Quick, name your top criticism of this Kentucky football team. I can almost guarantee that 95% of the answers would be one of two things:
a. Mike Hartline
b. Steve Brown
Now, I think the criticism of Hartline has died down some after 2 straight good performances, but Brown’s critics have only multiplied after a horrendous start to SEC play. Kentucky ranks 11th in scoring defense, 12th in rushing defense, 10th in interceptions, and 12th in red zone defense. Both Florida and Auburn seemed to score at will during large portions of their games against UK. And what seems to be a lack of urgency (i.e. blitzing) has frustrated the fanbase. And for that, all eyes have turned to Brown.
But here is my question:
Why is it that when the UK defense is good, it’s because of the players? But when the defense is bad, it’s because of the coordinator?
Points per Game: 21.5
Rush Yards per Game: 139
Pass Yards per Game: 193
Total Yards per Game: 332
National Rank: 40th
Points per Game: 22.7
Rush Yards per Game: 183
Pass Yards per Game: 177
Total Yards per Game: 360
National Rank: 50th
Steve Brown has had a defense that has ranked in the Top 50 nationally for the past 2 seasons, including ranking in the Top 20 in pass defense nationally, and yet all of that credit goes to Micah Johnson, Corey Peters, Braxton Kelly, Jeremy Jarmon, Trevard Lindley, Sam Maxwell and company. And rightfully so. Those guys made the big plays and big tackles. Those guys were key cogs in bowl teams with mediocre offenses.
But this season, guys who have underperformed like Dequin Evans, Winston Guy, and Ricky Lumpkin, seem to get very little of the criticism, and Steve Brown takes the hit. Tell me if I am wrong, but I have not seen Steve Brown miss a tackle once this season, or let a wide receiver blow past him the secondary. I don’t remember Brown telling his defensive line to not get any pressure on the quarterback. And I don’t remember Brown letting receivers roam free on 3rd down.
Has Brown dissapointed with some of his gameplanning? ABSOLUTELY. When you have a team with limited talent, you have to try some things out of the box to be successful. You can’t just let team after team methodically eat you alive. Brown instead has chosen the bend don’t break mentality for this defense, and it just hasn’t worked. But, I would argue that if the players EXECUTED Brown’s strategy better, this team would have a win or two more on it’s resume.
Point being, as fans, it is always much easier to turn our eyes to the coaches when things go bad, and look at the players when things go good. It’s difficult to be critical of 18-22 years olds. But, in today’s college athletics, these guys are moving further and further away from “kids” and closer to semi-pros. And just because they are teenagers doesn’t mean that we can not blame them for their faults. And even if you don’t want to blame them, that doesn’t mean you should then shift all that blame to someone who doesn’t deserve it, or at least doesn’t deserve it at the level he is receiving it.