Steve Brown's midterm defense report

KSR's Lonny Demaree gets a midterm report from UK's defensive coordinator, Steve Brown. Last season Kentucky's defense ranked near the bottom of the NCAA. This season, under Brown's tutelage, the Cats have moved way up the rankings and are putting together some respectable defensive stops. Among those impressive stops was the OT stand that sent former #1 LSU down to defeat last week.

During the offseason following Kentucky's Music City Bowl appearance Coach Rich Brooks made a move that could lead to being heavily second guessed, if it failed, he elevated Steve Brown to defensive coordinator. Previously, Brooks had promoted Joker Phillips to offensive coordinator and hired Chuck Smith from Boyle County High School as a linebacker coach; two moves that in hindsight have been very successful. Brown's promotion appears to be the latest in successful moves. This has to be a testament to Brooks' vast experience, to be able to spot talent. However, Brown's promotion was the easiest since Brown played for him at Oregon and coached for him when he was the head coach for the NFL Rams.

Brown took over a defense that was rated two spots from last in Division lA football. The defense was starting to show spark at the end of last season, but it still had a long way to go, especially in stopping the run. Even though the run defense has been gashed several times this year, those times are becoming fewer and fewer. As a testament to the improvement in the run defense, Saturday night in the fourth quarter when LSU need to run the ball to score and sew up the game, it got 21-yards on the grown in the entire quarter. The left side of LSU's offensive line looked like something out of the cartoons. The left guard was 6-foot-7, 356-pounds and the left tackle was 6-foot-5, 330-pounds.

Brown talks about inter-changeable parts in his linebacker corps, like the duo at mike linebacker, with Braxton Kelly and Micah Johnson. Brown said, "It is interesting, one day last week we had a scenario where Wesley (Woodyard) was not practicing, all of a sudden you saw Braxton at the will (weakside outside linebacker), Micah (Johnson) at the mike (middle linebacker) and Sam Maxwell at the sam (strong side outside linebacker). You say, wow, that could be next year's backers with Johnny Williams also on hand. The nice thing about it is these kids are paying attention to the point to where they can be inter-changeable and they are working together for a common good and they are playing at a pretty high level." He said when you have competition at a position, you play better.

Brown said a lot of people don't understand that when you are setting on the sidelines for three are four plays, it's hard to get in the flow of the game and when you are put back in the game you are expected to perform. He said for the most part, these kids are doing a good job of that.

The experience of Kelly exceeded Johnson in pass coverage, now Johnson is catching up to where he can share reps in the nickel coverage.

Brown said all of the linebackers are getting better in pass coverage and no longer looking at the quarterback but instead are reading pass routes. Brown deflected the idea that he is a miracle worker in what he is doing with the defense, "Nah, what I am is just around a bunch of fine young men that are a year older and have a burning desire to be good,"

Brown explained. "We are not yet quite where we want to be, but we are making strides and getting better. Coaching is coaching but let me tell you something, what makes a great coach is great players. You can put them in the right direction but some of these guys are starting to do things you can't coach, things you can't drill, and that's what makes a great coach."

The fact that the team played 27 true freshmen over the last two seasons, many of which were defensive players, and the fact that they are now growing up, is starting to pay dividends. Brown buttressed this as fact. This total was the most freshmen played by any Division 1A team in America over the last two years.

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