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Chuck Smith: “If you like blitzing, you will like this defense”

By LARRY VAUGHT

LOUISVILLE — Chuck Smith knows Kentucky fans were disappointed with the way Kentucky played in January’s BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. However, he says it was not just fans who were upset.

“There is not one person that was part of the University of Kentucky that was satisfied with going 6-7 (last season),” said Smith, UK’s recruiting coordinator/linebackers coach, during a talk Tuesday to the Louisville Quarterback Club. “That is not acceptable. That is going to change. We are not going to rest until that changes.

“The bowl game was kind of disturbing to all of us. We had 18-19 practices, and I thought they were good practices. For whatever reasons, we never settled down and played solid defense. We went with a new coordinator (Rick Minter) and installed a new system that in hindsight we did not understand as well as we could or should.

“Offensively, our quarterback (Mike Hartline) was suspended, and they never got on track. It was all just very disheartening not only for fans, but for players and coaches as well. Maybe we were too tight. I don’t know. But I know it can’t happen again.”

Even though Smith coaches defense, he was asked about UK’s offense and have to replace Hartline, running back Derrick Locke, and receivers Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews.

“In defense of Morgan, he did not get much time at quarterback during the season and had to split reps with Ryan (Mossakowski) in practice and then he got threw in there at quarterback in the bowl game,” Smith said. “In fairness to Morgan, it was Hartline’s team. They were comfortable with him and believed in him. Then boom, he got suspended.

“I don’t think the bowl game was a fair evaluation of Morgan. I think a fairer evaluation will be this fall and I think he will do well.”

Smith said Kentucky won’t replace Cobb, a second-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers and a threat to score running, receiving, returning kicks or even throwing.

“Other people have to give more. You always have star players leave,” Smith, a Louisville native, said. “What this does is give an opportunity for new stars to be born. We have good talent coming back and some good young players.”

The defense returns veterans, but Smith noted Minter’s defense will be far more aggressive than the one run by former coordinator Steve Brown.

“It is a pressure defense. If you like blitzing, you will like this defense,” Smith told the audience, which club officials said was bigger than the previous month’s attendance to hear Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. “We bring pressure based on formations, backfield sets, boundaries. It has a lot of versatility. There’s going to be a lot of pressure, moving around and an attacking style.”

Brown’s defense sometimes had trouble making third down stops. Smith says Minter has addressed stopping third-and-long plays and has a “plan” to get the Wildcats off the field.

“I don’t see a problem with us blitzing or dropping back in coverage at any point. Coach Minter is not afraid to do whatever it takes to make the defense work. He won’t be predictable,” Smith said. “He has done a good job of putting the best players on the field at the same time. He won’t sub just to sub. He’s moved people to best use their skills and abilities to make plays and help us win.”

He says Minter also has a way to neutralize advantages offenses have by getting to the line of scrimmage, waiting for the defense to set and then checking into a play to take advantage of that defense.

“Our defense is going to have the same kind of ability to adjust,” Smith said. “We will call two or three defenses in the huddle and we will get in the best defense to give us leverage and get a stop based on the formation we see. That will be a big advantage for us. We are going to adjust and blitz to the formation.”

That could bode well for Smith’s linebackers, especially all-Southeastern Conference pick Danny Trevathan and converted safety Winston Guy.

“We’ve had five all-SEC linebackers in the last five years and Danny may be the best of the bunch. Winston has looked very, very good. He’s very athletic and explosive. I look for him to have a big year,” Smith said. “Maybe he’ll have an all-SEC year. If everything falls into place, we would have two all-SEC linebackers in Danny and Winston.”

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26 comments

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  1. Messenger

    I don’t view blitzing, per se, as the key to success. Sometimes blitzing results in a big play for the defense, but other times blitzing lead to a big play for the offense. The key this fall will be winning matchups, and forcing opposing offenses into making mental mistakes.

    There is a mantra in the fan base that says Minter must stop the run. But that isn’t necessarily so. Aside from Bama and maybe one or two other SEC teams, no one consistency stops the run. In truth, UK’s defense has had problems in recent seasons because of an ineffective pass rush. The Cats haven’t ad a pass rush since Jeremy Jarmon left town. If you can’t force opposing QBs into makng quick decisions, you can’t force mistakes and create turnovers. if Minter can produce an effective pass rush, then he can force opposing offenses to make mistakes and unbalance their play scripts. Games are lost because of mistakes and turnovers. The Cats have not been forcing enough of those, and this is the primary challenge for Minter.

  2. Michael

    Yeah, but if we’re gonna lose, I’d rather lose blitzin than just letting the O mow our defense down again and again. Hopefully though, Minter’s D won’t just be more agressive. Hopefully, it will also be more effective!

    1. gmoyers

      Like that Michael. Effective is the key word indeed more than aggressive

  3. bigbluefans4uk.com

    http://bigbluefans4uk.com/UK_Football/NCAA_DEFENSE_00_10.htm

    This is a link to summary data of NCAA Defensive Statistics for Scoring Defense, Rushing Defense, and Passing Defense since 2000. The numbers speak for themselves.

  4. Messenger

    Michael, at the risk of stating the obvious, the objective is to win.

  5. Andy P.

    Well said, Messenger. Stating the obvious is helpful to the casual UK football fan who have a very elementary understanding of the game.

    Great interview, Larry.

  6. Ira

    Well I guess I’m just one of those poor ole casual fans who just don’t understand the game at all. Lawdy me.

    I’m personally glad we have Minter here. I’ll be glad we see more of his change up. I’m personally tired of the same ole bend and don’t break all the way to the endzone type defense we had under Steve Brown. Auburn Comes to mind. We bent all the way to game winning field goal to for Auburn.

    Go Minter and Go Big Blue!

    1. gmoyers

      Unpredictability will be the theme for Minter. Just hope it is not unpredictable the guys wearing blue, too

  7. Jim

    Upredictability is what Minter is bringing to the defense. His goal is to create turnovers, which were sorely lacking last season. I look for big thing out of this years team on D. The offense will feed off of their energy as well. Turnovers can take the air out of the team that loses possesion.

  8. TrueBlueJohn

    The biggest thing about blitzing defenses is making them unpredictable. If you don’t know when they are coming and where they are coming from, it becomes a nightmare for the offensive coaching staff. Joe Lee Dunn when he was def. coordinator at Miss state created havoc with his attacking defense. I would much rather see an agressive defense than one that sits back and tries to react to what the offense is doing.

  9. bigbluefans4uk.com

    Last year, UK ended 7.3% of its possessions with a fumble and opponents ended only 4.7% of their possessions with a fumble. The average for UK and all opponents last year was 6.5%. So, UK fumbled more frequently, and opponents less frequently by a margin of 2.6% of possessions. UK ended 6.0% of its possessions with an intercepted pass and opponents ended 6.0% of their possessions with an intercepted pass, and the average for UK and all opponents for the season was 7.6%.

    The combined turnover rate for UK was 13.2% and 10.7% for opponents, against an average for UK and all opponents of 14.1%

    UK needs to force more turnovers in 2011 as Jim points out.

  10. hawaiibillT

    Bend but don’t break under Steve Brown had one major flaw, Tackling. I’m looking forward to watching a blitzing defense this year but the players have to tackle better to make it effective.

  11. Tana

    Great piece, Larry, and thanks. Also, Jim, you hit the nail on the head in saying that UNPREDICTABILITY is what Minter brings to the defense. Too, I so agree with Messenger that games are lost because of mistakes and turnovers (and I read yesterday that Kentucky had finished LAST in the SEC in turnover margin in league play, a combination turning the ball over too much and not forcing turnovers — and, for me, that turnover margin and some problem areas in special teams’ play essentially sum up last season). By the way, Messenger, I am sometimes guilty of expressing agreement with folks when they say that we must “stop the run,” but, indeed, NO team ever “STOPS the run” ( I still would like to see some improvement in rushing defense, though).

    Also, I particularly loved Coach Smith’s final words that Larry put in boldface print. Those words show that these coaches think it is distinctly possible for Kentucky to have TWO All-SEC linebackers this season. By the way, that Chuck Smith has already had FIVE All-SEC linebackers in FIVE seasons speaks volumes for Coach Smith as a linebackers coach, and here’s hoping future recruits pay attention to that impressive fact!!! GO CATS!

