Newton’s confidence and play earning him praise


UK quarterback Morgan Newton makes a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against Mississippi State at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

When Morgan Newton committed to UK a little over three years ago, he gave UK fans a spark of confidence and hope for their team’s future.

A few of his games at Carmel High School were televised on ESPN, giving UK hopefuls an opportunity to see what they were getting in the big, strong, dual-threat quarterback.

As if the speculation around him wasn’t enough, the sight of Newton running over defenders and placing passes directly on the numbers of his receivers increased the growing anticipation of fans for the young quarterback to get his opportunity.

With Mike Hartline gone from UK and freshmen looking on, Newton now has the opportunity to make this group of Cats his own.

During Wednesday’s annual Greater Louisville Area Alumni Luncheon, Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders spoke highly of Newton’s progress heading into his junior season.

“It is amazing how far he  has come since the last time that we have played,” Phillips said. “A lot of that has to do with his confidence. His confidence comes from getting reps and then when you get confidence and reps it shows in how he is leading this football team now.

“I am excited about watching him,” Phillips added. “He is throwing the ball where he is supposed to. His eyes are where they are supposed to be and he is completing passes. That is exciting to watch from your quarterback.”

Former Cat Andre Woodson, who the junior quarterback at times has been compared to, spoke about Newton’s progress following Tuesday’s practice.

“Morgan looked really good, I think he has came a long way,” Woodson said. “He is obviously light years from where he was last season. He’s done a great job of listening, taking in coaching, understanding what he needs to do to get better. His balance, his throwing, his mechanics are twenty times better that what it was last year.”

Woodson said he believes that from the moment he first saw the play of Newton, it is his throwing ability that has improved more than anything.

“We’ve always known he has had a pretty strong arm, but his accuracy has improved tremendously,” Woodson said. “He is now to the point where he is putting the ball where he wants it to be.”

While his opportunities to start have been limited, Newton has shown the potential to be the playmaker that fans have long been eager to see.

During a 2009 game against Eastern Kentucky, he completed 20 of his 29 pass attempts for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Later in the season, in a game that may be his best performance, the Cats defeated Georgia with the help of Newton’s three touchdown passes on 9 of 17 passing for 187 yards.

Though overshadowed by a loss and the benching of Mike Hartline, Newton did have a relatively good game against Pittsburgh in last season’s BBVA Compass Bowl, completing 21 passes for 211 yards, his most while in a UK uniform.

Whether or not his performances in practice will show through in a game is unforeseen, but Newton now has his onlookers eager and hopeful for a breakthrough season.