To help get ready for the Kentucky football season, UK Athletics published a sneak peek of this year’s official football yearbook. The section they chose was about new defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who was brought in to stabilize a defense on which teams literally ran wild last year. Over the course of the months since he was hired, we’ve gotten to know him as an experienced, hard-nosed disciplinarian who should instill a new attitude in the defense. This preview doesn’t do much to convince us of anything different. It’s a long read, so I’ve lifted some of the highlights for you to check out…
On Joker’s decision to bring him in:
But Phillips wants to take the defense even further. He doesn’t just want a top 50 defense anymore; he wants a top 20.
As a former assistant coach under Minter at Cincinnati and longtime friend, Phillips kept in contact with his mentor and knew what he was capable of. When Phillips saw what Minter did last year at Indiana State as a linebackers coach and his two seasons as defensive coordinator at Marshall (2008-09), Phillips viewed the decision to split the coordinator position into two co-coordinator roles as an opportunity to take the next step and make the defense even better.
“Rick is all ball,” Phillips said. “He doesn’t go home at night. He stays here and does football. That’s what he does.”
It wasn’t a hard sales pitch to lure Minter from Indiana State, but there was the delicacy of having two coordinators, the power of which would be in Minter’s hands.
“I’m sure it was a little tough on Steve,” Phillips said. “It’s just a decision I decided to go with. One thing I wanted was more minus-yard plays and turnovers.”
On what the defense will look like this year:
Schematically, what you learn about Minter’s defense during the teaching session is that it’s as much of a reflection of him as anything. Experienced by time and coaching stops like Notre Dame and South Carolina, among many others, Minter has taken the best of what he’s learned in his 30-plus years of collegiate coaching and applied it to his multiple-look defense.
While everyone will try to pinpoint exactly what his defense will look like this fall — is it a 3-4, a 4-3 or a 4-2-5? — Minter will tell you its base is a hybrid and its strength is its adaptability.
The way Minter sees it, it’s up to the defense to adapt to the offenses and gimmicks of modern day college football. That means adjusting from week to week and snap to snap.
Take, for instance, last season. On one weekend, UK had to face the spread option attack of a team like Auburn. The next week it had to deal with the power and speed of South Carolina.
“Offenses today have such a great pizzazz and flavor to them that you must be adjustable on defense,” Minter says. “You find great ‘backs, you find great receivers, quick O-lines, fast-tempo teams and slow-tempo teams. All we are trying to do is put our guys in position to match up no matter what they see. We will have a plan that will be successful against any of those styles of play.”
But Minter also wants to impose the same type of changes on the offenses. Instead of just adjusting, Minter wants his defense to be the aggressor. From a fan’s perspective, you’ll see more blitzes, more chaos and a lot more speed this fall, but there is also a lot the naked eye won’t see.
On the new attitude he’s working to get the team to adopt:
In explaining the new defense, you begin to realize the changes Minter is implementing are more than just schematics; they are as much about attitude and belief as they are about the base defense.
“The thing I was looking for was toughness and discipline, and that’s what Rick brings,” Phillips said. “We needed a guy that would coach toughness and would coach discipline. Rick was the perfect choice.”
From the time Minter closed the door, turned his chair and started talking, it was clear he is a straight shooter. As old school as Vince Lombardi and Paul “Bear” Bryant, he doesn’t dance around how he feels or what he thinks.
“I won’t ‘BS’ them and I won’t blow smoke,” Minter says. “I’m very straightforward and very honest.”
Football is his life and his life is football, so he preaches his teachings like it’s the gospel.
“Some of them had a hard time with it,” Phillips said in referencing the rude awakening guys like Neloms and Guy experienced when Minter was holding practices over by 20 minutes in Birmingham. “I had to make sure those guys understood that this is what we’re going to do. He has my blessing and support. You can buy into it or you’ll be watching on the sideline.”
So there’s a little bit of the story of the man charged with rescuing a defense that was consistently disappointing last season. Only 46 days until we find out if it worked.