UK Football

It's QB to DB For Lentz

Matt Lentz found himself sitting in Coach Rich Brooks' office this spring.

Lentz was a third-string quarterback last season, behind Andre Woodson and backup Mike Hartline. He wasn't sure of his place on the Kentucky football team.

Then Brooks asked the South Carolina native if he might be interested in a position switch from quarterback to strong safety.

Some players might have hung their heads, complained, refused or considered transferring.

Not Matt Lentz.

"I love playing football," he said. "As long as I'm on the field, I'm happy. It doesn't matter where.

"I looked at it as an opportunity, as more of a challenge. It was my chance to get on the field and go out there and have some fun."

To hear that doesn't surprise Lentz's new position coach, Chris Thurmond.

"Matt's a great person," the UK defensive backs coach said. "He's a great team player, that's why everybody likes him. He shows it on special teams. He's one of our best special teams players. He's got an unselfish team attitude. That's just the way Matt is."

Those are some of the reasons Brooks has taken a chance and moved Lentz into the starting rotation at strong safety going into the game against Western Kentucky this weekend.

"He gives you everything he's got every play, and that's the one thing you can count on," Brooks said. "He's going to try to do the right thing every play. He's intelligent, he focuses, he works hard. We just have to see what he does in games now, see if he carries that over."

Brooks wasn't necessarily getting that from starter Ashton Cobb, who has nine tackles and a fumble recovery this season. The coach cited Cobb's "poor performance in the last game of assignments, execution and focus" as a reason for the change.

Lentz, who just a season ago found himself immersed in the offensive playbook, has had to learn a whole new playbook.

But you won't hear Lentz complaining.

"Once you get the hang of it, it's fun," said Lentz, who played some defense his sophomore season at Greenville (S.C.) High School. "I always think it's more fun to hit somebody than to get hit."

Previously playing quarterback helped with the transition. Lentz already was familiar with many of the coverages.

"Usually playing quarterback helps you go to defense because you understand a lot of things about defense," Thurmond said. "But to make that move, especially playing safety with all of the adjustments and motions, is still a difficult one."

In limited action this year, Lentz has two tackles and an interception in the season-opening win at Louisville.

So far that interception has been a highlight, the redshirt freshman said.

"My family was there, so that was pretty cool, and I had some text messages from back home after the game," Lentz said.

Thurmond expects he'll see more than a few highlights this season from Lentz.

"There's a bit of a learning curve there," Thurmond said. "But what we're trying to do is get him to know (the position) well enough that his instincts take over, where he's not trying to be robotic."

But mostly the coaches are looking for a player that is willing to work hard, which is something Lentz always seems willing to do, no matter what position he plays.

"When he's gotten in there for the few plays he has been in there, he has been productive," Thurmond said. "He's been relatively consistent. That's the thing we want."