Guidry bringing new mentality to WKU defense

Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry is bringing a new mindset to a defense that struggled to close out games last season.

Cole Claybourn

Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry noticed something was missing from WKU’s defense when he showed up in February.

It wasn’t anything skill-wise or physical. It was all mental.

“They didn’t believe they had what it took to win the game,” Guidry said. “We’re trying to work on their psyche right now. Every day we tell them it’s a game. That way they don’t take a practice off. That’s the biggest thing  just finishing the game and playing hard every play.”

Finishing games was something the Toppers struggled to do several times last season.

Four games were lost in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a 35-30 home loss to Louisiana-Monroe in which the Toppers gave up 28 points in the final 15 minutes.

Four games later, WKU took a 26-13 lead into the fourth quarter against Middle Tennessee, only to give up 14 points and lose at home, 27-26.

Guidry wasn’t at WKU for those losses, but he said he has some methods in mind on how to help the players maintain a mental toughness that seemed to disappear in the fourth quarter.

At media day, he talked about how before each practice, coaches place a red sleeve in players’ lockers, which lets them know they’re a starter. That changes each day based on how each player practices.

“We tell them whoever practices the best is going to be the starter,” Guidry said. “It’s not who’s the best player. It’s who’s practiced the best. So we keep changing the depth chart so it makes them want to compete every day because they want to keep their spot.”

Sticking to the “old-school,” “blue-collar” approach that has become the theme of the 2011 season, Guidry said they’ve also brought back an old punishment method.

“If we have anyone who’s not practicing well, we have them run extra at the end, and they don’t like that. You kind of single guys out,” he said. “It’s kind of the old way  one guy messes up, everybody has to pay. We’re trying to do that to get everyone practicing hard and taking ownership.

“We’re trying to develop leaders from within instead of always the coaches having to be the guy to push the buttons.”

Junior defensive lineman Quanterus Smith said the defense is ready to take the extra step Guidry has been preaching about.

“We want to be a nasty, rough, hard-hitting defense,” he said. “We want to rush the passer when it’s time to rush the passer. We want to stop the run when it’s time to stop the run. We just want to mix it up and have everything in all different types of situations.”

The defensive backs have started their own internal competition to spark some intensity in practices and games.

Sophomore safety Kiante Young said all the defensive backs rib each other during practice about who will get the most interceptions.

While it may be all fun and games for now, Young said that’s the type of mentality that he expects to see out of that group this season.

“We’re going to be an attack defense, and a bend-don’t-break (defense), because there are going to be some tough times,” he said. “But we always want to go in and attack first.”

As a whole, Taggart  not surprisingly  is expecting that mentality from everyone on the defense.

“We want to go out and hit people,” he said. “Whenever that game is over with — no matter what the outcome is — we want people to say we were one of the hardest hitting football teams they ever played against.”

Just a little less than two weeks away from the Toppers’ season-opener against Kentucky, Taggart said the coaches are still slowly introducing game-planning material for UK.

Guidry said defensively, the coaches have started to introduce the players to a few special formations that UK might have, but most of the preparation will start next week.

Taggart said by the end of next week, WKU will be “locked and loaded on UK.”

In the meantime, players will need to get healthy, especially in the secondary. Guidry said they’ve been thin this week with defensive backs because of some injuries suffered during fall camp.

“We’re kind of in survival mode, but it’s given some of the younger guys a chance to play — guys that didn’t play last year,” Guidry said. “We’ll see what happens. We still don’t know who our starters are, but we’re getting very close to it.”

Guidry said junior defensive back Kareem Peterson suffered a concussion earlier this week but was back practicing on Saturday, although he wasn’t supposed to have any contact during practice.

Without giving names, Guidry said one player suffered a tweaked hamstring and another suffered an oblique injury.

He said those injuries are nothing to worry about, and barring any injuries in the meantime, everyone should be ready to play against UK.