Kentucky got better news than expected on Mike Hartline on Monday, as an MRI revealed the quarterback does not have a torn ACL. That leaves open the possibility that Hartline could return before the end of the season.
Hartline suffered a complete tear of the MCL from the femur, along with a slight tear of the PCL and a small cartilage tear. The MCL injury won't require surgery and should heal in three to four weeks. At that point it would be a matter of whether Hartline can play with the cartilage tear. If so, he could possibly return as soon as mid-November. If not, he would have surgery to have the cartilage removed and would miss the rest of the season.
The ACL is the most commonly injured knee ligament. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tore both the ACL and MCL in his knee in the first game last year and missed the entire season. Typically when a player tears both ligaments, doctors wait about a month for the MCL to heal before having reconstructive surgery on the ACL.
Brooks said that whether Hartline returns in 2009 is "very up in the air," but added "it's great news that there's no major surgery on the ACL."
Brooks wouldn't speculate on the possibility of Hartline playing again this year.
"It's apples and oranges," Brooks said. "He may be back; he may not be back. To me you have to go on the worst-case scenario and he won't be back. We have seven games left in our season. We still have a chance to do something that hasn't been done around here in a long time, and we need to go for that goal."
Along those lines, Brooks has to move on and figure out the best method of operation for the quarterback position for UK's game at Auburn on Saturday. He'll evaluate junior Will Fidler and freshman Morgan Newton in practice and make a decision sometime this week on who will be the starter. Ryan Mossakowski, another freshman will also get more work as the No. 3 emergency quarterback.
Neither Fidler nor Newton have the grasp and command of the offense that Hartline had, so Brooks said he will have to scale down UK's package.
Fidler is in his fourth year in the program, but Brooks said that doesn't mean that he's necessarily the front-runner to start.
"Will, being in the system and offense, should be far ahead; I'm not sure that is the case in this whole process," Brooks said. "That's what we'll find out this week. Morgan's been getting a lot of reps, and he should be a lot better prepared now than he was a month ago or six weeks ago. We just have to determine in practice the best we can who is the most prepared and then make a decision going forward."
Brooks said he'll expand the Wildcat package and continue to use sophomore Randall Cobb in that capacity on occasion, but Cobb is not an option to be the full-time QB. UK has committed to running a multiple, pro-style offense, and Brooks doesn't want to scrap that mid-season. He tried that approach with Cobb last season when Hartline was ineffective and the results were mixed — UK went 1-3 with Cobb as the starter and had less success each week, particularly in the passing game, as teams started to get a feel for the spread option attack.
"To try to utilize (Cobb's) abilities you have to revamp, you have to kind of run the Wildcat the whole game," Brooks said. "Once you do that, you get a little bit more one-dimensional, and it's a little easier to defend than as a thing you throw at people every once in a while."
And with Cobb being undersized (5-11, 190) for a quarterback, Brooks said keeping him at receiver is what's best for his future.
"He's got an absolute legitimate chance to be an outstanding receiver and return man at the next level," Brooks said. "I want to do the right thing by him, but I also want to do the right thing with what we feel is the type of offense that we have to be able to execute in this league to win. I don't want to throw that away at this point."
Lindley still out
Brooks said senior cornerback Trevard Lindley would likely miss at least another two games with a high ankle sprain. Brooks hoped that Lindley could return for the Mississippi State game on Oct. 31. Two other injured starters, cornerback Paul Warford (quadriceps) and right tackle Justin Jeffries (Achilles), will be evaluated on Wednesday to see if they will be able to travel to Auburn.
Peters wins honors
Senior tackle Corey Peters was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his seven-tackle, 21/2-sack performance against South Carolina. Peters was also chosen as the National Defensive Lineman of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.
Louisiana-Monroe kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Kickoff for UK's Oct. 24 home game against Louisiana-Monroe has been set for 7 p.m. The game will be televised by Fox Sports South.