The timing probably wasn’t ideal for Matt House to uproot his family and start a new job at Kentucky in May, long after spring practices had wrapped up.
The Cats’ new special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach hasn’t even had time to unload his stuff from his former job as the Florida International defensive coordinator.
That turned out to be a good thing because UK’s players and coaches are scheduled for a move to the new practice facility in a few weeks anyway.
“Today, Coach Stoops walked by and there were boxes in my office and he said, ‘Keep ’em packed,’” House joked during an introductory news conference Thursday. “So, just the bare bones. (I’m) not hanging any pictures on the wall.”
The time he could have used to unpack has instead been spent getting familiar with the players who can help most on Kentucky’s special teams — a much-maligned unit last season — as well as the Cats’ inside linebackers.
House discussed both on Thursday afternoon.
Getting to be a special teams coordinator is especially exciting for House, who has held varying roles on special teams at FIU, Pittsburgh and in the NFL.
He called that a pivotal group and he plans to coach them that way.
“You set the tone,” he said of special teams. “You are going to be the first play of the half and you set the tone of the game. Certainly the amount of hidden yardage that can be gained or lost in the kicking game is huge. It is something that can energize your stadium, and it’s a great role for kids who are trying to break into the rotation to play.”
The new coordinator was excited to see spring footage of UK’s special teams running through competitive, game-like drills.
Under former special teams coordinator Andy Buh, who left in early April to become defensive coordinator at Maryland, UK had four players serve as captains.
You are going to be the first play of the half and you set the tone of the game. Certainly the amount of hidden yardage that can be gained or lost in the kicking game is huge. It is something that can energize your stadium and it’s a great role for kids who are trying to break into the rotation to play.
Matt House, on the importance of special teams
Those players looked at the data from a week’s worth of drills and practices and were able to make trades, franchise players and even cut teammates who were underperforming.
It was a way to make practices fun while also holding players accountable, Coach Mark Stoops said at the time.
It was an effective strategy UK will continue to use in upcoming seasons, House said
“They did some competitive special teams drills throughout the spring that were awesome, and they will give us a great baseline going into fall camp,” House said.
It’s special teams the way it should be handled, House continued, noting that for a team to return a punt for a touchdown — something the Cats haven’t done since 2010 — all players have to be able to block for nearly 10 seconds in one-on-one battles.
“You’ve got to compete your tail off,” House continued.
That’s something else he saw from an inside linebackers group on film. NCAA rules prevent him from having much interaction with members of his position group at this time of year, but he’s met with them individually and as a group and likes what he sees.
“When you watch spring (video), they got significantly better from practice one to practice 15,” he said. “So that’s exciting.”
When it was noted UK lost almost every snap of experience at inside linebacker last season, House said it didn’t deter him.
He’s excited about working with linebackers like Courtney Love, Kash Daniel, Jordan Jones and Eli Brown to name a few.
“There’s going to be some baptism by fire, no question, but it’s a group that’s athletic, hungry and smart,” House said. “As a coach, that’s what you want. And you want guys who are hungry to learn and that’s the group.”
House will be a good fit on the staff, Stoops said Tuesday at the annual Governor’s Cup luncheon.
“He has great experience; he has defensive coordinator experience,” Stoops said. “He has special teams experience and he also has college and NFL experience. Extremely detailed, passionate and an extremely hard worker.”
The head coach has said many times how important it is to get an assistant coach who has experience as a coordinator.
The former defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh and Florida International agreed, noting it helps to be able to see beyond your position.
Every coach but one in UK’s defensive room has coordinator experience.
“It’s great for ideas, great for prior knowledge of things that worked and things that didn’t work,” House said. “At the end of the day, by banging that many heads together, you come up with the best idea and the best way to execute a plan.”