John Clay: Kentucky's Minter is ready to teach some football

With minter in lead, Cats' defenders getting in line and hanging on

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistApril 7, 2011 

UKFBC

Rick Minter during UK football team practice at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, April 2, 2011. Photo by Matt Goins 11766

MATT GOINS

  • Blue-White Spring Game » When: Saturday, April 23, 3 p.m. Where: Commonwealth Stadium

Rick Minter is talking. "We're trying to maximize every minute," he said.

The wind is blowing, and it's a little hard to hear because of the wind, but Rick Minter is still talking, and he's talking fast, as if time is of the essence.

"I don't even know how to spell patience," he said.

It's Wednesday, around lunch time at the Nutter Training Center, and the Kentucky football team has just finished a spring practice, and Rick Minter is saying he knows he's up against the clock.

"Because at the end of the day, they're going to call it quits now on the 23rd or 24th of April," said Minter, who's sporting a little stubble because apparently there's no time to shave, and, by the way, the Blue-White Game is the 23rd, he only wishes it was the 24th.

But now, back to Minter, because, after all, he's still talking.

"They're gonna say, 'OK, you can't do this anymore.' Then I'll have withdrawals between then and August, and all we can do is go back and watch film," he said. "It's brand new, and we do a lot. It's a lot to cram in in 15 days, and we understand that."

Do his players understand that? That's the thing. Minter is Kentucky's new defensive coordinator. By title, he's co-defensive coordinator along with Steve Brown. In reality, Minter is the boss. It's his defense. It's his call. It's his responsibility this spring to get a new defense taught.

And it is a new defense. Blue and vanilla is out. Blue and 31 flavors, plus a few more, are in. If Kentucky was known to stick to a base defensive package the past two or three years, Minter prefers multiple fronts and various packages.

"I've been a multiple guy for a good while," the former Cincinnati head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator said Wednesday. "But it's all calculated. It's not arbitrary — just call something ... My philosophy has always been, sometimes to be better you have to be a little different."

To the players, it's all different. They line up one way one snap, another way another snap. Winston Guy has gone from safety to outside linebacker/safety. Martavius Neloms has gone from corner to safety. Ridge Wilson has gone from linebacker to a hybrid defensive end.

Their heads are spinning.

"There's a lot of confusion going on out there," admitted head coach Joker Phillips on Wednesday, "because we're not getting lined up properly."

"We started very, very slow," said Minter when asked about last Saturday's scrimmage. "We started slow, we ended slow."

Couldn't stop the run, said Minter. Couldn't stop the big play, said Minter.

"It was everything," he said. "Every time you give up a big play it's going to be alignment or assignment or missed tackle. Alignment or assignment or missed tackle."

All that said, and repeated, the veteran coach loves it. You can tell it in the way he talks. You can tell it in how fast he talks. He said Wednesday's practice was better. He said he loves the way Guy has adapted to his new role. He said he likes the way the kids are trying to learn.

"It's a stepping process," Minter said. "We've got to walk before we can run. Saturday was like a little mini-exam. We were put to the test. In some ways, we passed, and in some ways we failed miserably. That's what we're in school for."

It's windy, and he's still talking fast, but you can just feel that Rick Minter wouldn't be anywhere else.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "You've got to keep in mind, in the last four years, I've done this three times. Start over, teach brand new, get excited. So it's both rewarding and frustrating.

"I'd like to park somewhere for a while, where we can just really start perfecting things, and start recruiting to this, and building to this, and continuing with this. But it's fun. I'd rather be coaching than doing anything else."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @johnclayiv.

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