As of Sunday, there was still no official word on the knee injury of Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline. Hartline got an MRI after returning home from UK's 28-26 loss to South Carolina, but the results aren't expected to be known until Monday.
UK Coach Rich Brooks said the preliminary diagnosis suggests an MCL injury. If that's the case, Hartline could be sidelined two to four weeks. If there's an ACL injury and/or cartilage damage, Hartline would likely miss the rest of the season.
Regardless, Hartline will definitely miss Kentucky's game at Auburn on Saturday, and Brooks said he and his staff are ironing out the best way to address the quarterback position this week. Three candidates figure into the equation: junior Will Fidler, sophomore Randall Cobb and freshman Morgan Newton.
Cobb played extensively at quarterback in the "Wildcat" package and led UK on an eight play, 70-yard drive to pull within two with 3:48 remaining. Newton, a Parade All-American and Indiana's Mr. Football last year, has not played this season but will not likely be redshirted after Hartline's injury.
"We're still discussing things," Brooks said. "We will expand the Wildcat package a little bit, we'll work Will and Morgan in practice this week, and then we'll determine what we'll do. It might go up to game time."
Fidler relieved Hartline after the injury early in the third quarter and went just 2-for-8 passing for 16 yards.
"He played like a guy that hasn't been in that kind of situation; we hope that he will obviously play better," Brooks said of Fidler. "He's taken more snaps in our regular offense than anybody else has."
Brooks would rather not use Cobb, UK's top receiver, as a full-time QB, which is why Newton will have to prepare himself to play.
Brooks said the injury to Hartline could have been prevented had the play correctly been blown dead. UK was whistled for a delay of game penalty, but play was allowed to continue and safety Darian Stewart delivered the hit that made Hartline's knee extend awkwardly.
"The flag is clearly on the ground as (Hartline) takes the snap," Brooks said. "I know there's noise, but there certainly should be a little better awareness to protect players. An unblocked safety on a blitz ends up causing an injury."
Brooks also questioned a holding call that negated a 9-yard gain by Cobb, and a snap infraction against center Jorge Gonzalez that wiped out a conversion on fourth-and-3 from the South Carolina 39.
There were some positives to take from the loss. UK had 360 yards of total offense, including 205 on the ground, against the nation's 14th-ranked defense. Brooks also complimented the offensive line and fullback John Conner for their work on South Carolina's standout linebacker Eric Norwood, who had eight tackles but wasn't a big factor. The O-line did not give up a sack.
"Those guys don't ever get any credit," Brooks said of his offensive line. "Not only did they block (Norwood) well, but Conner laid some good blocks on him, too. Norwood is an outstanding player but he had no real impact in the game."
Brooks said he feels better about his offense after watching what the Alabama and Florida defenses did against Top 25 teams on Saturday. The top-ranked Gators held then-No. 4 LSU to 162 yards and three points, while No. 2 Bama limited then-No. 20 Ole Miss to 212 yards and three points.
"Isn't that something?" Brooks said tongue-in-cheek. "I think (LSU and Ole Miss) converted one of 20 third downs in both games. They both rushed for less yards than we did against those teams, had less total yards gained, and we outscored both of those teams against those two defenses. It's a tough comparison when you try to talk about how good your offense is when you're going against those two defenses."
Lindley still doubtful
Senior cornerback Trevard Lindley (sprained ankle) is listed as doubtful for the Auburn game. Junior cornerback Paul Warford (quadriceps) will try to practice this week but is questionable to doubtful.