Kentucky defense adopting 'in your face' attitude of new coordinator

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 11, 2011 

UK defensive coordinator Rick Minter, during UK media day on Tuesday August 5, 2011 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

Even on a crowded football field, the voice booms like a clap of thunder.

Sometimes what the voice says — and how it says it — hits like a bolt of lightning.

"You first hear him on the field and you're like, 'Man, he might be kind of mean," linebacker Ronnie Sneed said of new Kentucky co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter.

Fellow senior Randall Burden agreed.

"I wasn't sure what to make of him at first," Burden admitted. "He has a real aggressive style of coaching."

The defenders were used to the more laid-back approach of Steve Brown, last season's lone defensive coordinator, who is now predominantly coaching UK's defensive backs.

The players learned almost from the start that Minter was a force of nature as a coach.

"He's aggressive and it shows in his play calling," Sneed said. "We're all about getting after the person with the ball. Blitz here, blitz there. It's an attacking-style defense."

And sometimes it's an attacking style of coaching.

"It's been an experience," linebacker Danny Trevathan said of adjusting to Minter. "He's a real in-your-face type of coach and I haven't had that in my whole career."

The words "mean," "real aggressive" and "in your face" also are exactly the words that Minter would want them to use to describe the new defensive scheme he has put in place.

The scheme calls for constantly changing formations to throw off and confuse offensive players.

The goal is to get speed as close to the ball as possible and force turnovers.

It's the kind of scheme head coach Joker Phillips says UK has been crying out for the past few seasons.

"For us to be successful at the level that we want to be successful, you've got to play dominant defense — not good, not great defense — you've got to play dominant defense," Phillips said recently. "We've got to play dominant defense, and that's the mind-set that Rick has brought to this football team."

A few nights ago, long after it had gotten dark, Phillips was making the walk to the dorms for the night.

He noticed that Minter was still in his office.

"He's a guy that all he does is football, and I think that's rubbing off on our players, studying the game, the attitude, the approach which they take with this game," Phillips said. "Defensively, I think the attitude of our defense, the mind-set, those things have definitely taken a turn for the better."

Trevathan, already a defensive leader with a Southeastern Conference-leading 144 tackles last season, admitted that working with Minter has made him even more aggressive.

"Having him has unleashed a different part of my game," Trevathan said. "He's teaching me how to learn and how to teach others.

"He's giving us confidence and an attitude. We're not sitting back anymore. It's one thing (Minter) emphasizes is attitude."

The 56-year-old Minter, who was head coach at Cincinnati from 1994-2003 and was the linebackers coach at Indiana State a season ago, has the defenders believing there are as many ways for them to score as there are for Morgan Newton at quarterback.

"The attitudes of the players have really changed since he's come," Sneed said. "You could look back at our previous defense and see some guys who weren't truly invested, and it might be because they didn't need to pay attention as much."

There's no dozing on Minter now.

"Coach Minter's the type of coach, he'll put you out if you don't know what you're doing," Sneed said. "He doesn't care if you're a senior or the best player on the team."

The defenders say they are starting to get used to the storm that is Minter.

And they hope that it will make them a force of nature within the SEC.

"He's a little bit of a different personality," senior cornerback Anthony Mosley said. "He takes a tad bit of adjusting but, once you do, you realize his heart's in coaching, his heart's in wanting to make us better; once you realize that ... you get past the abrasive personality."

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