Sidelines with John Clay

With Matt House officially gone, attention turns to UK’s next defensive coordinator

Kentucky is losing its defensive coordinator after all.

UK confirmed Tuesday that assistant football coach Matt House is in fact leaving the program to become linebackers coach for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

This follows reports Friday that House was about to depart for the Chiefs, only to be contradicted by Saturday reports that the assistant had decided to stay on Mark Stoops’ staff.

The holdup was apparently the $150,000 buyout clause in House’s $650,000-per-year contract that runs through the 2019 season. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, UK had at first said it would negotiate with House concerning the buyout, but then changed its mind. The Chiefs, whose new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was House’s boss as head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11, made a second run at House on Monday.

Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that the Chiefs agreed to pay the $150,000 buyout to hire House.

Now the attention turns to House’s successor. The frontrunner appears to be outside linebackers coach Brad White, the former Indianapolis Colts assistant who joined Stoops’ staff last season and helped senior Josh Allen to one of the most dominant seasons by a defensive player in program history.

[Josh Allen’s award speaks to Mark Stoops’ shrewd hiring of assistant]

Allen brought home numerous awards, including the Bronco Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards for national defensive player of the year, the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy of the year, and the Jack Lambert Award for best college linebacker. He set both the single-season (14) and career (28.5) record for sacks by a UK player. He forced 11 fumbles in his career and was a major reason for the Wildcats’ 10-3 record and Citrus Bowl win in 2018.

He was also vote the state’s Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year as voted on by state media and presented by the Herald-Leader.

White spent six seasons as an assistant under Chuck Pagano with the Indianapolis Colts before being hired by Stoops for the new 10th assistant coach position created by the NCAA before last season. Known as an excellent teacher and technician, White played a major role in Kentucky finishing sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 16.8 points per game.

[UK pass rush dramatically better, and coach has bruises to prove it]

Before joining the Colts, White was the inside linebackers coach at Air Force from 2010-11. He was safeties coach at Murray State in 2009. A graduate of Wake Forest, where he was a linebacker coached by current UK safeties coach Dean Hood, White was a grad assistant at Wake Forest in 2007 and 2008.

Stoops could conceivably go outside the staff for House’s successor, but the guess here is that he will opt for continuity and promote White before a team (NFL or college) tries to hire away the Portsmouth, R.I., native.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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