SEC: Ryan Mossakowski

Opening spring camp: Kentucky

March, 23, 2011
3/23/11
8:00
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Schedule: The Wildcats open spring practice on Wednesday morning and will hold their Blue/White spring game on April 23 at 3 p.m. ET.

What’s new: Rick Minter, the head coach at Cincinnati from 1994-2003, joins the staff as co-defensive coordinator and will oversee the defense. Minter was the linebackers coach at Indiana State last season, but has served stints as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, South Carolina, Ball State and Marshall. He plans to experiment with a three-man front, although the Wildcats will operate primarily out of a 4-2-5 alignment. Steve Brown remains as co-defensive coordinator and will coach the defensive backs. He takes over for Chris Thurmond, who was not retained. Steve Pardue replaces Larry Brinson as running backs coach. Pardue was previously the longtime head coach at LaGrange (Ga.) High School. Brinson was also not retained.

On the mend: Chandler Burden, who started 12 games at left offensive tackle last season, will be held out of contact this spring while he recovers from a shoulder injury. Receiver Gene McCaskill will be limited after experiencing some swelling in the knee that caused him to miss last season.

On the move: Senior Jake Lanefski will move from backup center to getting more reps at one of the guard positions. Junior Ridge Wilson will play a hybrid role, lining up as a defensive end in pass-rush situations and also playing some at his standard linebacker position.

Key battle: Replacing Randall Cobb and all he did will be difficult enough, but the Wildcats also have to find somebody to fill the shoes of top rusher Derrick Locke. Sophomore Raymond Sanders, redshirt freshman Brandon Gainer, junior CoShik Williams and sophomore Jonathan George are the top candidates.

New faces: The Wildcats grayshirted three players from the 2010 class -- quarterback Maxwell Smith, defensive lineman Jabari Johnson and linebacker Tim Patterson. They enrolled in January and will go through spring practice. Patterson is still rehabilitating a knee injury and might not be full go in contact drills.

Breaking out: Gainer has bulked up to the 215-pound range and is one of those guys the Kentucky coaches are eager to see in pads after redshirting last season. He’ll push hard for the starting tailback job. On defense, maybe this is the year that safety Winston Guy makes that jump and becomes a bona fide All-SEC player.

Don’t forget about: Kentucky returns four starters on the offensive line, and with a new quarterback, new tailback and new go-to receiver, the Wildcats will need to lean on those guys up front more than ever. It’s a veteran group and an underrated group, and it also looks like second-year offensive line coach Mike Summers will have some depth.

All eyes on: Junior Morgan Newton has nine career starts, but this is the first time he goes into a spring as the Wildcats’ clear No. 1 at quarterback. Ryan Mossakowski elected to transfer following last season. Even so, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips isn’t just going to hand the job over to Newton. Phillips wants to see Newton become more of a leader and play with more consistency. Of course, the reality is that there’s not a long list of quarterbacks on campus pushing Newton.

SEC lunch links

February, 1, 2011
2/01/11
12:38
PM ET
A snapshot of what's making headlines around the SEC on the eve of national signing day:

Reviewing Kentucky's scrimmage

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
11:10
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Kentucky exited its first major scrimmage of the preseason last Saturday with three quarterbacks still battling for the starting job, but coach Joker Phillips said the Wildcats need to identify a starter sooner rather than later.

Phillips said there really wasn't a lot of separation among senior Mike Hartline, sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski during Saturday's scrimmage. The plan is to go through this week in practice and see if the Wildcats can make a call by next Sunday.

"We'd like to narrow it down a little bit, at least to two, so those guys can get reps and start getting ready to play," Phillips said.

The bad news coming out of the scrimmage for the Wildcats was that junior receiver Gene McCaskill tore his ACL and will miss the season. McCaskill had been running as one of the Wildcats' top three receivers.

Defensively, a handful of new faces continue to show up for Kentucky, including defensive tackle Donte Rumph and defensive backs Mychal Bailey and Jerrell Priester. All three players are making strong bids to be in the rotation this season.

Here's a link to a report from the scrimmage thanks to the Kentucky sports information staff.

Reviewing Kentucky's spring game

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
11:31
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Kentucky coach Joker Phillips wasn't prepared to say it coming out of the spring, but senior quarterback Mike Hartline knows how he'll proceed this offseason.

[+] EnlargeMike Hartline
AP Photo/James CrispQuarterback Mike Hartline was 11-of-24 for 124 yards in the Blue-White spring game.
Like he's the starter.

"The coaches are going to let it ride through the summer and fall and let us compete," Hartline said following the Wildcats' Blue-White spring game last Saturday. "When they announce it, they announce it. But I'm preparing like I'm going to be the guy when Sept. 4 comes."

Ultimately, he's probably going to be right. Hartline's edge in experience this spring was obvious. He ran the offense more effectively most of the time and gives the Wildcats a better chance right now in the passing game, which is why he's the favorite to be the starter when the season begins.

Phillips did say that sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski closed the gap toward the end of spring, which means both will be options if the offense struggles under Hartline.

The star of the spring game for the Wildcats was backup running back Donald Russell, who rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Russell ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run and also pulled in a nice 35-yard, over-the-shoulder catch from Hartline on the sideline.

