Mike Hartline's solid senior season has been good for the Kentucky offense, but it hasn't been the best thing for the development of the two young quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart.
Hartline leads the Southeastern Conference in touchdown passes (19) and ranks second in passing yards behind Arkansas' Ryan Mallett (2,402). Combine that with the fact UK has been in close games the past several weeks, and the opportunities for Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski have been limited.
Newton has played in two games and attempted three passes, all completions, for 52 yards. Mossakowski has also seen action in two games but hasn't thrown a pass. Newton was the first backup to enter both games, but Coach Joker Phillips said there's still no clear No. 2.
"They're getting better," Phillips said. 'They don't get a lot of reps because they have to split them in practice. They don't come as far along as somebody who might get all the (No. 2) reps."
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Mossakowski said this week that he's 100 percent recovered from the off-season shoulder surgery he underwent before arriving at UK.
"I feel like I'm throwing the ball like I did back in the day," Mossakowski said. "The shoulder feels good, (and) the mental preparation I'm trying to get down."
Both quarterbacks said they have benefited from watching Hartline.
"If I do get that shot, I'll know how to handle myself and do the right thing," Mossakowski said.
Newton said the main thing he's learned from Hart-line is patience, pointing out that Hartline took major criticism from fans before enjoying a breakout senior season.
"Patience is very important," Newton said. "Being a young guy, I may lack patience sometimes. That's one thing I've had to learn. My time will come."
Russell gets another shot
Kentucky sophomore running back Donald Russell hasn't talked to the media all week, but his name has been in the news plenty.
Russell's mother, Tanya, told the Danville Advocate-Messenger on Monday that she was planning a trip to Lexington from her Florida home to address her son's status.
Russell started against South Carolina and Georgia after Derrick Locke went down with a shoulder injury, but he was replaced by freshman Raymond Sanders after he lost a fumble deep in Wildcats territory against Georgia. Sanders started last week against Mississippi State while Russell had just one carry for 4 yards.
Russell's mother first posted her concerns about her son's role on an Internet message board.
Now, Russell, who has not been available for interviews, will be back in the starting lineup against Charleston Southern on Saturday. Locke (shoulder) and Sanders (abdominal strain) are questionable with injuries.
"That's how the system works," said Phillips, who declined to go into specifics about his meeting with Russell's mother. "You've just got to be patient. It always comes back to you if you continue to work. It's like a yo-yo."
Phillips said he wasn't too riled up over the incident.
"I can't keep parents off Twitter; I can keep the players," Phillips said. "It's no big deal. That's the day and age we're in. When I read the Bear Bryant book, Coaching 101, he didn't have a section in there about how to deal with some of these things. Maybe I'll write those things."
Reunion for Matthews
Kentucky receiver Chris Matthews will be reunited with his old junior-college quarterback Saturday. Charleston Southern's Andrew Trudnowski, who will be starting his fourth game this season, threw passes to Matthews for two seasons at Los Angeles' Harbor College.
Trudnowski has passed for 875 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
"He's a real good quarterback, and I'm not just saying that because he was my quarterback," Matthews said. "He's a smart guy. He kept a 4.0 at Harbor, the first at practice and the last to leave the field. He's a real good dude."
Matthews said he talked to Trudnowski on Wednesday night, and Trudnowski had a message for UK defensive end DeQuin Evans, who was also a teammate at Harbor.
"He told me he had something for D.Q. (Evans)," Matthews said with a laugh.