By HAL MORRIS
LEXINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€Ã‚Â Ridge Wilson knew he would be moving around more on defense this year. He learned that preparing for KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bowl game.
He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know exactly how much different his responsibilities would be as a linebacker-rush end until spring practice started, but the junior out of Louisville is adjusting to the new Ã¢â‚¬Å“hybridÃ¢â‚¬Â position in co-defensive coordinator Rick MinterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new scheme.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Actually, I feel like at the end of the day, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to work out for the better. Not just for me, but for the entire defense. Coach Minter wants to be putting our best 11 players out there, and any defense, any package weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got, everyone can play on the field,Ã¢â‚¬Â said the 6-3, 238 pound Wilson. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just learning how to get back into the three-point stance concept, learn toÃ‚Â play like a big man instead of a finesse player all the time. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotÃ‚Â switch it up.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“And (learning) not rushing up the field so much, rather just playing heads up, using my hands and getting upfield and making plays. I can use my abilities against bigger players.Ã¢â‚¬Â
As a strongside linebacker last season, Wilson played in all 13 games and started the final two against Tennessee and Pittsburgh. He registered 30 tackles with three tackles for loss, 1 1/2 sacks and had an interception. He played a little in MinterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new scheme in the BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Pittsburgh, where he registered six tackles.
Minter said Wilson has made a good transition with his new responsibilities so far this spring. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done well. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done a good job. I think weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re putting Ridge at positions where he has a chance to be a success. He can play linebacker, but also defensive end,Ã¢â‚¬Â Minter said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He brings a lot to the table.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I look forward to working with him now and in fall camp because we have to look at this thing in stages. Spring is a big, heavy install where you learn a lot of things. Then weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll regroup and start all over in the fall and try to perfect it much better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wilson is trying to perfect his new spot as well.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m still learning, so every day IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m coming into practice with an open mind and getting better each day,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
He said he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly sure what to expect when Miner was hired and started installing the new defense at the end of the regular season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When coach Minter first came in, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the defense we played in the bowl game, I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a rush backer but I pretty much did the same thing. So I had a clue we were going to run that defense, but I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a clue they were going to put me the majority of the time in a three-point stance,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But like I said, I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to work out well.Ã¢â‚¬Â