UK Football

Cats QB battle 'hot and heavy' going into scrimmage

Mike Hartline
Mike Hartline

Instead of standing on the sideline for Kentucky's first fall football scrimmage Saturday, Coach Joker Phillips might as well be sitting behind a desk accepting applications.

Phillips said there will be many jobs up for grabs when the Cats take the field, and the candidates had better be ready to make a good impression.

"It's like an interview," Phillips said. "To try and win a job. There's a lot of competition.'

UK spent the first week of camp instilling offensive and defensive sets and trying to get the newcomers acclimated, but with the season opener at Louisville now three weeks away, Phillips said it's time to start getting the depth chart set.

"We've got to narrow down the number of people we're working with," he said. "It's important to make sure we're working with the right people who can help. This is a big scrimmage for a lot of them. We need to get going and start working on Louisville."

The most high-profile competition remains at quarterback, where Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski are battling for the job. Coming off a solid spring, Hartline had a slight edge going into fall camp, but Phillips said there's been very little separation among the three thus far.

"That competition is hot and heavy," he said. "Every day you see those guys come out with no fear in their hearts and make plays and doing the things we want them to do at the line of scrimmage. We just need to be more consistent."

The determining factor in who ultimately wins the job could be who makes the fewest mistakes.

"All you need is two blunders at that position and people think you played crappy," Phillips said. "You miss a block on the offensive line and the back gets stoned for no yards. You make a blunder at quarterback, and it could go six (points) the other way. We can't have blunders at that position."

While Phillips has placed a premium on Saturday's scrimmage, he still doesn't have a timetable for naming a starting quarterback.

"It's like picking a school in recruiting; you know when you see it," Phillips said. "Or like picking a suit. We'll know this when we see it, too. It hasn't come to the forefront yet."

Phillips didn't set a number of plays for the scrimmage, but he did say it probably would be a lengthy one.

"We've got to go a lot of plays because we've got three quarterbacks we need to see," Phillips said. "And we've got a lot of young guys we need to see."

Among the true freshmen making a push for playing time are running backs Raymond Sanders and Brandon Gainer, linebacker Avery Williamson and defensive tackle Donte Rumph.

"We need to see who can help us," he said. "We no longer can continue to rep the same things. We need to get working on Louisville."

The scrimmage will not be open to the public.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader