Jen Smith on UK Football

Kentucky promotes Matt House to defensive coordinator

Special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach Matt House has been promoted to Kentucky defensive coordinator, the Herald-Leader confirmed on Monday.

UK announced the hiring via a news release a couple hours later.

House previously has served as a defensive coordinator at Florida International and Pittsburgh. He replaces D.J. Eliot, who left to take the same position at Colorado.

“He brings a wealth of experience and great passion for the game,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said in the release. “In just one year, Matt has made a very good impression as the special teams coordinator and as a defensive coach. As the special teams coordinator, I’ve seen Matt’s leadership in front of the entire team.”

A Kentucky spokesman said the contract is awaiting signatures and terms will not be released until it is official. Stoops plans to hire a new special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach to fill the staff vacancy next.

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Stoops is giving me,” House said in the release. “I’m excited to continue building the vision he has for the program and I’m excited to continue to grow and improve as a defensive unit.”

Eliot, who had been UK’s defensive coordinator since Stoops took over at Kentucky in 2012, was making $575,000 a season on a deal that ran through June 30, 2018.

He recently became the highest paid assistant coach in Colorado history, signing a three-year contract at $700,000 a year.

House, who has previous NFL and college experience, drew praise for his work last season at Kentucky, especially on special teams.

“He’s done an unbelievable job,” Coach Mark Stoops said of House’s work in October. “I love what he does. He has great passion and energy, and our guys are very detailed.”

House specifically worked with inside linebackers like Jordan Jones and Courtney Love this season. They were No. 1 and No. 3 in tackles for Kentucky this season despite not starting until this year.

Jones, who led the team in tackles (109 and tackles for loss (15.5) earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors. Love had 76 tackles on the season.

The Cats’ defense returns nine of UK’s top 12 tackles, including Jones, All-SEC safety Mike Edwards, sacks leader Josh Allen and defensive end Denzil Ware.

Under House, UK’s special teams got its first punt return for a touchdown in six years while not allowing an opponent to score on a punt or kickoff return.

The Cats’ field goal unit had two game winning field goals in the waning seconds in wins over Mississippi State and Louisville.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader