LEXINGTON, Ky. — There’s a role reversal in the Kentucky outside linebacker room.
So far, the players are doing the coaching while Dean Hood is learning all he can about the position and the way Kentucky plays it.
Hood, who spent eight seasons (2008-15) as Eastern Kentucky’s head coach, has mainly specialized in the secondary throughout his career. Mark Stoops hired Hood to be his special teams coordinator as well as the coach of his outside linebackers — the position former defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot led.
Stoops has described the outside linebacker spot as one of the toughest positions to play on defense because of its versatile nature. Hood is still getting used to all it entails.
“He doesn’t know a lot, but he knows enough to tell us,” starting outside linebacker Josh Allen said. “He’s learning just like we’re learning.”
Outside linebackers have a medley of responsibilities in Kentucky’s scheme ranging from being a pass rusher on the defensive line to at times dropping back in the secondary. Hood described it as a “hybrid” position.
“There’s a lot of gray area that those guys have to work through,” Hood said.
It’s the second consecutive year where Hood has been dealt a challenging position. He spent last season as Charlotte’s tight ends coach — just the second year he coached offense in his 30-year career.
“It’s a little bit easier, because it is defense, so there are some carryover things from what I know as a secondary coach,” Hood said of his UK gig. “But to have two veteran guys, and really (Jordan) Bonner, a third, really knowing the schematic part of it. That’s just been a huge blessing for me — a help in transition.”
Denzil Ware, Allen and Bonner have experience in the scheme and redshirt freshman outside linebackers Jaylin Bannerman and Jamar “Boogie” Watson could find themselves in the rotation this fall.
Hood was hired on Feb. 15, and throughout spring practice, his outside linebackers have been catching him up on Kentucky’s terminology. Hood’s scheme at Eastern Kentucky was different.
“He’s using different words that we don’t understand,” Allen said. “But we know what he’s talking about, so we’ve just got to teach him transition to the words.”
Another aid in the transition has been graduate assistant coach Dillon Sanders. He joined the Kentucky staff in May of last year after three seasons at Utah State. Sanders worked closely with Eliot and the outside linebackers group.
But Hood’s leadership has made up for the learning curve. Bannerman described his style as “tough love.”
Allen said Hood has already affected his life, even away from the field.
“I feel more comfortable with him and I feel like I can talk to him about anything,” Allen said. “If I have a question, you know he’s going to talk, but he’s not going to do too much. He’s going to tell me in a way that I can understand. I think that’s why I love coach Hood a lot.”