The Kentucky Wildcats don’t have a starting quarterback. Not yet, at least. The competition between Morgan Newton and Max Smith for the spot is heating up, but a definitive winner is still weeks away. The coach doesn’t know, the players don’t know, and the fans certainly have no idea who their quarterback will be. There may not be an outright favorite, but it can’t hurt to look a little more closely leading up to September 2nd’s season opener.
In a simple world, Morgan Newton would be the obvious choice. He’s the heralded recruit, he’s a senior with years of experience, and he’s familiar with the system. Unfortunately for Newton, there’s the whole issue of last season. Newton was miserable at best and that misery was only shortened by injury before sophomore Max Smith took over. Smith didn’t exactly excel, but he performed more-than-admirably for a freshman, and turned some heads in the process. Morgan Newton’s starting position shouldn’t even be in question, it’s just common sense. If it weren’t for performance on the field, that is.
But of course, performance on the field is all that really matters, and Smith currently has an edge over Newton there. The last time each player took the field, Smith was better. Fans are quick to remember Newton’s literal fall and Smith’s subsequent rise. But that was 8 months ago, and neither player is the same. Indications from the preseason camp so far suggest that Newton is the sharper of the two quarterbacks, throwing his way back into a starting position. He’s the best on paper, he’s better right now, and it should be an obvious choice who’s under center at Louisville.
But I wonder if Kentucky football wouldn’t be better off going another direction. I hold no ill will towards the various Newton debacles of last season. Instead I’m simply looking to the future of the team. This year is going to be a struggle no matter how things shake out, and in my opinion, it’d be more productive to put a young quarterback on the field. Newton’s time is already past. He doesn’t deserve a senior swan song on merit alone, and it would be better for the team down the road to have a younger, equally capable, quarterback like Smith taking snaps all year.
Extending that logic even further, freshman Patrick Towles enters the picture. He’s a high school phenom that’s clearly got what it takes to be the future of Kentucky football. He threw 42 touchdowns with only one interception in his senior high school season, and he has the ability to score on the ground too. Perhaps both quarterbacks should be scrapped and Towles should be given a chance to step up immediately. It’s a line of thinking some might loathe, but it could pay the biggest dividends in the next year or two.
Joker Phillips has already addressed this possibility. “I wish the decision was already made,” Phillips said. “It’s not. The reason it’s not is because of the competition that we have there. Patrick Towles is going to figure into this. He figures into it a lot. He’s a guy that we’ve got to find out how much he can do.” Joker’s indecision is apparent, but he’s certainly high on Towles’ potential. That potential may be best utilized by giving Towles the ball and seeing what he can do.
If it were up to me? I’d give Smith the spot, redshirt Towles, and reserve Newton for injury or special packages.
But the decision isn’t up to me. It’s up to Joker and it breaks down like this: Newton is the safe bet, Smith is the gamble and Towles is the lottery. He has to consider the risks and the rewards and make the best bet. Let’s just hope he’s in the money.
Filed Under: Football
About the Author: Corey Tincher is a lifelong Kentucky fan and professional writer who couldn't keep the two worlds apart. He is the lead contributor for StraitCats.com and literally wrote the book on the 2012 NCAA Tournament Championship run, Big Blue Articles: Kentucky Basketball in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Follow @Corey_Tincher on Twitter for more Kentucky news and discussion.