UK Football: Philips said Newton not showing signs that adversity is bothering him
Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton suffered shoulder and foot injuries late in the season which ended his junior year. If the adversity the UK¿senior has faced bothers him, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said he does not let it show. (Clay Jackson / July 29, 2012)
“I think he has handled it pretty well. I know it is tough when you have an injury like that and it takes you out of what you want to do and gives you a setback.¿He has handled it maturely and professionally,” said senior center Matt Smith. “He is not going around complaining about anything or saying this or that about the team or taking down anybody else.”
Newton started eight games in 2009 after starter Mike Hartline was hurt and went 5-3. He was Hartline’s backup in 2010 and got a chance to start the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh after Hartline was suspended. Kentucky lost that game and then last season Newton was part of UK’s ineffective offense until he hurt both his shoulder and foot late in the season and was replaced by sophomore Maxwell Smith.
In his career, he’s thrown for 1,764 yards and 14 touchdowns by completing 183 of 352 passes. He’s also rushed for 452 yards and four scores. But last season he was only 83 of 174 passing for 793 yards with seven interceptions and eight touchdowns. He ranked ninth in the Southeastern Conference completion percentage (47.7), passing yards per attempt (4.6) and passing efficiency rating (93.1).
“Him and Maxwell are good friends and the competition is going to be great (to see who starts). He has worked hard this summer to get back to where he can be and throw the ball,” Smith said. “He is not trying to push anything because he knows how important this season will be to him. But Morgan is a great guy and definitely takes an approach to this game that we need.”
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips continues to insist that Smith goes into preseason camp that starts Aug. 3 as the starter but that Newton along with freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow will have a chance to compete for the starting job.
“Physically, he looks as good as he has ever looked. He has trimmed down some. I know in May I was coming in about 6 o’clock and Morgan was waiting at the door for somebody to let him in,” Phillips said. “He is out there working with our trainers and doing all those things. I think that has helped him mentally.
“He has been to the Manning Academy working with those guys again. I think that helps him being around those guys and other college and NFL quarterbacks. Just understanding how to be a leader. I think Morgan is a leader, but sometimes I¿don’t know if he knows how to be a leader and take charge of things. That is one of the things he needs to be better this year to compete for this job.”
Newton has been nominated for the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team® that recognizes a select group of college football players committed to making a difference in their communities.
He has more than 50 volunteer hours in activities such as “Read Across America” where he read books to children at a local mall and serving as a volunteer reader for Black History Month at a local book store. He participated in Christian Appalachian Pike County Project by loading furniture on to moving trucks to help flood victims in Pikeville.
He has spoken at elementary schools about bullying and volunteered at Lexington’s George Privett Center, a recovery center for men addicted to drugs and alcohol. He has been a celebrity guest for UK’s largest student-run philanthropy, Dance Blue. He has volunteered for Big Blue U and helped UK freshmen move into their dorm. Newton has also delivered food for God’s Pantry BackPack Program.
The senior quarterback is only one course short — it was not offered during the summer — of graduating and plans to eventually enroll in law school.
“I don’t know worry about Morgan. He is a mentally tough kid.¿He gets it. He is a smart kid. He is one of those guys on our team that made a 4.0 (grade-point average last semester),” Phillips said. “He understands the game. His dad played college football. He has been around great players his dad played with. All that helps him understand how to deal with these type situations.”
Smith felt 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.”