Mark Story

UK quarterback saga anything but boring

Gossip Girl doesn't have as many dramatic story lines as the current University of Kentucky quarterback situation.

Story line One: The pain of the deposed starter.

In his first public comments Tuesday after Rich Brooks announced that Randall Cobb had unseated him as the Kentucky QB, Mike Hartline defied the first rule of the Miss Manners guide for quarterback etiquette.

He blamed the poor play of his teammates for his demotion.

A day later, he publicly apologized.

By then, the local sports commentariat — especially some of the radio talk shows — had teed off on a college sophomore.

They should have shown a little more empathy.

It can't be easy for a young person to endure the public embarrassment that comes with losing a major-college quarterback job.

Hartline should not have publicly thrown his teammates under the bus — there was some truth in what he said.

Early in the season especially, Hartline was victimized by repeated dropped passes and mis-run routes by receivers.

The UK running game that was supposed to be this season's offensive strength — and take pressure off an unproven quarterback — has never gotten started.

All of which left a game manager of a quarterback in a pickle.

Story line Two: The promise of a new guy — and the risk.

With his fleet feet and cannon arm, Cobb holds the hope of a QB who can generate offense on his own.

Yet relying on even the most gifted true freshman at football's most vital position is a major roll of the dice.

Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor was the most ardently wooed high school quarterback to enter college football in 2008.

If you watched the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes' slugfest with Penn State, you saw Pryor doom OSU with both a fumble lost and an interception he threw into triple coverage.

In spot duty at QB, Cobb has looked like a player who, as we say, has the magic.

But Southeastern Conference defenses will find his weaknesses and expose them sooner rather than later.

Story line Three: The intrigue of Kentucky's QB future.

If Cobb seizes the moment and establishes himself as a winning SEC quarterback, it could set up a domino effect of career decisions for UK-linked quarterbacks.

Hartline will have to weigh his future. With only two years of eligibility left, he would be behind a younger player on the depth chart at a school anticipating an infusion of quarterback talent in its next signing class.

Should he stay at UK as a backup or look elsewhere for a chance to play?

Because he's already redshirted, Hartline would lose a year of eligibility if he transferred to another major-college school. He could, however, play right away at a school in the division formerly known as I-AA.

Succeeding as a QB also creates a dilemma for Cobb. There aren't a lot of 5-foot-11 quarterbacks in the NFL.

As a receiver, Cobb has shown enough promise this season to think he might have a chance at the next level as a slot receiver and multi-purpose player.

So even if he prefers to be a college quarterback, it could be that his long-term future is better served playing receiver.

Which brings us to Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton, the heralded high school quarterbacks who have both committed to Kentucky.

No sooner had Rich Brooks named Cobb this week's QB starter than I started getting e-mail from UK fans worried that the move will scare off one or both of Mossakowski and Newton.

Those fans need to embrace the concept of carpe diem.

At 5-3, UK is one win away from a third straight season of bowl eligibility. It is two wins away from clinching a third straight winning season.

Neither of those achievements has been attained at Kentucky since the 1950s.

If Cobb at quarterback gives UK its best chance of hitting this double-triple, you play for the now.

Just because they have massive high school reputations doesn't mean that Mossakowski and Newton will turn out to be college stars.

Until they sign letters of intent, there's no certainty they will even be Wildcats.

Should Cobb show that he is a winning QB in 2008, then he deserves to enter 2009 as the man to beat out. If UK has someone good enough to do that, all the better for UK.

In the meantime, there are people who claim Kentucky football in 2008 has been boring.

Amid all this QB drama, how silly is that?

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