UK tries new-look defense in spring practice



Just two months after their school-record fifth consecutive bowl appearance, a loss to Pittsburgh, the UK football team will take the field again for the start of spring practice. In his second year as UK head football coach, Joker Phillips discussed some of the storylines facing the team on the eve of their first spring practice in a press conference at Commonwealth Stadium. Among these storylines was new co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter and the new schemes he will be bringing to a UK defense which returns nine starters and their top 11 tacklers from a season ago.

Minter, previously a head coach at Cincinnati and a defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Notre Dame, will look to mix 3-4 defensive schemes into the Cats usual 4-3 look. Phillips discussed using linebacker Ridge Wilson as a hybrid player at both outside linebacker and as a speed rusher at defensive end. He also discussed Minter applying a 4-2-5 look in which senior safety Winston Guy would act as a safety and linebacker hybrid and would play closer to the line of scrimmage.

UK’s defensive players have spent much of their brief offseason learning Minter’s new defense and aiming to have a firm grasp of its concepts for the start of spring practice. Linebacker Ronnie Sneed said that the defense has been working hard all offseason with Minter in meetings and in the film room in order to learn all the ins and outs of the defense.

“Since Rick Minter has come in he has scheduled meeting after meeting after meeting,” Sneed, a senior linebacker with 61 tackles in 2010, said. “We are in there countless hours throughout the week learning this new defense because we have to know it. It’s a lot of stuff and it’s very technical. That meeting time is vital. He is a tough coach who is going to make sure his players know what they’re doing.”

Senior defensive back Anthony Mosley expressed optimism over the Cats’ new defensive look for 2011, which he hopes will create more turnovers and big plays when UK doesn’t have the ball.

“What we are emphasizing is turnovers and interceptions, and when we get it we are going to score with it,” Mosley said.

Mosley and Sneed spoke to the experience that UK has on the defensive side of the ball, and how it will help the Cats mesh Minter’s new style with the co-defensive coordinator Steve Brown’s old schemes from 2010.

“You get to have the opportunity to have a lot of experience,” Mosley said, “and just a lot of football experience in general… You just have a lot of football knowledge when you bring in nine guys. You have knowledge of the old defense, you have knowledge of the new defense, and it just makes you a lot better football players.”

Phillips and the UK football team will hold 14 spring practices beginning Wednesday and ending on Wednesday, April 20. The culmination of all of spring football will be on Saturday, April 23, when the team will play their annual Blue/White game at Commonwealth Stadium at 3 p.m.