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Former starting QB Newton learning to play H-back

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Morgan Newton has always played quarterback — until recently.

He arrived at Kentucky four years ago with a locker full of trophies and accolades, from being Indiana's 'Mr. Football' to placing on at least six national prep All-American squads. Newton was ranked as one of the nation's top 10 QB recruits by several major scouting services.

The senior and onetime Kentucky starter is changing positions — at least part-time — just to get playing time. Since sophomore Maxwell Smith beat out Morgan this fall to be the Wildcats' signal caller, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound former Southeastern Conference All-Freshman selection began taking snaps at H-back.

Newton isn't bitter. In fact, he's eager to help Kentucky beat Western Kentucky on Saturday night and possibly reach a sixth bowl game in seven years.

"I think it would be tough if you thought you were supposed to be playing quarterback, but Max is playing well and he has won some games," said Newton, who's still listed as Smith's backup. "He's playing quarterback pretty good so that works and it's the best thing for the team. I just try to help out the best I can."

Newton's career has witnessed more spikes and dips than the stock market. Forced into action as a freshman in 2009 after Mike Hartline was injured, Newton started eight games, threw for eight touchdowns and played a significant role in Kentucky's first win at Auburn since 1961 and first at Georgia since 1977.

The momentum didn't last. Hartline beat Newton out for the starting job in 2010, which led to Newton attempting just 43 passes on the season.

Hartline graduated and Newton rose to the top of the depth chart, but he had a disastrous 2011 opener against Western Kentucky (7 of 18 for 97 yards, three interceptions) and was mostly ineffective until a shoulder injury forced him to the sidelines in late October.

When Smith won the starting job in training camp this season, Newton and the Kentucky coaching staff began searching for ways to get him on the field.

"We don't have many guys with his size and speed," Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "You don't have enough guys like that and I told him last spring if he wasn't the starting quarterback he wasn't going to stand by me, he was going to do something. He's had a great attitude about it."

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