Hartline still the man; Pakulak, Boyd gear up for action

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

The arrival of freshmen Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski signaled the beginning of the end (again) for quarterback Mike Hartline. Right? Wrong.

The arrival of freshmen Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski signaled the beginning of the end (again) for quarterback Mike Hartline.  Right?


Mossakowski admits he will be redshirted, and after four games, Newton has been a no-show, mainly due to the difficult transition from high school football to college.

Coach Rich Brooks says Newton is a wonderfully gifted athlete, but like most first year players, is struggling to make the adjustments to big-time college football and its complicated defensive schemes.

Randall Cobb, who briefly replaced Hartline as a starter in 2008, has been moved permanently to receiver, except in those instances during which Cobb lines up in the "Wildcat" formation.  This leaves Hartline and backup Will Fidler as UK's quarterback tandem.

After sub-par performances against Florida and Alabama, speculation arose that possibly a change at quarterback might be in the works.  Brooks and coordinator Joker Phillips both have since said, however, that Hartline is the guy who best gives the Cats the opportunity to win.  Let's not forget Hartline was facing two of the top-ranked defenses in the country during that stretch.

Brooks has shown that he isn't given to capitulate.  Old school and frank, Brooks likely will ride the arm of Hartline for the remainder of the season, barring some unforeseen injury.  This has caused a boisterous minority in the Big Blue Nation to grouse (Brooks' word, not mine).

Many were banking on Hartline making the same improvements from sophomore to junior seasons that Andre Woodson did a few years ago.  Tutored by quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders, Woodson made a remarkable transformation, from wobbly colt to thoroughbred, to NFL Draft pick.

Eventually, Woodson's name was being bandied about as a Heisman candidate during the early portion of his senior season. 

So, despite leading his team to a win in the Liberty Bowl, this figured to be an improved year for Hartline.

Let's go inside the numbers...

During his sophomore season, Woodson played in 11 games, completing 57.7% of his passes for an average of 149.5 yards per game.  He tossed six touchdowns, but threw six interceptions.  Woodson's efficiency rating was 115.37.

Hartline played in 11 games as a sophomore, completing 55.3% of his passes for an average of 151.5 yards per game.  Hartline threw for nine touchdowns, while having eight passes picked off.  His efficiency rating was 104.7.

Woodson made a dramatic jump from his sophomore season to his junior year.  Playing in 13 games in 2006, Woodson completed 63% of his passes, averaging 270 yards passing per game.  He tossed 31 touchdowns while throwing just seven interceptions.  Woodson's efficiency rating soared to 154.55, the best year of his career.

Through his first four games during his junior year, Woodson threw 10 touchdown passes and just one interception.  The Cats were 2-2 after a third of the season. 

After one-third of this season, Hartline has thrown more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (5).  Hartline and the Wildcats are 2-2.

Granted, in Hartline's first four games of his junior season, he's played the #1 and #3 teams in the country, plus the Cats biggest rival (Louisville).  Woodson's Cats lost the season opener to U of L, then knocked off Kent State and Ole Miss, before losing to Florida.

Certainly, Hartline and Co. won't face two tougher defenses all year than Florida and Alabama.  The Cats sputtered against the Gators, but the running game came to life against the Tide.  That could bode well for UK's aerial attack down the road.

But the road begins, literally, at South Carolina, UK's first true away game this season.  Steve Spurrier has won all 16 games in which he's coached against the Cats -- Carolina owns a nine-game winning streak over Kentucky as well.

Against Bama, Hartline graded out at 86 percent, despite the three interceptions.  He'll have to play much better than that if the Wildcats are to end a couple of lousy losing streaks and pick up their first conference win.


Former Cats Update

Ex-Wildcat Glenn Pakulak will have another audition with the Washington Redskins on Wednesday. 

Pakulak was signed to the 'Skins practice squad on Tuesday, after regular punter Hunter Smith suffered a groin injury.  Pakulak was one of four punters who tried out.

Pakulak split time with the Jets and Saints in 2009 training camp.  He punted in eight games for the Saints in 2008, averaging more than 47 yards a kick.

Pakulak joins another former Wildcat, quarterback Andre Woodson, on the Washington practice squad.  Woodson was picked after being released by the Giants during fall camp.

Word out of the nation's capital is that Woodson doesn't fit into Jim Zorn's plans with the Redskins. 

Former UK quarterback Shane Boyd is the team captain and starter when the new UFL debuts Thursday night.  Boyd and his California Redwoods teammates travel to Las Vegas for the first United Football League game.

Boyd says the league is a feeder system for the NFL.  After spending time with the Steelers, Texans and Cardinals, Boyd hopes a good showing in the four-team UFL will get him another crack at making an NFL roster.

You can see the game live on the Versus Network.

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.




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