Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks said on Friday night that the quarterback decision for next Sunday's Music City Bowl has basically been made. Freshman Morgan Newton will make his eighth straight start.
But what hasn't been determined is how much of a factor Mike Hartline can be as a backup.
It would be a different role for Hartline, who was named UK's most outstanding offensive player in last year's 25-19 Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina. Other than an ineffective cameo appearance at Vanderbilt on Nov. 14, Hartline has been on the sideline since suffering a knee injury at South Carolina on Oct. 10.
Hartline practiced last Saturday and Sunday, but swelling forced him to shut it down on Monday. He took some snaps during Friday's practice, and Brooks said it's a matter of seeing how he holds up from now until the game. UK practiced Saturday and will practice again Sunday and Monday in Lexington before leaving for Nashville on Tuesday.
"I think we know who our quarterback's going to be right now because Mike Hartline hasn't taken enough reps," Brooks said. "I'm hopeful that we can get him enough practice and that his knee is well enough that he can be ready to go in and play at a high level. But right now, with the amount of (snaps) that he's taken, it's very difficult to think that he's going to come in and play like he did last year in the bowl game."
Hartline was limping during his brief stint against Vanderbilt but said the knee is in much better shape after undergoing surgery to repair torn cartilage.
"I feel a lot better than I did when I tried to come back for Vandy," Hartline said. "There's still a little pain here and there, but I definitely want to make an impact in this game. I think they'll find a way to use us both. Morgan's done a great job this year as a young guy. Hopefully I can come in and do well, get healthier and set the tone for spring ball.
Davis' father saysUK commitment solid
The city of Louisville has been sizzling on the recruiting front since Charlie Strong was hired as the University of Louisville's new football coach last week. Strong immediately got a commitment from 2011 prospect DaMarcus Smith, a four-star quarterback from Seneca.
Kentucky responded by securing a commitment from another big-time junior, Eastern tight end Jon Davis. Strong then reeled in three more juniors from the Derby City on Wednesday: Ballard receiver DeVante Parker and the Fern Creek combo of Jerrell Moore and Jamon Brown.
Strong has obviously prioritized keeping the top prospects at home, and local recruits have been committing in droves. Davis' father, Reggie, said Strong has not yet contacted his son, but he expects Jon to honor his commitment to UK.
Reggie Davis is in the manufacturing business and says he's had to move every four or five years to advance his career, so the Davis family lived in New Jersey and Kansas before relocating to Louisville.
Davis pointed out that his son doesn't have the same hometown allegiance to U of L as the other kids who committed.
"Those kids wanted to go to U of L from the time they were in pee-wee football," Reggie Davis said. "Jon didn't have that. We moved around so much that Jon liked the team where we moved. When we were in New Jersey, he liked Rutgers. When we were in Kansas, he liked Kansas State."
The Davis family went through a stringent process when selecting a school that included at least 15 criteria, such as academics, campus life/culture, coaching stability, off-the-field incidents and location (In case of a job transfer, the Davises wanted a centrally located school that could be a two-hour plane ride from most cities). UK, Illinois, Louisville, Purdue and Stanford were among the schools to offer Davis a scholarship.
"There were two schools that offered him that never saw him play or even talked to him," Davis' father said. "We eliminated them right off the bat. Those schools weren't interested in Jon; they were looking for a football player."
Also, Davis said, his son, who has a quiet and reserved personality, was ready to get the recruiting process over with early.
"The mailbox, the phone calls, he doesn't really get his energy from the exposure," Davis' father said. "More and more schools kept calling, and letters kept pouring in, and he felt obligated to talk to this guy and that guy. It got to the point to where we were like, 'OK, we've heard from everybody we need to hear from, let's take the criteria and figure out who has what we're looking for."
In the end, that school turned out to be Kentucky, but don't expect Strong to go away quietly.
More UK commitments
UK received its 22nd commitment, from Largo, Fla., defensive end Mike Douglas, last week. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is a three-star recruit who had offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Iowa and Indiana.
Kentucky appears to be close to wrapping up its 23rd commitment, as well. Pleasure Ridge Park defensive end Brandon Dunn, a 6-foot-3, 256-pounder, was at UK's practice Friday night and was expected to commit before he left town.
Also, Kentucky received a signed letter of intent last week from Josh Gibbs, a three-star junior-college safety from College of the Canyons (Calif.). Gibbs, a 6-foot 200-pounder, will enroll at UK in January.
The post-season awards continued to roll in last week. Quarterback Morgan Newton, guard Larry Warford and defensive end Taylor Wyndham were named to the Sporting News' Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team, and punt returner Randall Cobb and kickoff returner Derrick Locke were named honorable-mention All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com.
Music City Bowl tailgate
The official UK Alumni Association Tailgate Party will be held at LP Field in Nashville next Sunday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. CST.
The tent will be in the LP Field Parking Lot (South End Zone), Titans Way.
Included are a barbecue-pork meal with sides, tea and water (other drinks will be available for purchase) and entertainment by UK alumnus Josh London. The UK band and cheerleaders will make an appearance. Admission is $15 for students, $20 for members and $25 for non-members. The tent is enclosed and will be heated if necessary.
To register for the event, visit www.ukalumni.net/bowlgame. For more information, contact Jill Smith at email@example.com or call 1-800-269-2586 or (859) 257-8906.
Music City Bowl Cat Walk
Fans who want to participate in the "Cat Walk," cheering the Wildcats when they enter LP Field before the Music City Bowl, should gather at 5:15 p.m. CST.
The buses will stop at the corner of Victory Avenue and South Second Street. New to this year's walk, the team will stroll down the middle of South Second Street, which will be closed to traffic. The team will enter the stadium at the East service entrance.
Ticket office open
The UK Ticket Office at the Joe Craft Center will be open for its normal business hours Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., for fans needing to buy or pick up Music City Bowl tickets. Fans also may call the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287.