COLUMN: Starting rosters to be taken lightly



UK football head coach Joker Phillips’ decision on who would be the man under center this season was one of great interest to Cats fans and players. But to be honest, it hardly mattered which of UK’s potential shot-callers won anyway.

Because the Bluegrass rarely receives the thrill of a top-notch quarterback, the question has not historically been who would be the best guy for the job, but rather which one would make fewer mistakes. Granted, this may be the year Mike Hartline proves otherwise, but that is yet to be determined. Based upon his previous inconsistencies, how he will fair is certainly up in the air.

As for the possible purpose of the drawn-out buildup, well, drama and controversy sell. It’s what keeps the football team in the spotlight and the Blue and White supporters hyped until the season kicks off.

But all the fans really want to know is which players they’ll be cheering one second, then cursing the next, come game time on Saturday. Though Phillips’ decision likely wasn’t derived from which player’s name sounded better accompanying an expletive, it’s tough to say exactly what took so long for him to make up his mind. He knows better than the public that starting rosters are anything but permanent.

Sure, the men who step onto the field first may enjoy the luxury of cleaner grass and a few more interviews after the game, but that’s about it. There is nothing stopping the coach from yanking them after one or two faulty plays to replace them with the boys itching for action on the sideline.

Many second stringers, once given an opportunity, become feared athletes in their respective sport. The great Brett Favre (yes, he’s still great despite his waffling), though heavily criticized, is one athlete who made the most of his first opportunity. It seems almost more of an advantage for a player to be benched early than to be named a starter. It makes them hungrier to prove themselves.

Even in professional football, the importance of starting rosters is questionable. Watch any Sunday game, and it’s evident that no single person is the best for every situation. Each play is different than the one preceding and the one following. Teams would benefit from incorporating multiple quarterback and running back switches throughout a game assuming they don’t have an exceptional talent at a position  (i.e. the UK quarterback situation). Once a defense figures out a thrower or runner’s tendencies, pull him for someone different.

Phillips has stated that platooning quarterbacks is not an option for him (for now), but perhaps he should consider this option seeing as he hadn’t decided upon a starter until just a few days ago.

The bottom line is if an athlete makes a team, the coach believes that person possesses the necessary talent to play – that is undisputable. But how much of a talent discrepancy really exists between starter and backup is disputable.

A coach will ultimately put in whom he feels fits at that time, no matter who begins the game. Phillips was brought to UK to do a particular job, which he seems to be doing well to this point.

Hartline, on the other hand, may only have one game to prove he is the right man for the job in the eyes of his critics. If he is unable to, the next in line will be become the starter just like that.