Good thing Avery Williamson likes to watch film.
Kentucky's senior linebacker has had to watch more than his share, learning three different defenses in as many seasons.
When Mark Stoops arrived on campus as UK's new coach and brought with him D.J. Eliot and their 4-3 defense from Florida State, Williamson grabbed the film and dived in.
In the winter, he'd meet with Eliot when the defensive coordinator wasn't out recruiting and he'd ask questions about the nuances of the defense.
Williamson wanted to get it before spring practice started.
"I just keep on studying the stuff and it comes to you over time," said Williamson, who finished second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally in tackles with 135 last season.
For Williamson, it wasn't about getting a head start on his teammates to get on the field faster. The senior wanted to make sure he got the basics so he could help his teammates along.
"I take it upon myself to be a leader ... direct the guys in the right direction, and I expect other guys to step up as well," Williamson said.
After the first practice of spring, Stoops made it clear he wasn't looking for leaders to emerge so soon.
"Again, I'd rather have it that way than a bunch of rah– rah phony stuff and guys not locked in and not being real," Stoops said.
But after just the second practice, Williamson was one of the first players that came to mind when Stoops started discussing the defense.
"Avery's doing a nice job," the head coach said on Monday of Williamson, who also had 4.5 tackles for loss last season, four pass breakups and an interception. "He's a good football player. He's played a lot of ball. I like him. He's solid there in the middle, but we need to build some depth."
Williamson said even though the system is simpler than the previous defense under Rick Minter, he's still figuring some things out, like the different terminology.
Eliot wants the players to know the defense so well that it becomes second nature to them.
"I'm trying to instill that they know what to do so fast that they don't have to think — that it's a muscle memory," Eliot said. "I don't want him doing his own thing. I want him doing what I told him to do. But I want him to think so fast that it's muscle memory."
That's Williamson's goal, too.
So he's trying to learn the system inside and out.
"They don't want a lot of thinking out there," he said. "They want guys flying around. That's really what I want to do."
There's something about putting on the pads that turns a bunch of individuals into a football team, and Stoops said he felt better after Friday's practice — the third of the spring — than he had so far.
"This was the best we've looked," he said in the Nutter Indoor Facility, where UK has practiced for a third straight time. "I felt a greater sense of urgency out there. We put the pads on; guys were flying around a little bit."
Specifically, he liked what he saw from an improving offense.
"You could see the execution started to get better; I was very encouraged," he said. "The tempo was not where we want it to be. It's not where it's going to be. But I felt like, for the first time, you could just feel the pressure they can put on you."
Eliot said getting the pads on definitely helped him evaluate the players more effectively.
"A big part of playing defense is: How physical are you? And right now, I don't know who's physical," he said. "So we'll find out when we put full pads on."
Players were equipped with GPS tracking devices as a part of Erik Korem's new high performance system.
"There's a long list of things it'll do, but it tracks a lot of information that we're going to follow," Stoop said.
Stoops is changing the practice schedule around a bit, dropping the practice intended to clean things up after the spring game and holding one on Saturday instead.
UK spring practice
When: Through April 12 on scheduled days
Blue-White Spring Game: Saturday, April 13, 7 p.m.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com