By Parrish Alford and Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan had an SEC-high 144 tackles last year, a figure that made for interesting conversation when he was out and about.
Trevathan averaged 11.08 tackles a game, ninth in the nation.
He believes numbers like that can be the norm for the Wildcats’ defense, particularly as it becomes comfortable under Rick Minter, the new co-defensive coordinator.
“People talk about 144 tackles … I think there will be a lot of guys on the team with tackles like that,” Trevathan said.
A senior from Leesburg, Fla., Trevathan was third in the SEC with 16 tackles for loss, second in forced fumbles with four.
The Wildcats overall were sixth in total defense, 10th in scoring defense in a 6-7 season.
Minter – who was a head coach at Cincinnati when he hired his new boss, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips – is expected to improve those numbers with a more aggressive approach to style and play-calling.
“We’re not sitting back anymore. We’re attacking,” Trevathan said. “Everyday we go out on the practice field trying to get three turnovers. Guys are diving on the field sacrificing their bodies. We need that.”
Making the defense the best it can be, however, will depend on players moving freely in the system, making it second nature.
“Learning a new scheme is just part of things,” Trevathan said. “When you get to the NFL that’s something they’ll look at, how you pick things up.”
Rules changes for 2011
The two biggest changes for 2011 involve an effort to put more teeth into the taunting penalties and a change with clock rules in the last minute of each half.
In previous seasons a 15-yard penalty would be assessed on the kickoff when a touchdown-scoring player taunted an opponent on his way into the end zone or if the player dived into the end zone.
The touchdown will no longer be awarded. A 15-yard penalty will be enforced from the spot of the foul, wherever the official judges the taunting to have begun.
Regarding the clock. Now, when a team commits a penalty in the final minute of each half that stops the clock – a false start for example – that team will be penalized, and the opposing team will have the option of having 10 seconds removed from the clock.
The official would spot the ball, have the clock operator remove 10 seconds, then start the clock.
Refs shaping up
Steve Shaw, the SEC’s new coordinator of officials, often sounded like a football coach when speaking of the work his subordinates are putting in to get ready for the season.
He talked about “fundamentals” and “mechanics” and said the SEC’s officials will be in great shape come September. He said there will be a physical fitness assessment today, where officials do a mile-and-a-half run and “torture agility drills.”
“We’re never going to look great, but they look better,” Shaw said. “They’re trim, ready to go. We’re going to work hard in the fall not only to improve but to be every game the best team on the field.”
Shaw also touted a new video database, which will be used for reviewing certain calls and in training officials. He said coaches who send in plays to be reviewed will receive better, faster feedback from the SEC.
Shaw is seeking more “transparency in dealing with our officials and the calls. That’s going to be a challenge I’m excited about.”
Bray in ‘infant stages’
Tennessee sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray showed a lot of promise last season, passing for 1,849 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 10 games. He made five starts after Matt Simms was benched, leading UT to wins in four of those games.
But Bray gave coach Derek Dooley a few headaches due to his improvisational style.
“It’s a little bit like parenting,” Dooley said. “They don’t always do it the way you want, but then they do it and you go, well, that wasn’t too bad after all. That’s what Tyler was.”
Bray is not guaranteed the starter’s job, as Simms, a senior, will fight to regain the lead role. Bray seems to be doing all he can to hold him off.
“He’s still in his infant stages in quarterback play,” Dooley said. “He’s made a tremendous investment in getting better, having a better command of the offense, being able to make better decisions, put our offense in better positions.
“It’s only going to come with experience.”