John Clay: Cards breaking in six new coaches

If choosing a reason that Kentucky has turned the tide of the Governor's Cup rivalry of late, go back to a basic.


Rich Brooks has had few staff shake-ups in six years as the Kentucky football coach.

This season, Louisville has six new coaches.

Yes, the tables have turned from when Louisville was the cohesive program, running its pro-style offense and attracting numerous NFL hopefuls.

Howard Schnellenberger got the ball rolling with his pro-style schemes. After the Ron Cooper retreat, U of L athletics boss Tom Jurich smartly tabbed John L. Smith, the cowboy who got the Cards back in the saddle, replicating Schnellenberger's success. Then Bobby Petrino, a former Smith assistant, pushed Louisville to another level.

Back then, Kentucky was the program throwing changes at the wall in hopes something would stick — from Bill Curry's nearly annual scheme change, to Hal Mumme's "Air Raid," to Guy Morriss's brief reign.

Under Brooks, however, Kentucky has been a model of coaching consistency. In his seventh season, Brooks has had two offensive bosses (Ron Hudson and Joker Phillips) and two defensive coordinators (Mike Archer and Steve Brown). That's an anomaly in these quick-change times.

Now with Steve Krag thorpe fighting to keep his job, Louisville is the program that feels as if it's starting over.

Six new coaches dot the Cardinals' staff. Antonio Goss (safeties/special teams), Brent Guy (defensive coordinator), Jay Johnson (tight ends), Jeff Lewis (wide receivers), Larry Slade (cornerbacks) and Matt Wells (quarterbacks) are all in their first year as Louisville position coaches.

"I think we have good chemistry on this team, and this staff," Kragthorpe said on U of L's media day.

There is even change at the top. This is Kragthorpe's third season as the head Card, but his first as play-caller.

Charlie Stubbs and Jeff Brohm divided the duties in Kragthorpe's first year at the 'Ville. Then Stubbs was canned. Brohm assumed play-calling duties in '08. Then he was nudged toward the exit — he's now quarterbacks coach at Florida Atlantic under Schnellenberger — so Kragthorpe could grab the play-calling reins.

"That's why I hired him in the first place," Jurich said in July.

Kragthorpe might be a brilliant tactician. He's called plays before, after all. He has a pro background. His Tulsa offenses have put up big numbers. But Saturday will mark just his second game in his new duties.

Besides, most U of L fans would argue that offense hasn't been the problem. A defense that ranked 84th nationally in 2007 did inch up to 70th last year, but then defensive coordinator Ron English left to become head coach at Eastern Michigan.

"Because I'm calling the plays," said Kragthorpe. "I needed a guy who thought like a head coach on the defensive side of the ball."

That's the 49-year-old Guy, previously the head coach at Utah State, where he won eight games in four seasons. Before that, Guy was defensive coordinator first at Boise State (1998-2000) and then at Arizona State (2001-2004) for Dirk Koetter.

"What life is about is change," Guy said. "Kids, it's amazing how resilient they are."

True. And Guy might be a great coach. But this is sudden change. Saturday marks just the second game in his new duties, as well. Will his troops have picked up his scheme fast enough? Does he have the personnel in place to stop major-college offenses?

"Everything starts with the personnel in the game," Guy said.

One advantage the home team should have come Saturday: The Cats know their coaches, and the Cards are just getting started.