LEXINGTON — Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders admits it has been a "tough ride" for senior quarterback Morgan Newton this year.
He was coming back from shoulder surgery, lost his starting job to Maxwell Smith, did not play well when he got to start at Florida and dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart behind true freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles.
“As I’ve always said, he is all about Kentucky. He wants Kentucky to win. He wants Kentucky to do better. Just to accept that role and embrace it as he has, is phenomenal. There’s not many people that could do that.”
No, there's not. Yet Sanders seemed more than a bit miffed that Newton was late getting to last week's game because he was taking the law school admission test. He had signed up to take the test in mid-September without having any idea what time the Mississippi State game would start. He was also not slated to play, even though that situation nearly changed when Towles went down with an ankle injury.
“I can promise you it wasn’t my decision. It was not my decision. So I’m going to leave it at that. I’m not going to get into it too much," Sanders said about Newton's late arrival.
Shame on Sanders. Newton wants to be an attorney. His shoulder is not 100 percent, based on what UK coaches have said. His name had not been mentioned to the media by a UK coach all week. And aren't football players supposed to be student-athletes?
It's not like Newton did not get to the game. And remember, he did not play and even this week Sanders is giving almost all the quarterback reps to Whitlow even though Newton is the only other experienced quarterback who is healthy enough to play if needed at Arkansas this Saturday.
So what happens if Whitlow goes down and Newton's shoulder limits what he can do?
“We will do what Morgan can do, and obviously the shoulder not being completely healed is going to limit it a little bit. But he can still do a lot of things throwing," Sanders said. “He has his comfort zone and we have to stay within that comfort zone as much as we can.”
Whitlow has stayed in his comfort zone, too, despite having to relieve Newton at Florida, take over against South Carolina when Smith was hurt on the second play and then come back into the game last week after Towles was hurt.
“I really like how calm he is,” Phillips said. “I have never seen a guy that is a freshman that is as calm and laid back. He comes off the field and can communicate with you what he is seeing. He makes mistakes, but he understands them.
“But just how calm he is is one of the things that you like about him. He is not a really talkative kid either, but he does a good job of communicating back to you the things that he sees. That is what I like about him, is the guy is really cool and nothing rattles him.”
Guess who Whitlow credits for helping him be that way? That’s right, Morgan Newton — who was also one of the first console Towles after his injury.
“He is a good guy and teaching me a lot. He’s teaching not just about football, but different things around here that are important,” Whitlow said. “He has been through adversity, so he knows a lot. You can never stop learning and he’s been huge help to me.”