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By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though he says Ã¢â‚¬Å“things have been going pretty good for me,Ã¢â‚¬Â Kentucky sophomore quarterback Morgan Newton wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t deny that he wishes he could have played more this year.
After all, he did start eight games, including three Southeastern Conference road games that UK did win, last season after Mike Hartline was injured. But Hartline won the starting job back, has played well and Newton has basically been relegated to the sideline.
That could change Saturday when the Wildcats host Charleston Southern, a team that are expected to beat handily to even their record at 5-5.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You hope it is every week.,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newton said when asked if he thought he might play this week. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sure the odds might be better this week, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what will happen. Just be ready at all times. I would by lying if I said I am not looking forward to what we have going on. You just take it day to day, week to week. You never know what is going to happen.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Things have been going pretty good for me. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t complain at all. I am just coming out here and continuing to get better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Newton says being a backup to Hartline has actually been harder than starting as a true freshman.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think sometimes being a backup quarterback is tougher than being a starter because you have to pay attention all the time even when you are not in the game and you have to prepare as though you are the starter even when you may not play at all. It is definitely not an easy position to be in and you have to be ready at all times,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newton said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I spend extra time on my own working on things, especially with conditioning since I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get as many reps (in practice) or play as much. I want to be in top condition and working with the guys that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get as many reps when we have the opportunity helps that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Newton admits, like any competitor, that he would prefer to be playing. However, he says he has a Ã¢â‚¬Å“great support systemÃ¢â‚¬Â with is parents and brothers that has helped him cope with not playing. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also got a boost from his grandfather.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My grandpa has been instrumental in this whole process. I have great coaches who continue to help me improve and great teammates. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t complain. I have been able to play and I understand how that goes,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But my grandpa has made it all a lot easier.Ã¢â‚¬Â
His grandfather lives half the year in Florida and normally returns there in September. This year heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stayed in Indianapolis, NewtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hometown, and has missed only games at Mississippi and Mississippi State even though Newton is barely playing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“For him to be so supportive is amazing and he calls me every other day just to check up on me. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my support system. He has been awesome,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It would be easy for him to come if I was starting. I know that. But I am not the starter. That is the big thing. When things may not be going as well as they could go, that is when you have your family to be there when the times are not so easy. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what he has meant to me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Newton says he has spent more time studying both academics and football.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is all you can really do and try to put yourself in MikeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s position in practice and game situations and try to be another set of eyes to help him,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newton said.
And what has he learned from watching Hartline?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mike has got a lot of criticism since he has been here. Just the way he handles himself and has come back and had a great year like he has had this year I think is very admirable,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“His poise and just seeing the way he reads his progressions and all the things a fifth-year senior should be good at and getting better at has been amazing. Those are the type of things I try to pay attention to so I can get better, too.Ã¢â‚¬Â