UK football

Guy moved to linebacker; Neloms takes over at strong safety

guy, neloms take on new roles

ccosby@herald-leader.comApril 2, 2011 

  • UK spring practice

    When: Through April 20. Practices begin at 9 a.m.

    Where: Outdoors at Nutter Training Facility, unless weather moves practice indoors to Nutter Field House. (Saturday's practice is at Commonwealth Stadium.)

    Open practice: Kentucky's Saturday practice will be open. Practices April 8-20 are closed.

    Scrimmage: UK's Blue-White Spring Game is 3 p.m. April 23 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Winston Guy doesn't think of himself as a linebacker.

But in the multiple scheme that co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter is introducing this spring, that's basically what Guy is.

Guy has played just about everywhere during his University of Kentucky football career. He saw action at cornerback as a true freshman and has rotated between free and strong safety the past two years.

But with Minter hoping to get more speed and athleticism on the field in 2011, Guy will move closer to the line of scrimmage and be a nickel linebacker when the Cats are in a 4-2-5 alignment.

Junior Martavius Neloms will move from cornerback to strong safety to fill Guy's old spot.

The Wildcats coaching staff believes that the position switches allow both Guy and Neloms to play to their strengths. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Guy can use his size and athleticism as a blitzer and a run-stopper closer to the line, while Neloms' cover skills and tackling ability are a perfect fit for the safety position.

"Coming out of high school, Winston was a guy who blitzed a lot off the edge," Coach Joker Phillips said. "He's better in the box. Neloms, on the other hand, is better over the top. He has better instincts breaking on the ball. He already has more interceptions in spring practice than Winston has his whole career."

"Look at his size," Minter said of Guy. "He's a big guy who's very athletic and a very good player. I want to get more of those guys closer to the action. When you look at our outside (linebackers), he'll be the prototypical kid we're looking for."

Moving Neloms also frees up a spot at corner, an area where UK has plenty of depth with returning starters Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley, junior-to-be Cartier Rice and promising sophomore-to-be Jerrell Priester.

"We've got to make sure we put our best guys out on the field, and put them in the best position to make plays," Minter said. "Flip-flopping them allows us to do just that. We've got a surplus of guys (in the defensive backfield), so it makes sense to move Winston closer to the ball."

Guy admits he had to warm to the idea of the position change.

"I was a little skeptical at first; I was kind of questioning myself," he said. "But I'm just going to play. I can't argue about anything. I really didn't know how the defense worked at first. Everybody's learning different things, and we're putting in new stuff every day."

Guy has NFL aspirations and even submitted his name to the draft advisory board for an evaluation. The coaches have sold him on the idea that this will make him more marketable to scouts.

"They say it will benefit me in the long run," Guy said. "This is my fourth position, so with my athleticism and the fact that I've played different positions, that should help me out. I'm just going to go out and do whatever I can do to help the team. This is my last year and I want to go out with a bang."

Neloms, on the other hand, was more than glad to move to safety.

"The coaches approached me about it the first week of spring practice, and I was glad to make the move," he said. "I want to make plays, and this puts me in a better position to do that. Plus, I feel like safety is my natural position. I'm kind of the quarterback of the defense and have to think way more than I did at corner. I have to know every call, every formation. But I'm ready for it."

As for picking up the new defense, everybody admits there's a long way to go.

"It's hard right now, I'm not gonna lie," Guy said. "We're putting in new stuff every day. One practice we've got to learn this, then the next practice it's something new. But the coaches are really staying on top of us making sure we learn everything. It's going to take time, but it will come."

But once it's a finished product, Minter's defense will look to be able to rotate from a base 4-3 to a 4-2-5 or 3-4 when the situation calls for it.

"Part of our philosophy is confusion," Minter said. "Being able to mix and match calls without doing a lot of substituting. The learning curve is still way up there. We're throwing a lot of stuff at them every day. But we're not going to back off. We're going to keep forging ahead. I'm enjoying it. We're trying really hard."

Saturday is lastopen practice of spring

Saturday's practice will be the last that is open to the public. It is set to begin at 1 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium and will end at about 3 p.m. There will be a short scrimmage at the end of the practice.

"One thing we want to do is try to find out if our guys are in the right positions and who is going to fly around, play with enthusiasm and make plays for us," Phillips said. "We need play makers at the skill positions on offense. Defensively, we have to be a great tackling team. We want to be a team that creates turnovers and negative-yardage plays. That's what we're looking for (Saturday)."

The Blue/White Game will be held Saturday, April 23 at Commonwealth Stadium at 3 p.m.

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