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By LARRY VAUGHT
Senior center Matt Smith felt quarterback Morgan Newton got too much criticism last year for UK’s offensive woes.
“He takes a lot of the criticism but that criticism is also a reflection of us. We take it as an offensive line if he is not completing his passes and doing things he needs to, then that is our fault. We need to block better in the run and pass game,” Smith said. “It is something that he gets criticized for and we don’t want him to get criticized. We would rather take the criticism and let him keep the praise just because we are the guys in the middle that are in there hitting every play.
“He took a lot of criticism for us last year and handled it very well. He tried not to listen to a lot of the outside stuff that was going on and tried to focus on what he needed to do. But again, a lot of that comes back to us. We are going to be working on us up front so he can do what he needs to do in the backfield.”
Smith said the offensive linemen especially appreciated that Newton never complained about pass protection or run blocking and did not offer any excuses for his play.
“It is very easy to put the blame on somebody else when you are in his position. If I miss a block or something, it makes him look bad,” Smith said. “You learn as a team that you are part of the fault and you take that fault for somebody else. He did a great job and we are very thankful for the criticism he took on our behalf. We have been letting him know that we appreciate him and we know he appreciates us because he proved that to me last year.”
Still, Newton was a highly-touted four-star quarterback coming out of Carmel, Ind., who was a signature recruit for then offensive coordinator Phillips.
Was too much pressure put on Newton?
“I think people in the media expect too much from most recruits, but that is what this game has become,” Phillips said. “Sometimes as coaches we expect too much from them also. It’s just the way of the world today.
“Morgan will be a success whether it is football or whatever. I am hoping he is one of those guys that wants to get into this business (coaching) because I think he would have a really bright future at it. But we also think he can still have a very bright future on the football field for us, too.”