Summers' technical expertise boosts UK line

New offensive line coach stresses technique in every practice

ccosby@herald-leader.comAugust 12, 2010 

  • Season opener

    Kentucky at Louisville

    When: 3:30 p.m., Sept. 4

    TV: ABC

Spend a few minutes talking football with Kentucky offensive line coach Mike Summers, and it's almost like talking to a college professor, as he can break down schemes and techniques in the most intricate fashion.

But don't let Summers' glasses and scholarly demeanor fool you. While he won't swear, he can roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty with the best of them.

"He's intense," said junior left tackle Chandler Burden. "He's in your face all the time. He's not trying to tell you things in the nicest way. He just tells you how it is."

"We're not baking cookies out there," Summers said. "We're involved in collisions every play of the game. All players are motivated by different things. There are times where I have to refocus their energy, and I can do that in different ways."

Versatility is one reason Joker Phillips made it a priority to pry Summers away from Arkansas after Phillips parted ways with former line coach Jimmy Heggins.

"Mike is a great teacher, and you have to have different teaching strategies," Phillips said. "Sometimes you have to be simple, sometimes you have to be complex. He knows how to do both."

That same versatility is why many close to the program feel good about UK's offensive line despite the fact that they lost four starters from 2009.

"He's the best coach I've ever been around," said UK special teams coach Greg Nord, who coached with Summers at the University of Louisville. "He's a total technician who knows exactly what you have to do to be successful. He's a great motivator who knows when to kick them in the butt and when to give them a hug. He's demanding and always expects excellence. And while he's smart as heck, he's also the kind of guy who's not afraid to get in there and get things done."

Summers described his coaching philosophy as "a professional approach to being a craftsman as an offensive lineman, being an expert at your position."

Summers spends an extraordinary amount of time focusing on technique, fundamentals, and body and hand positioning, and once the players master it they can just go out and block.

Junior guard Stuart Hines spoke of Summers' meticulous nature on the practice field.

"He watches every step you take," Hines said. "Your hand placement, your eyes, everything matters to him, It's not just about whether you got your job done. He knows you can get your job done. He's concerned with how you did it. He wants you to do it correctly and make it a part of your muscle memory so you can adjust in game-type situations."

With classes at UK not starting until Aug. 25, Summers has spent plenty of extra time in the film room trying to shape and mold his line into a cohesive unit.

Burden said the specific attention to detail has been pivotal for him as he makes the transition from defensive end to left tackle and said Summers is the best coach he's ever had.

"One thing about Coach Summers is he's always going to give you 100 percent; that's why I give him 100 percent," he said. "He's always in the meeting room, and he's always scheduling extra meetings with us. Even though we don't always like going in there, we know it's going to make us better. He's already made me a whole lot better."

"The one thing Mike does is if a guy is having a hard time, there's no 20-hour rule this time of year so he's making sure they're in his office learning what to do," Phillips said. "That's the deal. It's the coaches' job to make sure the players know what to do, and Mike's as good as there is at that."

Cobb on Biletnikoff watch list

Kentucky junior receiver Randall Cobb was one of 51 players named to the 2010 Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award is presented annually to the best receiver in college football.

Cobb is one of six Southeastern Conference players on the list, along with Auburn's Darvin Adams, Arkansas' Greg Childs, Georgia's A.J. Green, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and Alabama's Julio Jones.

The Biletnikoff Selection Committee will choose 10 semifinalists on Nov. 15 before three finalists are named on Nov. 22. The Biletnikoff Award winner will be announced on The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Dec. 9.

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