CARMEL, Ind. — Every year college football programs search for that “program-turner,” that one player who can singlehandedly alter their on-the-field and off-the-field fortunes in the near and distant future.
Carmel High School Coach Mo Moriarity says the University of Kentucky has one of those in Morgan Newton.
Newton, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound quarterback who is rated a five-star prospect by Scout.com, announced at a news conference on Thursday that he would be attending UK next fall. Newton picked the Wildcats over Florida, Clemson and Illinois. As a junior, he completed 124 of 213 passes for 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also rushed for 750 yards and 11 scores.
“To me, and I really don’t think I’m exaggerating, he’s a Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, Donovan McNabb-type,” Moriarity said. “He’s a big-time athlete with a strong arm. There isn’t anybody going to college next year who’s better athletically than him. And now I think you’re going to see more kids going to Kentucky because of Morgan. There’s no doubt about it. He’ll bring players with him.”
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Newton’s interest in UK picked up last year following the Wildcats’ season-opening win over Louisville. Newton’s father, John, said the family was actually at the game to get a glimpse of the Cards.
“When we got there and saw the atmosphere, the fans, and the style of offense that they run, it changed everything,” Newton’s father said.
From there, offensive coordinator Joker Phillips and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders both cultivated relationships with the Newton family and were able to sell them on UK’s pro-style offense and its success in getting quarterbacks NFL-ready. Newton has spent time at the camp of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, and Sanders worked closely with Peyton Manning while an assistant at Tennessee.
“I want to get to the next level, and I think their system best prepares me for that,” Newton said. Newton is the second high-profile quarterback to commit to the Cats this summer, joining four-star Texan Ryan Mossakowski. Both players have been told that they’ll be given a chance to see the field as freshmen.
“I’ve never been one to shy away from competition,” Newton said. “We’ll get there and compete, and the best person for the job will play.”
Newton is ranked as the nation’s seventh-best quarterback by Scout.com. Mossakowski is ranked the No. 9 pro-style quarterback with the country’s second-strongest arm by Rivals.com.
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barton Simmons, who covers the Southeastern and Texas areas, called both Newton and Mossakowski “elite, SEC-level players who should compete for immediate playing time.”
“Both guys would be big pickups for any program,” Simmons said. “Getting even one of these guys would be big for the program but nabbing two quarterbacks of that caliber is huge for the near future in adding talent and depth. What’s even more impressive is that Kentucky was able to dip into Texas to steal one of the state’s best passers in a year that Texas is loaded with quarterback talent.”
Newton’s father said that his son actually committed to UK several weeks ago but kept it quiet so that the announcement would come the same week as Newton’s scheduled ESPN appearance. Carmel will take on Indianapolis Cathedral Saturday at noon on ESPN. Kentucky doesn’t have the history and tradition of some of the other schools that were on Morgan’s list, but Newton said he and his family felt UK was on the verge of big things.
“I want to compete for championships,” Newton said. “With the direction the program is headed and the players coming in, I think we can do that at Kentucky.”
“Morgan’s known for a while that Kentucky is where he wanted to be,” Newton’s father said. “We spent a lot of time on this decision and talked to a lot of people, and when it came down to it, Kentucky was the best fit.”
Kentucky also has commitments from Henry Clay’s Sam Simpson, ranked the country’s second-best center by Scout.com; Qua Huzzie, a three-star linebacker from LaGrange, Ga.; and Madison Central offensive lineman Larry Warford, who’s listed as one of the nation’s top 30 guards by Rivals.com.
Simmons said UK’s class to this point was “solid from top to bottom” and said the staff has done a good job of getting in on good players early, such as twins Myron and Jarvis Walker from Louisiana and Texas wide receiver/tight end Anthony Kendrick.
“It’s a wonder what two straight bowl appearances and a high-profile win like the LSU victory last season can do for recruiting success,” Simmons said. “The common factor, though, is that coaching staff. Especially in the case of Mossakowski and Newton, Randy Sanders really made a big impact on both prospects. His background and reputation bring a lot of credibility to the quarterback position.”