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Kentucky's Hartline now gets his chance

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

More than any other position on the football field, there has to be inherent trust in the quarterback.

Despite what anybody says, Kentucky will miss talented junior Curtis Pulley, who was dismissed from the team Tuesday by coach Rich Brooks for violating team rules.

Pulley was going to be on the field somewhere this season for the Wildcats -- quarterback, receiver, somewhere. Brooks told me back in May at the SEC spring meetings that Pulley was the kind of freakish athlete who doesn't come along every year. He's also the kind of athlete you can't keep off the field.

That is, unless you can't trust him.

Pulley obviously violated that trust one too many times, and now he's history. The Kentucky quarterback picture also just got a lot clearer.

Sophomore Mike Hartline, who's yet to take any meaningful snaps in a game at Kentucky and has thrown just six passes in his college career, steps to the forefront after impressing the coaches in the spring. The feeling then was that he simply needed a chance.

He'll get that chance and then some this fall.

It's one thing to be stepping into that starting quarterback straddle for the first time. But in Hartline's case, he does so with just about all the main weapons from a year ago gone.

That means the Wildcats offense will grow up this season, which can be a dicey proposition in the SEC.

The 6-6, 205-pound Hartline has classic drop-back size, but he's also more mobile than he looks. In high school in Canton, Ohio, he advanced to the state finals in the 300 hurdles, high jump and 4x400 relay.

But what impressed his teammates most this past spring was the way he assumed leadership responsibilities even though he'd never really played before.

Brooks said sophomore Will Fidler would be the No. 2 quarterback behind Hartline, and the true freshman the Wildcats like is Randall Cobb of Alcoa, Tenn. Cobb will probably cross-train at both quarterback and receiver, but he's going to get a chance somewhere.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said on Tuesday that Cobb was the best athlete he's seen come through Kentucky since Phillips first arrived in Lexington as a player in 1981.

Regardless of how it all eventually shakes out at quarterback for the Wildcats, Brooks' refreshing message in this era of "If you can play, you can stay" rings loud and clear.

Talent is important. But trust is even more so.