Morgan Newton says the large number of passes that have been dropped this season by Kentucky receivers has not had a negative impact on his confidence.
"Not so much," the junior quarterback said. "It's just guys, they've got to make plays."
Randy Sanders, the Kentucky offensive coordinator, said that for the first time this season he saw evidence in the LSU game that the drops had started to bother Newton.
"You always tell a guy, 'You've got to keep throwing it and you've got to keep trusting (the receivers to catch it),' " Sanders said. "I felt like last week, (the drops) probably affected the way he was throwing and trusting a little bit."
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Going into Kentucky's meeting with No. 18 South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia, Newton's passing numbers — a 50-percent completion rate (65-for-130) with six touchdown passes and six interceptions — are pedestrian for a starting quarterback.
Yet it is not a stretch to say that in five games he has had at least 20 passes dropped that could/should have been caught.
Says Sanders: "It's hard to look good as a quarterback when you don't have 10 other guys out there doing things right."
Speaking of wide receivers, Paducah Tilghman Coach Randy Wyatt, a former UK running back, says Blue Tornados star wideout J.D. Harmon continues to hold scholarship offers from Kentucky and Arkansas State.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Harmon also recently visited Mississippi, Wyatt said.
"I think he is hands down the best wide receiver in the state of Kentucky right now," Wyatt said of Harmon. "He has great hands and can run every route you could ask of him. ... He's a 47-feet triple jumper, so that goes to show you how explosive he is."
Five that got away
A quick update on five prominent players UK recruited that chose other schools:
■ Lamar Dawson. The ex-Boyle County star has made three tackles in two games for Southern California as a true freshman but has been sidelined by a sprained left ankle.
■ Jon Davis. The longtime UK tight end commitment spurned the Cats on National Signing Day 2011 and chose Illinois. So far this season, the ex-Eastern High School star has caught two passes for 14 yards.
■ Justin Green. Kentucky recruited the ex-Male star to play offense, but at Illinois he is a cornerback. In five games this season, the junior has 17 tackles, a pass breakup and a recovered fumble.
■ Austin Collinsworth. The former Fort Thomas Highlands star is listed as a safety, but his primary role at Notre Dame is on special teams. In five games, the sophomore has made six tackles and returned three kickoffs for 24 total yards.
■ Nick Martin. The son of former Kentucky defensive lineman Keith Martin was a prized commitment for UK last season, but reneged and chose Notre Dame. At ND, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Martin is listed second team at left offensive tackle behind his older brother Zack.
Bookie to the rescue?
Searching for a spark for a dormant UK offense, there was talk this week about Kentucky pulling the redshirt from freshman quarterback Bookie Cobbins to use him at wide receiver or as a running QB.
It doesn't sound like that's going to happen Saturday.
"It's a work in progress," UK Coach Joker Phillips said Thursday of Cobbins. "We'll give it another two weeks and see whether or not he can help us."
Who starts at tailback?
Phillips says UK will decide Saturday whether to start true freshman Josh Clemons or sophomore Raymond Sanders at tailback. Sanders started UK's first two games, but has missed the past three after having surgery to repair cartilage in a knee.
After watching Sanders in practice this week, Phillips said "it was obvious he was capable of starting. ... We will wait to Saturday to decide that."
Joker after 18 games
Through his first 18 games as Kentucky head coach, Joker Phillips has an 8-10 record. In order of descending wins, this is how Joker stacks up with the first 18 games of other UK head coaches since Bear Bryant:
Bryant 13-5; Blanton Collier 11-6-1; Hal Mumme 10-8; Fran Curci 8-10; Phillips 8-10; Guy Morriss 7-11; Bill Curry 6-12; Charlie Bradshaw 5-10-3; Jerry Claiborne 5-12-1; Rich Brooks 5-13; John Ray 4-14.