UK coaches hope to pick a QB in a week

Morgan Newton, one of three quarterbacks trying to land the starting job at Kentucky, threw a pass during a drill at Fan Day last weekend. Newton, a sophomore from Indiana, impressed coaches on Saturday by making a long run.
Morgan Newton, one of three quarterbacks trying to land the starting job at Kentucky, threw a pass during a drill at Fan Day last weekend. Newton, a sophomore from Indiana, impressed coaches on Saturday by making a long run. HERALD-LEADER

Both Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders knew it was coming. After the University of Kentucky completed its first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, the UK head coach and offensive coordinator knew that the million-dollar question surrounded the three-man quarterback race among Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski.

There's no verdict yet, but Phillips and Sanders both indicated that they'd like one to come soon. Phillips said he didn't see enough in the scrimmage to make any adjustments in the depth chart.

"I think we've got to give it another week because there wasn't any huge separation among them," he said. "So we'll give it another week, and determine Sunday of next week if we're ready to make a decision."

When asked if he'd ideally like to make a decision next week, Phillips said, "I would love to; then I wouldn't be getting these questions."

"They're progressing; they're learning," Sanders said of the QBs. "No question (a decision) is going to come a day pretty soon. I don't know when, but pretty soon. We'd like to narrow it down a little bit, at least to two, so those guys can get reps and start getting ready to play."

Sanders gave individual assessments of the three quarterbacks following the scrimmage.

Hartline: "I thought he was really sharp from a mental standpoint, made some nice throws, did a great job running the offense. He did some good things."

Newton: "He had a couple of plays that make you wonder what in the world he's thinking, but yet he has the ability to make some throws, and he pulled it down and made a long run."

Mossakowski: "He's somewhere in between. He's not quite managing the offense as well as he needs to, but he's done a pretty good job. He doesn't have the ability to take off and do some things like that."

There were no official statistics released from the scrimmage, but Newton did have a long touchdown run.

"That's what he has to do," Phillips said.

Phillips shot down the assumption that Mossakowski is no longer in the mix.

"He moved the team," he said. "He moved his unit as good as any. It's a three-man race, no question about it."

Phillips continues to be impressed with freshman defensive tackle Donte Rumph. Listed at 265 pounds but closer to 315, it's becoming clear that Rumph will be in the rotation when the Cats open at Louisville on Sept. 4.

"He continues to show up," Phillips said of Rumph. "He's a load. He's what we play against every Saturday. We've got to get him in shape. He's up to six reps at a time.'

Defensive coordinator Steve Brown said Rumph's physical presence alone should pay dividends.

"He's so big," Brown said. "You ever shook his hand? I tell you what, you better get your fingers in there. I couldn't imagine him being mad and getting his hands on you. He's someone that's starting to shine."

Phillips was once again high on freshman cornerback Jerrell Priester and also singled out another freshman defensive lineman, end Nermin Delic.

"He's making a case for not only getting on the bus but getting some playing time," Phillips said of Delic.

Junior-college transfer Mychal Bailey is also making a strong case for playing time despite only being in Lexington for a little more than a week.

"He really did a good job today," said safeties coach Chris Thurmond. "I don't know how many tackles he made, but he was really active."

Bailey had the talent and the reputation as a heavy hitter, but the big question was whether he'd be able to pick up the system. Thurmond said Bailey is picking things up quicker than expected.

"Every day he gets a little better, a bit more comfortable," Thurmond said. "Every day he gets to the point where he's in the right place a little more and not freelancing. The one thing Mychal has is great instincts. The thing we've got to do is find a way to make sure he knows what to do."

Injury update

Two players were hurt in the scrimmage: junior receiver Gene McCaskill (knee) and freshman tailback Miles Simpson (ankle). Phillips said both players will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

Porter update

There's no official news on ex-LSU signee Elliott Porter, who visited UK last weekend. Porter signed with LSU in February but was released from his letter of intent after the Tigers' coaching staff asked him to delay his enrollment to January because of a lack of scholarships.

Porter visited Oregon and Texas A&M after he left Lexington. He hasn't made an official comment on an impending commitment, but the buzz around the UK camp was that Porter will indeed be a Wildcat and could arrive in Lexington as early as Sunday. If he signs a scholarship with Kentucky he would be eligible to play this fall.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Porter can play both sides of the line, but if he came to UK he would likely start off at defensive tackle, where he would provide a much-needed big body for a unit needing quality depth. Porter would have to pick up the system in three weeks, but conditioning shouldn't be a huge issue since he spent the summer working out with LSU.

Longtime UK football truck driver retires

Robert F. "Sarge" Long, a former Lexington police sergeant who served as an equipment truck driver for the football program dating to the days of Fran Curci, will be stepping down this season because of health reasons.

"He was a dandy," said UK equipment manager Tom Kalinowski. "He's really enjoyed being around the guys, and the guys loved having him around."

Jason Long, Long's grandson, said his grandfather was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and will no longer be able to travel with the team.

"He loved being at those games," Long said. "I remember he told me a story of a young Joker Phillips and how he always knew that Joker would make something of himself."