UK’s defense transitions again



Steve Brown has seen a change among many of his players.

When he first arrived at UK in 2003 to become an assistant coach on new UK coach Rich Brooks’ staff, the defensive players were struggling to run a 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. Now the defensive players display 40-yard dash times that are more on par with the norm in the speed-oriented Southeastern Conference.

However, Brown doesn’t know if it’s now time for him to change; UK head coach Joker Phillips hired Rick Minter as co-defensive coordinator in December, and Minter has taken over the play calling and practice preparations from the incumbent defensive coordinator Brown.

“I have no idea (if I’ll be on staff next year),” Brown said.  “I don’t have any idea what God’s plan is for me, but my number one thing is to make sure that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing my best. I’m meant to be a teacher—I’ve been blessed with some ability to have played—and I have got to teach them how to do it and if it’s here or wherever, I don’t know.”

At his introductory news conference, Minter called Brown a “classy guy” and said that he looked forward to working with him.

Staying classy, however, has been tough for Brown in the face of a demotion and a season where the UK defense surrendered 28.5 points per game and 353.9 yards per game.

“I’m not going to say it hasn’t been extremely tough,” Brown said. “Hopefully, by my actions and by the way I approached it, some of the players understand if they go through any personal adversity how to handle it as opposed to be being sour.”

Brown then drew an analogy for reporters, saying it would be like a sports reporter being suddenly demoted to the role of performing “the elementary school weather reporter.”

Minter is already in the process of instilling new defensive philosophies. Junior cornerback Randall Burden said that Brown emphasized the secondary helping the front seven more, whereas Minter wants the secondary to back off and try to get more turnovers.

There have also been rumors that UK could shift to a 3-4 base defense under Minter and at times during the Cats’ 27-10 loss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, UK went with a three-man defensive line.

The transition from Minter to Brown has also been hard on the players.

“Everybody is getting along, but obviously it’s hard for us with Coach Brown not calling the plays anymore,” Burden said. “But we have to learn it eventually so we’re just getting used to the new play calling.”

However, Minter’s play calling proved to be no more effective than Brown’s in his first game selecting the plays: UK gave up 261 rushing yards to Pittsburgh, a Compass Bowl record.

The month of preparation for the bowl game, said Minter, was more of an opportunity to get know a lot of his players and move toward his planned changes.

Whether these changes will include Brown is yet to be seen.

But even if Brown opts for a change of scenery, he said that witnessing the growth of his players during his time at UK has been the most rewarding.

“You see these guys grow up from 17, 18-year-old young men to a little older young men means a lot,” Brown said. “Plus you get a chance to be around guys like Ricky Lumpkin and Shane McCord, who are a part of you forever, until the day you die.”

Follow Nick on Twitter @KernelCraddock.