Sports

They're brothers, not rivals

They hate each other.

Right?

"No," said Morgan Newton, "we're like brothers."

Brothers?

Yeah, sure, and Mitch Barnhart just took out a subscription to the Chicago Sun-Times.

"We've got to be there for each other," said Mike Hartline.

Yeah, you have to be there to hide the other's playbook, or to tell the other the wrong starting time for a meeting, or to make sure that you gain any edge necessary by any means necessary to be the starting quarterback at the University of Kentucky come Sept. 4.

"We're all three good friends," said Ryan Mossakowski, "which makes the process a whole lot easier and more fun."

You would think it would be just the opposite.

Friday was Media Day for the Kentucky football program. The main question is what the main question often is: Who's going to play quarterback? There are three candidates — Hartline, the senior; Newton, the sophomore; and Mossakowski, the redshirt freshman.

Hartline departed spring drills listed No. 1 on the depth chart, but there was no trumpets-up announcement of the Ohio native being named the starter.

There wasn't one on Friday, either. Never mind what senior running back Derrick Locke said at SEC Media Days, that Hartline will be the man under center at the new and improved Papa John's that first Saturday in September. New head coach Joker Phillips said Friday that Hartline would take the reps with the first team because "someone has to," and "He's been here the longest."

"I wasn't disappointed," said Hartline of the staff's reluctance to tag him as the guy. "I didn't figure they would."

Phillips surely figures, why the rush. Be quick, don't hurry. The opener is still four weeks away. A little uncertainty this time of year never hurt anyone, except maybe the three people involved. Or so you would think.

The three involved say that's wrong. Mossakowski said the three spent so much time together this summer, at meetings, workouts, just hanging out, they have grown to be not just competitors, but friends.

"We spent every day together," said the redshirt freshman.

"That's something that coach Sanders preaches," Newton said of quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders. "Being there for each other."

"We're going to push each other, and not leave anybody behind," said Hartline.

Mossakowski opens competition as the one behind. Hartline has 14 career starts on his résumé. Newton has eight. As a redshirt, Mossakowski sat and watched last year, for the most part. What did he see of his two competitors?

"Mike, he's a leader," said Mossakowski. "Him, for me, has been a real key part in learning this offense."

Now what about Newton, who inherited the starting spot last season when Hartline was sidelined with a knee injury in the fifth game of the season?

"Morgan, it's obvious, he's just an athlete," Mossakowski said. "Hats off to both of them. They're just great people."

And now, for some self-evaluation?

"I feel like I'm kind of a pocket passer," said Mossakowski, who was coming off shoulder surgery last August. "Now I'm full-go."

"Moss is good," said Newton. "He's right there."

Big thing: They want to be right there for each other.

"I have no doubt in my mind that Coach Sanders and Coach Phillips are going to to make the best decision," Hartline said. "Whichever that is, I'm standing behind it 100 percent. This is a team sport."

Wait, there's a "but" coming.

"But," said Hartline, "I'm gonna do all I can to push myself to the point that I can't do anything more to get where I want to get."

His two brothers would surely agree.

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