By KEITH PEEL
Some people are born to complain. Others are born to compliment. I tend to be like the first group but am working towards becoming like the second.
Knowing myself like I do I try to consider the facts to help reduce the complaining. After seeing the Big Orange beatdown our defense suffered on Saturday it made me wonder if the defense is improving under Mark Stoops over his four-year career at U.K. Instead of complaining I decided to look at the facts.
I used opponents’ points scored per game as a measuring stick to confirm if the defense is improving. What I found was that in 2013 when Mark Stoops was coaching Joker Phillips recruited players the defense gave up 31.2 points per game. In 2014 they again gave up 31.2. The 2015 team made progress and reduced that number down to 27.4. In 2016 with Mark Stoops coaching Mark Stoops recruited players the defense is giving up 32.3.
Three of the last four years our defense has ranked from 90th to 98th in all of FBS in points given up to the opposition. Each year we have failed to achieve a non-losing record. This year we are most likely headed for a 6-6 record with a potential bowl game on the horizon (if we can come to play against a winless Austin Peay team).
All that leads me to ask why after four years does the defense continue to surrender points at an alarming rate? The players have changed, some of the supporting coaching staff has changed but the defensive scheme appears to be the same. Based on comments from the players it appears the scheme might be too complex for new players to easily pick up.
For a team that still lacks quality depth on the defensive side of the ball if UK gets in a situation where second and third team players have to play a significant number of minutes they seem to be out of position either in run support or pass coverage and the defense is gashed for explosive plays leading to touchdowns.
Linebacker Eli Brown, who was filling in for injured Jordan Jones against UT, said he was having difficulty lining up in the correct position based on the defensive call. That appears to be the same for other backup players. We have seen the same situation in zone pass coverage all year. Until UK can consistently recruit or develop SEC level players for the first three levels of the depth chart it might be more beneficial to move to a more simple defensive scheme that allows players with less ” reps” to still be productive when the defense loses players to injuries as the season wears on.
Something is happening in the last half of the season to cause UK to go 0-6, 1-6 and most likely 1-3 over the last half of the past three seasons respectively. It just might be that as the season wears on first and second team players are injured and the backups don’t have the knowledge or experience that it takes to run a complex defensive scheme.
Either way it appears from looking at the facts that the defense has not improved over the course of the Mark Stoops era based on the points surrendered per game. Sometimes a complex defensive scheme executed poorly isn’t as good as a simple one might be if it is executed well.