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Weekly look at Kentucky tendencies. This week's is a focus on the defense through the first three quarters of last Saturday's game. Did UK gives us a glimpse at their Florida game plan?

Andy Lyons

The Kentucky football team's defense looked noticeably different against the Ohio Bobcats last Saturday through the first three quarters. Marginal changes can be expected week-to-week, but the changes were dramatic enough that their cause was probably opponent agnostic. Kentucky coaches may have wanted more of the playbook to get game action. Here are a few general findings:

  • Kentucky blitzed on 16 occasions. Against UT-Martin I counted four blitz attempts. The positions that blitzed the most were Josh Forrest from the middle linebacker position, and Blake McClain from the nickel back position.
  • UK likes blitzing from the defensive player lined up against Ohio's slot receiver. At times this was Forrest, McClain, or one of the safeties. This can be an effective blitz, but you have to have a fast player to get to the quarterback if he's releasing the ball within three seconds.
  • UK also played dime coverage (six defensive backs) on five noted occasions. They usually did this out of a four-man front.
  • Against UT-Martin, UK generally played a 3-4 front on running downs and a 4-3 front in passing downs. This changed against Ohio, when UK played more 3-4 on first down (20:1), second down (11:2), third down (6:5), and fourth down (1:0).
  • On third down UK was in the 3-4 front on 6 occasions. They blitzed on all six occasions. On two occasions, linebacker TraVaughn Paschal was substituted in for linebacker Khalid Henderson and blitzed. Paschal is a former defensive end, and the coaches probably like his pass-rush abilities.
  • UK blitzed on first down five out of 20 occasions. Perhaps they were hoping to get Ohio behind the chains, or maybe they just wanted to rep their blitz packages? I'm getting to something...
  • Far more deception in the secondary with last second coverage changes. These changes were rarely as a result of motion or quarterback audibles. Odd...
  • I noticed this once against UT-Martin, but against Ohio, UK used more of a basic stunt between Mike Douglas and Za'Darius Smith. It resulted in some quarterback pressure on a few occasions. I've yet to observe any other defensive line stunts.
  • Speaking of Douglas, he had a pretty good game Saturday. I'm going to highlight that in a future post. Melvin Lewis and Matt Elam also played solid at the nose. I'm very impressed with Lewis so far.
  • Josh Forrest continues to get better. I'm starting to think he's the next UK linebacker fans will celebrate along with Woodyard, Williamson, and Trevathan. Yes, I know that's high praise but he can do a lot and continues to improve. He and Henderson are two linebackers who will do a solid job in pass coverage, but they both got better defending the run last Saturday.
  • UK starting playing a lot of back-ups by Ohio's third possession, and it continued that way until the end. Everyone in the two-deep, and a few in the three-deep in the secondary, are getting quite a bit of game-action. Far more than last season which probably speaks to the Stoops' increasing confidence with his personnel.

The take-away is the defense saw a steep increase in complexity against Ohio, despite the real lack of a demand for it. Does any of this translate to the upcoming Florida game? There's perhaps at least one way.

Last season during the Alabama State game, UK played quite a bit of dime coverage which was initially puzzling, until the realization that they were facing Mizzou's fleet of awesome receivers the next weekend. Could breaking out the dime coverage against Ohio also serve as preparation for Kurt Roper's offense? There is precedent. The increase in blitzing, and coverage deception, may be elements of the Florida game plan that were getting their trial-run against Ohio.