The game was set up as an offense vs. defense scrimmage. Hartline was intercepted by linebacker Danny Trevathan on the opening drive, but bounced back to throw a 21-yard touchdown pass to E.J. Fields. Hartline finished 11-of-24 for 124 yards.

The best news for the defense was that it got consistent pressure on the passer. Trevathan looks like he's going to be a big-play performer for this defense. He had a sack, an interception and a quarterback hurry. The guy to watch up front is redshirt freshman tackle Mister Cobble, who had a big spring.

Kentucky's top two offensive weapons, Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke, didn't get much work. Cobb caught just one pass and didn't have any rushing attempts. Locke ran the ball twice for 11 yards.

Hartline's experience nudges him ahead

April, 8, 2010
4/08/10
3:25
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The early leader in the Kentucky quarterback race is the guy with the most experience.

Following a brief situational scrimmage Wednesday, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said there was no question that senior Mike Hartline was the one who stood out among the three combatants.

“For the first day, he showed up more than the other ones,” Phillips said. “Mike feels a little more comfortable than the other two [sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski]. He’s been here a long time. He’s had a lot more reps than those guys. He understands where the ball is supposed to be and also understands where the defense is, so he’s playing a little faster than the other two right now.”

Hartline, who opened last season as the starter before injuring his knee, connected with Chris Matthews for an 80-yard touchdown. That was good news for the Wildcats on a couple of different fronts.

For one, it was good to see Hartline throw the deep ball so well, and it was also encouraging to see Matthews step up and make a big play after blowing hot and cold last season after coming over from junior college. He needs to be much more of a consistent down-the-field threat for the Wildcats next season.

Newton took over last season after Hartline went down, and it’s no secret that the Wildcats struggled in the passing game. His challenge continues to be consistency.

“The thing about the quarterback position is that you have to be consistent,” Phillips said. “Morgan hasn't been consistent throughout the spring. He’s made some good [plays], but he’s also come back and tried to squeeze the ball in among two defenders. He has to understand he's not in high school. People react to the ball a lot faster.”

Mossakowski is still making up ground after redshirting last season. He tore a labrum in his throwing shoulder and underwent surgery. He throws a very nice ball and obviously has a big upside, but he’s also the only one of the three who hasn’t played in an SEC game.

“Reps have helped him make up that gap [of inexperience], and that’s why we're trying to practice as fast as we possibly can,” Phillips said. “The quarterbacks need the reps more than anybody. For us to be able to get the quarterbacks the reps they need, that's the reason we have to practice fast. That's only going to give Moss a chance to compete for a job.”

Navigating the Kentucky quarterback race

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
10:52
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The Kentucky quarterback race begins in earnest at the end of this month when the Wildcats open spring practice March 31.

First-year coach Joker Phillips has made it clear that it's going to be a three-man race, which means narrowing it down to two might be the most pressing challenge coming out of the spring.

Settling on a starter probably won't be realistic until preseason practice begins in August.

But one of the questions that should be answered this spring is whether Ryan Mossakowski's arm strength is all the way back. If it is, don't be surprised if he's one of the main two competing for the job in August.

Mossakowski, a Frisco, Texas, product, redshirted last season because he was still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. He wasn't all the way back just prior to the bowl game last December, but the latest reports this offseason have him throwing the ball extremely well.

The advantage Morgan Newton and Mike Hartline have is that they've both played. Newton was forced into action last season as a freshman after Hartline went down with a knee injury.

However the quarterback race shakes out, the Wildcats have to significantly upgrade their passing game. They finished 114th nationally a year ago in passing offense (140.3 yards per game).

SEC lunchtime links

June, 11, 2009
6/11/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

How about some tasty SEC lunchtime links today?

  • Ian Rapoport of the Birmingham News reports that the NCAA will place Alabama on probation for three years and force the school to vacate all wins from 2005 through 2007 in connection with violations of textbook disbursement policy.
  • Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun writes that Florida president Bernie Machen advocates a raise for Florida coach Urban Meyer.
  • College Football News' Pete Fiutak breaks down South Carolina in his preseason look across the Southeastern Conference.
  • Auburn coach Gene Chizik visited the Atlanta area Wednesday to meet members of what he called the "extended state of Alabama," the Gainesville Times' Katie B. Davis reports.
  • Former Tennessee wide receiver Ahmad Prince is excited about starting his career at Louisiana Tech, the Shreveport Times' Jimmy Watson reports.
  • Season ticket sales at South Carolina are down 11 percent from last season, Travis Haney of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier reports.
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tim Tucker writes about Georgia's healthy roster heading into preseason camp.
  • LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri credited Les Miles' "hands-off" approach for allowing Jared Mitchell to be drafted in the first round by the Chicago White Sox earlier this week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
  • Peyton Manning is withholding judgment about Tennessee's new staff, John Moorehouse of the Kingsport Times-News reports. Manning plans to workout with Vol players in a couple of weeks because it "makes him feel young."
  • Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton discusses Lane Kiffin's early work in a wide-ranging interview with John Brice of the Maryville (Tenn.) Daily Times.
  • Incoming Kentucky freshman quarterback Ryan Mossakowski is expected to be cleared for full contact once fall camp begins in August, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • A refreshed Phillip Fulmer tells Trey Williams of the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press he's keeping his options open to continue coaching again.

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