In 2018, Kentucky’s defense never looked better. Replicating a similar equation will not be simple, but Boogie Watson believes Mark Stoops found the right man for the job.
“He’s a football genius in my opinion,” Watson said Thursday morning. “Coming from the NFL, since the first day he got here he helped me out with everything I’ve done. His pass rush techniques have helped me tremendously. As a whole defense I think he has some good schemes he’s installing right now.”
That genius is Brad White. Last month Stoops promoted Watson’s outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. White replaces Matt House. The man who orchestrated Kentucky’s defensive turnaround departed to coach linebackers for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to touch all aspects of this defense. Obviously, Coach House did a phenomenal job, so big shoes to fill. The nice thing is I don’t have to do it by myself. I have a lot of really capable people to lean on, people that have been there before,” White said. “In terms of being your first time calling [plays], I couldn’t have a better situation.”
White will be surrounded by a few former coordinators and head coaches. Prior to taking the job at UK, Stoops was a defensive coordinator at two power five programs. Steve Clinkscale previously coordinated Cincinnati’s defense. Dean Hood was a head coach at EKU and coached White in college as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator. They veterans shared simple advice to White as he makes the transition from position coach to coordinator.
“Be you. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to be Coach Hood. Don’t try to be Coach House. Don’t try to be Coach Stoops. I’ve gotta be me. The way I coach is the way I coach and our defense is our defense. There may be some nuances here and there. The way I call a game may be slightly different based on feel and flow, but again, I don’t think there’s going to be that much change in that regard.”
By keeping the hire in-house, continuity in scheme is a theme of Kentucky’s defense.
“It’s not like we’re starting from scratch. Our defense is our defense,” White said. “Coach Stoops hasn’t changed a lot in seven years. That’s a positive. We can build on that.”
They aren’t starting from scratch, but White does have a lot of production to replace. He inherits a defense that finished 6th in scoring and 23rd in total defense, but only returns four starters. He must find a completely new secondary and call a defense without Josh Allen, White’s protege that’s arguably the school’s greatest playmaker.
Filling in the gaps will not happen overnight. Kentucky has a dozen more spring practices and a fall camp to find new defensive playmakers. Everybody has a clean slate. White does not care who you are. He wants players who will help the defense achieve his ultimate goal.
“When you turn on the film, you have 11 guys flying to the ball every single down. You have 11 guys playing violent with their hands every single down. They got their eyes in the right place. They’re playing with technique. Nothing requires talent here. What it does require is effort, strain and sticking to the technique each position coach is teaching.”
White’s philosophy is so simple, one might say it’s genius.