LEXINGTON, Ky. — Derrick LeBlanc doesn’t yell. He doesn’t like “gray area” either, he says. As new defensive line coach for Kentucky football, LeBlanc is taking his matter-of-fact approach into strengthening a position in need of improvement.
LeBlanc was hired on Feb. 15, and just a month and a half into his Kentucky tenure, Wildcats defensive linemen have already felt the impact of his arrival — quite literally for redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kordell Looney.
Looney missed study hour earlier in the week. It was a mistake that equaled “up-downs” — five of them every five yards for 100 yards.
“It was crazy,” Looney said. “(LeBlanc) said he could’ve did 100 more, but we couldn’t take it. It was hard. I did my study hour yesterday.”
It goes back to LeBlanc’s distaste of gray area. It’s either right or wrong.
“If there’s something wrong, there’s consequences,” LeBlanc said. “If they do something right, we praise them. Everybody wants to be praised, nobody wants to be told I’m wrong. So, we just do physical punishment. Did I just said that on camera?” he asked with a laugh. “We do physical punishment when they’re wrong, and we’re gonna hold them to a standard, and that’s it.”
Former Kentucky defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh left for the same position at Maryland after last season. The move led to LeBlanc’s hiring. LeBlanc served as North Texas defensive line coach last year and had previous stops at Southern Miss and LSU.
Looney’s missed study hour resulted in the “physical punishment” LeBlanc talked about, but it’s a tough-love relationship between the coach and his position group. Looney and teammates welcomed LeBlanc’s style.
“Not even trying to get on Coach Brumbaugh, but he used to yell at us,” Looney said. “That used to make players frustrated. LeBlanc, he ain’t gonna yell. He’s just gonna want you to do the work. He’s gonna teach you it, and then you’re gonna have to do it.”
Today, @DLTough, was ?⬆️ at practice!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) March 28, 2017
“Last year I was mad at myself,” Looney said. “I didn’t do what I had to do last year. Now this year, I don’t have no pressure. Now it’s here. What am I going to do now? Am I going to do what I did last year, or am I gonna do different?’ ”
LeBlanc hasn’t been in Lexington long, but “he already cares about us,” Looney said. Kentucky’s defensive line combined for two sacks last season, and LeBlanc’s strategy is to be more aggressive.
“We know how the game is — getting soft,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve got to put the physical back in football. That’s what I’m trying to do. So, teaching these guys where, they pushed a little high school kid around a year ago, how to fight and play football with men.”