Mid-week Southeastern Conference notebook …
It has been a strange career for Kentucky senior Morgan Newton. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder was a quarterback his first three seasons and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the SEC coaches in 2009.
This spring and much of the fall camp he battled with Maxwell Smith for the starting quarterback job. But when Smith won the starting job, Newton’s days as a quarterback were essentially over after throwing 352 passes and rushing for 452 yards on 155 carries in three seasons.
So it was up to Joker Phillips and his staff to figure out other ways to use Newton, a talented athlete.
“I told him last spring if you weren’t the starting quarterback he wasn’t going to stand beside me,” UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders told Alan Cutler of the True Blue Site. “We were going to do something. He’s had a great attitude about it.”
“We have to try to figure out different ways,” Phillips said. “Again, it’s just hard. We’ve got just small packages. He didn’t get a lot of reps last week, maybe five to 10 reps last week at the things that we asked him to do.”
So Newton became a wide receiver and H-Back who specializes in blocking. It was a seamless transition for Newton.
“My parents used to lock us outside and we used to play, so you always caught and you always threw,” he explained. “So I feel if you can’t catch and throw what kind of athlete are you really.”
Newton is proving that he is some kind of good athlete, as he matures as a blocker and pass receiver. So much so that Sanders complimented Newton’s efforts in practice on Tuesday.
“He gives me a lot of credit,” Newton said. “Probably more than I deserve. But I’m not going to say, no, Randy you’re wrong. I’m going to go out there and try to play and try to help out.” …
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive took the unusual action of suspending Ole Miss freshman defensive back Trae Elston for a hit he put on a UTEP player with just over three minutes left in the Rebels 28-10 win over the Miners.
The action comes after Hugh Freeze had some encouraging words about Elston’s development.
“He’s getting better,” Freeze said. “We’re trying to bring him along and try not to ask him to do too many things or confuse him. We’re trying to let him play fast. He’s going to be a special player, no question. He’s just a short time removed from high school and playing against some really talented kids. I don’t want to put any crazy expectations on him at this point. There’s no doubt he’s coming along and getting better.”
Unfortunately for Elston, he won’t be getting any better against Texas this weekend. He’ll be watching as he serves his one-game suspension. …
When the Georgia Bulldogs play Florida Atlantic at Sanford Stadium this weekend, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Mark Richt.
“We’re getting ready for this week with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, right where I went to high school,” he said. “My house couldn’t have been more than a mile-and-a-half from campus, so this game is kind of close to home in a lot of ways for me.
“They’re just a lean, athletic football team and they run very well, which you would expect from a team in South Florida. We’re looking forward to getting back home ‘Between the Hedges’ and getting a chance to play ball again,” Richt said. …
It was a huge moment in Florida’s win over Texas A&M last Saturday but it was special for fifth-year junior defensive back Jeremy Brown. When the Florida special teams group took the field for a Texas A&M punt, Brown was among them. It was the first time he had been back on a football field since the 2010 Outback Bowl.
He missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury that eventually required surgery. Then he broke a wrist during the summer workouts. Brown found himself buried on the depth chart, but he’s back and contributing for the Gators again.
“I just felt tremendously blessed to have this opportunity; to go through so much and still have the opportunity to be able to come back and be around these guys and contribute in any way I can,” Brown said Tuesday. “I feel blessed and thankful to be here.”
Brown will be in Knoxville when the Gators take on Tennessee in what has become a meeting of two Top 25 teams again. ESPN College GameDay will broadcast from Knoxville this Saturday, which will be the 34th time the GameDay crew has broadcast from a Florida game, which leads the nation. …
Auburn is facing an uphill climb this week as the Tigers try to dig out from under their 0-2 start.
“I think there’s definitely a sense of urgency that every game is a must-win game for us,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik. “Certainly with us being 0-2 right now, the sense of urgency this week is definitely high, but it’s high all the time. We know that we have our hands full, and that’s good for our team. We need to be challenged. We need to continually be challenged, and we look forward to that. Every game is a must-win.” …
Alabama will have a lot on the line when the Crimson Tide opens the SEC season at Arkansas Saturday. Alabama has won 20 consecutive SEC openers, the longest active streak in the league. …
After opening with losses to South Carolina and Northwestern, the Vanderbilt Commodores take a step back in the level of competition this week when Presbyterian comes to Nashville. Head coach James Franklin is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m excited for this opportunity against Presbyterian this week,” Franklin said in what is probably the understatement of the new season. “(We’re) excited to play back at home in front of our fans.”