Yes, Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks acknowledges that Mike Hartline needs to play better. That being said, there have been no discussions about making a change at quarterback.
Hartline has struggled since playing well in the season opener against Miami (Ohio), throwing six interceptions and losing a fumble in his last three games. Boos rang out from the Commonwealth Stadium crowd a couple of times when Brooks sent Hartline back out to the huddle from the sidelines.
"I don't think they were booing him as much as they were booing me for not replacing him," Brooks said. "And so be it. That's life in the SEC and big-time football right now. I hate it. I hate to see that creep in what I consider to be a great fan base, but there's always the people that know a lot more than the coaches and the players and they want what they want when they want it. They buy the tickets. They can boo, they can cheer, they can jump up and down, they can blow snot. They can do whatever they want."
Junior Will Fidler is UK's backup quarterback. Fidler has seen mop-up duty in two games this season, going 3-for-5 passing for 29 yards. Fidler did not play in Kentucky's 38-20 loss to Alabama on Saturday.
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Morgan Newton and fellow freshman Ryan Mossakowski were four-star prep quarterbacks who were viewed as the jewels of UK's 2009 class, but Brooks has already announced that Mossakowski, who's recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, would likely redshirt this fall, and he said it was unlikely Newton would see the field in 2009, either.
"I wouldn't rule it out at this point, but it's unlikely unless something drastic happens," Brooks said about the prospects of Newton playing.
When asked if he had hoped Newton and Mossakowski would be further along, he said, "I hoped that they would, but I also know what a difficult thing it is to throw a true freshman quarterback into a league like the SEC unless you have six or seven All-Americans on your offensive unit. It becomes very hard to ask a freshman quarterback to come in, make the decisions, make the checks, and make them as quickly as you have to make them in this league and be successful."
A handful of true freshman quarterbacks are playing prominent roles this fall, including Michigan's Tate Forcier and Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, but Brooks pointed out that those QBs play at historically dominant programs and are surrounded by four- and five-star talent.
"You see it on occasion where quarterbacks are stepping in, but you usually see it on pretty good football teams, too," Brooks said. "They're already up at the top of your leagues."
Brooks said that most of the time, though, it usually takes quarterbacks awhile to grasp everything it takes to be successful at the collegiate level.
"If you look at the progression of Andre Woodson, he was very average," Brooks said. "He almost had his confidence broken in his sophomore year. Now Hartline's going through a tough stretch."
Brooks pointed to a trio of former high NFL draft picks picks — former UK quarterback Tim Couch, a No. 1 pick with the Cleveland Browns in 1999; David Carr, who was selected No. 1 by the Houston Texans in 2002 and is now a backup with the New York Giants; and Joey Harrington, a No. 3 pick of the Detroit Lions in 2002 who played at Brooks' old stomping ground (Oregon) — as examples of what can happen when young quarterbacks get asked to carry too much too soon.
"If everybody will take this comment the way I mean it, ask Tim Couch what it was like to get thrown in as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns without a great supporting cast," Brooks said. "How beat up you can get, and it plays tough on your psyche. You just don't understand the difference in speed from high school to college and from college to the NFL. It's a different game speed-wise. In high school these guys are so much better athletes than the guys they were playing against. Now they've got defensive lineman that can run them down. In high school probably only (defensive backs) could run them down."
However, the fact Newton and Mossakowski may not play as true freshmen shouldn't be interpreted into them being disappointments.
When asked if the future of the QB position at UK still looked bright, Brooks said, "Absolutely. Just because we aren't throwing a young guy to the wolves doesn't mean they're not really good players, because they are. We just need to make sure that they're given every opportunity to be successful when they get in there. And if it happens they have to go in maybe before that time, so be it, but at this point it doesn't make a lot of sense to do that."
UK-Auburn kickoff set
Kentucky's Oct. 17 game at Auburn has been set for a 7:30 p.m. EST kickoff and will be televised by ESPNU.