. You can't be showing up at 8:59. You've got to be there early to make sure everybody else is there and knows what's going on. Curtis lost his job in August the last time, and I'd hate for that to happen again.“
Pulley is the more experienced of the two quarterbacks, having served as Woodson's backup for two seasons in 2005 and 2006 while also moonlighting at wide receiver. Hartline saw limited duty as a redshirt freshman last fall, backing up Woodson while Pulley redshirted.
Pulley and Hartline battled it out during spring practice with neither quarterback taking a decisive advantage.
But Hartline has made the bigger impression this off-season.
”He's showing up on time, he's working with the young quarterbacks, he's helping out the young receivers, not only by coaching them up on the field, but by helping them learn the offense,“ Phillips said. ”He seems to be in charge of the offense right now, and that's what you want out of your starting quarterback.“
Phillips said that he hasn't ruled out sophomore Will Fidler being in the quarterback race. Fidler missed last season after undergoing shoulder surgery but made progress in the spring.
”You hope that he could be that solid No. 1 or No. 2 guy for you,“ Phillips said. ”I definitely think he's got the chance to challenge for a spot somewhere.“