  12. pacman

    I like the new scheme but I do agree with Larry. I hope the style of defense does not put us in a lot of busted coverages that result in big plays for the other team Also one note about Joe Lee Dunn; I loved to watch his defenses at Miss St but Miss St didnt consistently win a lot of games when he was there. Now he is coaching with Hal Mumme at Div III so that style is not always the best move for a team. All that being said I think an aggressive style for UK on offense and defense is the only way to attract better players and overcome the athletic disadvantage that UK has every year in the SEC.

    1. gmoyers

      I agree on the tackling. No matter what the defense, you have to make plays, something UK didn’t do at key times last year and other years on defense. Has to change to win moreSEC games

  13. LoveSECFball

    Tana, I noticed the comment about two all SEC Linebackers as well! Did I see a positive comment about Avery Williamson recently? We also have Sneed, Johnson & Wilson at the LB positions.

    I don’t think that we will blitz just to be blitzing. Chuck said “We bring pressure based on formations, backfield sets, boundaries,” “There is going to be a lot of pressure, moving around and an attacking style.” They have a “Plan” for 3rd down. I am really looking forward to these changes from Minter.

    Professor, as usual thanks for the stats. You are right – The numbers certainly speak for themselves.

    1. gmoyers

      Chuck is very high on Williamson. Think he will play a lot.
      And never second guess Professor on stats. He’s uncanny

  14. RJ

    It really doesn’t matter if the Cats play a 3-4, 4-3, 5-6, blitz or let the other team gain 1000 yards a game as long as the Cats score 1 more point than the competition. What ever defense that takes as what we need to do!

  15. TrueBlueJohn

    With few exceptions in the last couple of years, we have played most teams close. One more stop in the Auburn game last year, and someone else would have been National Champs. Three or four stops probably meant 8 wins last year. How many times did we have some team 3rd & eight, and let them off the hook.

  16. House

    I don’t see how blitzing is going to improve tackling. Tackling is tackling, no matter how you look at it, and we have always struggled with it, especially last year. I’m not sure Brown is responsible for bad tackling, its on the players to step up and make the tackle.

  17. Andy P.

    House, what Steve Brown was responsible for was having the kids in the right postion on the field. What lead to many missed tackles was kids being out of position. Go back and watch that freshman at Florida score those 6 touchdowns and you will see kids out of position taking poor angles and missing tackles.

    Our tackling will be much, much better this year. Same kids, different coach.

  18. scott

    while the defense has gotten better the last couple of years, to become elite,they have to recruit better on the D-line. kind of hard to coach those guys up compared to other positions. a change in scheme can help, but you still gotta have the big boys up front.

    1. gmoyers

      D-line is the hardest spots to fill because there are so few of those guys. But think UK coaches would agree with you Scott

  19. bigbluefans4uk.com

    To be elite, a defense must hold all opponents to under 20 points per game and under 300 total yards per game. Over the last 11 seasons, UK’s best years have fallen short of these “elite” standards, holding opponents to 21.5 ppg in 2008 and holding opponents to 332.4 yards/game also in 2008.

    To demonstrate how tough it is in the SEC, UK’s best total defense year, 332.4 yards per game, still only ranked 11th of 12 in the SEC, and the 21.5 ppg low water mark only ranked 8th of 12 in the SEC.

    Compare the defensive performance history to UK’s offensive performance history, http://bigbluefans4uk.com/UK_Football/NCAA_OFFENSE_00_10.htm

    To be elite, offensively, a team should score at least 30 ppg and gain at least 400 yards per game. Over the last 11 seasons, UK has posted elite numbers in both categories two times, 2007 and 2010. In 2002, UK’s offense scored in this elite level, but did not post the corresponding yardage that year to match the elite scoring.

    When an SEC team posts elite numbers offense and defense in the same year, that team will be highly ranked, and will compete for SEC Championships and be in the discussion regarding a national championship. These standards are well established, and provide clear, identifiable statistical markers to establish team goals on both sides of the ball.

    Offense: 30+ ppg and 400+ yds/game
    Defense: 20- ppg and 300- yds/game

  20. TrueBlueJohn

    I hope that a couple of kids that we have waited a long time on will pay off big this year. Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble. If they can shore up the middle, it will free the linebackers and defensive end for pass rush. It could be fun to watch for a change on defense.

    1. gmoyers

      Indeed, need Cobble and Rumph to play huge for this team to win seven or more games

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