University of Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan tries to downplay the streak of games in which he has made 10 or more tackles. When asked how he'd react if he had "only" nine tackles in a game, he said in a deadpan voice, "I probably wouldn't notice till after the game because someone would tell me."
But when asked about the last time he failed to record 10 or more tackles, Trevathan did not need his memory jogged. Perhaps tellingly, and with a hint of irritation in his voice, he answered immediately.
"Florida," he said.
Correct. Trevathan had only two tackles against the Gators last season. Since then, he's reached double digits in 12 straight going into Saturday's game against Florida.
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"I had an incident and I sat out the first half," Trevathan said in explaining the two-tackle blip against Florida last season. "Kind of a rookie mistake, a young guy mistake."
In a firm voice, he said he would not be making any mistakes this week.
Actually, Trevathan also had only two tackles against Florida as a sophomore two years ago. UK Coach Joker Phillips noted that Trevathan only played in three-linebacker alignments in 2009, therefore was not on the field throughout the game.
"That baffles me," Phillips said, "because he was a great player even then. But he was on the sidelines a lot."
The UK coach offered assurances that on Saturday, Florida will see the Trevathan who ranges far and wide in bringing down opponents.
"The guy is a tackling machine," Phillips said. "He'll come up with tackles this week. He'll continue the streak."
Fellow linebacker and Floridian Ronnie Sneed vouched for Trevathan's determination to play well in his third — and final — game against the Gators.
"That kid is all over the field," Sneed said. "He's going to bring it on this time."
Florida showed recruiting interest in Trevathan, who is from Leesburg, Fla., as a running back. He said he committed to Kentucky, in part, to stay closer to his family, which has moved to Akron, Ohio.
Trevathan acknowledged an added incentive to play well against Florida.
"It's always going to be a Florida thing with me," he said. "I always want to win against those guys. I always want to beat those guys. I always want to step on their throat."
But, he added, "They're a tough team."
Trevathan led the Southeastern Conference with 144 tackles last season. He's the league's most prolific tackler so far this season with an average of 12.7 per game.
In explaining why he's so effective, UK coaches and players mention physical and mental gifts.
"The guy plays hard," Phillips said. 'He knows what to do and is physical in defeating blocks and getting off them."
The UK coach noted Trevathan's instincts.
"He doesn't have great strength, but he has great instincts," Phillips said. "He knows exactly when to shoot his arms. He knows exactly when to uncoil and make tackles. Those are the things that make for great linebackers."
Surprisingly, Trevathan did not play linebacker until he came to Kentucky. In high school, he played running back and safety, the latter in a role as rover.
Trevathan welcomed the move to linebacker when he came to UK.
"I just wanted to get closer to the ball," he said. "I think I can use my assets more: quickness to close in on the ball. I'm able to react. At safety, I had to be kind of slow. (The safety) has to be the last line of defense. I don't really like that pressure."
First year co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who has worked with Trevathan for only three games, noted the player's attention to detail.
"He studies the game," Minter said. "... He brings genetics. The Lord blessed him with speed, athleticism, strength. He also blessed him with the love of the game. The guy has passion to play the game, so he studies the game."
Sneed mentioned how Trevathan pursues ball carriers relentlessly.
"He has a motor," Sneed said. "He doesn't get tired. I call him my little pit bull."
To make sure that motor runs at peak efficiency, Phillips wants to keep Trevathan out of occasional practices to lessen a wearing-down effect.
"A guy gets beat up (and) banged up, he's going to be that way the whole season," Phillips said. "... You've got to protect him."
Trevathan welcomes the protection.
"Taking care of your body is one thing you have to learn in this type of industry of playing football," he said. "Coach does a good job telling me I need rest. I'm going to get banged up. Who doesn't?"
Reporters were told Trevathan would not be available for interviews one day this week. He was in the training room.
Trevathan said he did not have an injury that needed attention.
"I'm just getting in an ice tub," he said, "and getting my body right."
With the competition now at SEC strength, Kentucky more than ever needs Trevathan to play well.
"I hate to say it," Phillips said, "but we need him to make more (plays)."
A sprained knee ligament makes defensive end Collins Ukwu questionable for the Florida game.
Phillips compared the injury to those sustained by offensive linemen Stuart Hines and Billy Joe Murphy. "Not as bad," the UK coach said.
Doctors will evaluate Ukwu to see if he can play against Florida, Phillips said.
Ukwu has 14 tackles, including a sack, this season.