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Defensive scheme change a commonality between fired SEC East coaches


It only took three years for both Joker Phillips and Derek Dooley to be dismissed from their respective jobs. There were many individual factors that lead to their firings, but it was one decision both coaches made that might have doomed them. Both Phillips and Dooley decided to switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 scheme during their tenures. Heading into the 2012 season, Kentucky was in its second year of a switch to defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s 3-4 scheme and Tennessee in its first of Sal Sunseri’s. Kentucky finished the regular season 12th in total defense in the SEC and Tennessee finished dead last at 14th. It goes to show that you no matter how effective you are on offense, it’s tough to be a good football team if you can’t stop anyone on the defensive side of the ball.

In many respects a 3-4 defense is an ideal scheme to run, just look at the success Alabama has had in the past couple of years. Alabama sends more defensive players to the first round of the NFL draft than any other school because: a) they have a lot of talent and b) most teams run the 3-4 at the next level. If the 3-4 is your scheme it is a valuable recruiting tool. It allows you to recruit players on the basis that they would be playing in an NFL-type scheme from the beginning of their college career, making their transition to the next level easier. From a coaching standpoint, the 3-4 has a ton of benefits too. Most college quarterbacks struggle against a 3-4 scheme because it’s more complex than a 4-3 scheme. You can disguise pressure better which allows for more complex blitzes and coverages.

Obviously, both Dooley and Phillips had a vision of doing what Nick Saban has done at Alabama. The problem is that a scheme change takes time to implement. Switching defenses requires three years. It takes about two years to recruit the correct players and by year three you should see improvement. Both coaches were fired before they got to see their vision carried out because of the lack of promise it showed throughout the 2012 season. In today’s college football game you can be on the hot seat quicker than ever, as we can see by Auburn’s Gene Chizik fired two season removed from a National Championship.

Both Kentucky and Tennessee had pretty good team defense rankings before the switched schemes. In 2011, Tennessee finished 7th in total defense in the SEC, whereas Kentucky was 12th in their first year of the scheme. In 2010, before the Wildcats switched to a 3-4, they finished 5th in the SEC in total defense. It makes you wonder if both coaches had stayed with what was working in the first place if they would still be in their former jobs.

Article written by Rashawn Franklin

36 Comments for Defensive scheme change a commonality between fired SEC East coaches

  1. Rick Pitino
    8:05 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    “I came down my leg, in 15 seconds”

  2. Bradley
    8:13 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Our offense was AWFUL the last 2 seasons as well. Joker could’ve used a defense where 22 players were on the field and he would be in the same spot he is now. Horrendous playcalling, lack of preparation and terrible game management were the problems that did Joker in.

  3. burge2
    8:18 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Being the program with a lower winning tradition, no titles, fewer tangibles to offer head coaching candidate we will naturally have a smaller list of candidates to chose from. If we are interested in being competitive we must take more risk than an Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, since they have a higher pedigree of candidates to select from (Supply & Demand).

    To be entertaining the idea of mid-major coaches as candidates proves this point. It’s just that Barnhart is trading “risk”, public perception risk for “little proof you can do the job” risk.

    Petrino made a mistake to put him down at our level. Yet, Barnhart isn’t willing to risk his future hire-ability with bigger schools (regardless of the level of Kentucky Football — where his current decision making should lie) to put Kentucky on the escalator to competitive football.

    We’ve got an Athletic Director who has worn out his welcome. He no longer makes decisions for the University, in considering where the University is in regards to the other Football programs, this is about him.

    That’s the first sign that you replace someone in their job. When they are more important than the job they must do.

    If Mitch Barnhart can’t make the decision to hire Petrino, then he should resign.

    Get out of the way for what’s best for the University.

    If he doesn’t, then he isn’t a man of integrity. He wants it both ways.

  4. uklaw95
    8:18 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Yes, it’s the defense’s fault we scored [email protected], 0 @ FL, 17 @ USC, 14 @ MSU, 7 @ AR, 10 @ MO, 0 @ effing VANDY, and 17 @ TN!

  5. Junior
    8:18 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Really? seriously? you have to be kidding me!

  6. kramer
    8:19 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Over on Twitter some report agents are telling potential coaches for UK job that its a dead end job and if your an up an comer-stay away!! screw them!!

  7. markp
    8:20 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Petrino is the best coach available, period.

  8. uklaw95
    8:21 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Or maybe, just maybe (and I’m spitballing here), Joker rode on Brooks’ coattails in the beginning and brought in a new D in the hopes it could save him from his terrible playcalling and recruiting.

  9. Harv Tizzle Geennee
    8:22 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Good Evening campers. I’ve noticed that Fatt Jones and Screw Franklin let comments like the one above stay on this site. But if someone makes fun of them, their comments/tweets are deleted. They clled twitter to have me removed. Get over yourself. you’re still

    It’s hard to believe that two basement radio nerds are so thin skinned and distort by comments made by people on this site. it’s sad and unbelievably funny. Follow me @theghostofhtg for more pokes and jokes pretaining to this sad little site and their “writers”. Always happy to post on this so called news outlet.

  10. burge2
    8:23 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    We can win at Kentucky, we just need a coach who’s over qualified for the job – to compensate for the lower level of talent that we have to chose from.

    There is only one candidate that fits that criteria.

    If we could only get Mitch Barnhart to admit to the mistakes he’s made in his life then this whole thing would be a non-issue.

  11. burge2
    8:25 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    If we could only get Mitch Barnhart to admit to the mistakes he’s made in his life then this whole thing would be a non-issue.

  12. Cats in the NBA
    8:25 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Joker was handed the job in order to continue what old man Brooks had going. Instead, he fired all of Brooks’ guys and created his own mess. The free-fall was inevitable.

  13. mudcreekmark
    8:26 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    4)Exactly! I don’t care if we ran a 3-4,4-3 8-3, 2-9, it wouldn’t have mattered. After Maxwell Smith got hurt we just couldn’t move the ball, let alone score enough points to win games against good teams.

  14. DC Cat
    8:29 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    This is a straight up, ignorant post. You really think that our defensive scheme was a part of why joker got fired? No, he got fired because of his ineptitude on offense and mismanagement of players. Quit making excuses for joker. Guess mitch told matt to make sure ksr put out excuses

  15. Paducahfan
    8:30 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Remember that we ran one play this season where we rushed 5 and dropped 8. And it still didn’t work.

  16. blueblood
    8:34 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    I never thought Joker knew which QB he wanted out on the field, excepct Hartline and he was flip flop on that, and never let Hartline throw down field.

  17. SevenT
    8:36 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    I knew the minute Joker got rid of DC Steve Brown and brought in Rick Mintor as DC we had a serious problem on the UK staff.

  18. Harv is still Jean
    8:36 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    I think our defensive scheme is awesome. Don’t pop your gums 14. What the heck do you know? About as much as Fat Jones. Tell’em Fatt…

  19. Junior
    8:36 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    @14 – ROCK ON MAN!

  20. Harv is still Jean
    8:41 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    I agree, you gett’em 14!! What a post!!

  21. SexnNursinHomes
    8:43 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Say what you will. Atleast Joker didn’t get fired in those hideous orange mc hammer pants.

  22. Junior
    8:45 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    I’m starting to believe KSR is actually funded by Mitch and company.

  23. Gene Chizik
    8:49 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    I’ve been offered the UK job by, none other than, Harvey T. Gene. Harv tells me that if I come to Lexington i would get to listen to Matt…Fatt Jones every monday thru friday. Fatt will complain about UK football, cut people off in mid-sentence when they try to make a point he doesn’t like and slyly make fun of his daily callers.. Harv also informed me that I will, most likely, lose my twitter account if i mention him in a tweet. I’m really excited about my move to Sexington!! #BBN #GeneToLex!!

  24. these commentors don't know football
    8:55 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    this is a good post and most completely missed the point. It isn’t why Joker was fired but it did contribute to our sucktitude.
    3-4 only works if you have NFL talent and even then I really don’t like it. We don’t get that kind of talent in terms of a nose guard.
    I agree that we need an exciting offense, but a change in defensive mentality is the only way we are ever going to win any meaningful games.

  25. burge2
    9:15 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    #22 – Junior – It all depends on what your definition of funding is.

    We know they get perks from the Athletic Department. Can’t prove money has changed hands, but the continued character assignation effort by KSR on Bobby Petrino (as if he has done something wrong again, just this afternoon) combined with the overwhelming support and lack of holding Barnhart accountable for having directly hired 0 major sports coaches that worked out is far from coincidence.

    They have worked to delete many of my posts. All I am interested is people holding enormously high paying public school jobs be held accountable FOR THEIR RECORD (and lack of present awareness).

  26. Joe
    9:24 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    They have worked to delete many of my posts.
    In part, because you post the same thing, REPEATEDLY. I’m sure you’re proud of that little graph, but stop posting it 4 times in every freak’n football post!

  27. burge2
    9:25 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Part of the reason an Athletic Director can make $600,000 (Barnhart’s current salary) a year is because they have to take risks that other Administration doesn’t have to take.

    It’s also part of the reason they can get schools to agree to contract’s that ensure they are paid additional money if they are fired without cause (cause which can be written however the persons attorneys want).

    It’s risk compensation.

    Mitch Barnhart has UK locked into a 7 year agreement (through 2019). He can do anything he wants. But here he refuses to make the hire that some don’t think is “pretty” because he’s protecting himself for a future position at an even higher program.

    The best thing for the Football program is to stay out of NCAA violation or academic trouble, while winning games. Exactly what Bobby Petrino’s record shows he is ready to do.

    So Mitch will continue to milk UK while looking out for his best interests.

    When he is forced to make the hire that isn’t “pretty” through direct threat of losing his job, he does it = John Calipari.

    But UK isn’t a football school, and no one is telling him his job is on the line here. He can make the pretty hire, and base it on “character”. Something he knows very little about considering his history of his hiring decisions.

  28. burge2
    9:27 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    #26 – Joe – Don’t you have traffic to slow down somewhere?

  29. Joe
    9:31 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    #28 No, I don’t but haven’t you a spiffy little chart or something you can bore us with for the next 24-36 hours, by posting it about every 20 minutes on any football entry?

  30. burge2
    9:44 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    #29 – Jow –

    1. Do you care about the football program?
    2. Do you think Barnhart deserves his job? ($600,000 a year) for a 42% winning percentage and driving our basketball program into the sewer? Having to then make a public perception “unpretty” hire to fix things (Cal).

    You can’t justify one over the other. NCAA violations are a much bigger concern than an affair/cover up. Get that straight.

  31. Joe
    9:49 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Well as some of the 42% wins come from Larry Ivy/Hal Mumme and not Barnhart I’d have to say, you cherry pick a bit…

    driving our basketball program into the sewer?

    What are you maundering on about, Basketball sewer? Tubby was NOT a Mitch hire, remember, and the problem has been fixedor ahve you failed to notice?

    And WHAT NCAA violations do you refer to? I must have missed them under Barnhart’s tenure…and again it was Title IX liability and lying to management that got Bobby P fired, again you like to use poor data to support your conclusions.

  32. mudcreekmark
    11:02 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    Rich Brooks took over a program in shambles. Hindered by loss scholarships, recruiting limitations and other sanctions enforced by the NCAA. He inherited a program with little to no tradition. A program that had a history of losing games in every possible way. Brooks changed a mind set of not only his team but the fans also. No longer did the players and fans feel that some way some how we would blow a game that we had in hand. No longer did the team or fans feel we have no shot at going up against LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, or any other team in the country. No longer did the players or fans feel that there was no way we could come back while trailing in the forth quarter. Brooks and his staff got over that hurdle and had UK competitive with the best of the best. He mentored Joker and showed him what being loyal means. He showed him that if you work hard and stay loyal you can be rewarded with a promotion. He showed Joker how to promote within the program to keep that continuity that he had built.
    Then what does Joker do? He does exactly the opposite of what had worked and what had gotten UK to that next level. He fired every coach that he had worked side by side with for the entirety of Brooks tenure who had helped mold and shape the program. Joker got exactly what he deserved. Its just a shame that he has set UK back 10 years. Matt can defend him all he wants but Joker screwed up a good thing and he only has himself to blame and now we all have to suffer his stupidity.

  33. DCS195
    11:54 pm November 26, 2012 Permalink

    mudcreekmark. The most intelligent, concise and to the point post I have read on this site in days if not weeks. The only additional thing that I wanted, but you failed to do was to articulate an intelligent rebuttal to the continual inane dribble posted by burge2. To read his posts, you would think that a vast majority of UK fans want Petrino hired as coach. I can assure you that is not the case. It is definitely less than 10% at most. To equate Calipari and Petrino speaks volumes about him. In his 25) post he said that Barnhart had “made 0 hires in major sports that have worked out” and in 27) said that Barnhart’s hiring history showed a lack of “character”. No wonder his posts are being deleted. If being factual was a requirement, he wouldn’t have the first post on the site.

  34. John
    5:19 am November 27, 2012 Permalink

    “It makes you wonder if both coaches had stayed with what was working in the first place if they would still be in their former jobs.”

    uh, no? I don’t even have to wonder, I know. This article is crap. No neither of them would still have their jobs.

  35. Big Whoop
    5:33 am November 27, 2012 Permalink

    Thumbs up tp #33 & #34. Steve Brown had UK ranked as high as 18th in the nation in pass defense, but he always had difficulty stopping the run. Joker brings in Minter and we can’t defend the pass and still can’t defend the run. Remember Operation Win? That’s when everyone complained the Joker wasn’t involved in the games, but took notes instead. Strictly Bill Curry, not Rich Brooks. Joker believed that winning came from slogans, not hard work by the head coach along with his asstants on the practice field.

    As for Petrino, great coach who is morally bankrupt in almost every way. The man has a proven track record of constantly looking for another job while at UL (but, who could blame him? It is, after all UofL). He has a clear record of dalliance and using his stature for getting babes. (but, who could blame him since there are always a lot of willing hotties on campus). It has been made clear that it will be a long, long time before Petrino ever coaches in the SEC. The SEC school’s Presidents and Chancellors have made that very clear. So, don’t blame Barnhart for that. Barnhaet and Lee Todd hire Calipari behind the back of the Board of Trustees. That took some courage because the BOT retaliated by shutting down the UKAA. Barnhart is simply the front man who is paid to take the heat for the behind the scenes BOT.

  36. ikie12pts
    4:20 pm November 28, 2012 Permalink

    well guys, most of you are very, very perceptive on this issue and for that I am grateful, however burge2 must have “escaped from The Ridge” to write his nonsense. He’s either uninformed or an experienced rider of the short bus. I’ve never seen such drivel. It defies explanation.