LEXINGTON, Ky. – One of the most respected defensive minds in football, Rick Minter has joined the Kentucky football staff as co-defensive coordinator, Coach Joker Phillips has announced.
Phillips also announced that Steve Pardue, longtime head coach at powerhouse LaGrange (Ga.) High School, has become a member of the University of Kentucky football staff as coach of the running backs.
“Rick is a tough, hard-nosed defensive coordinator who has put together outstanding defenses at numerous schools,” Phillips said. “When I worked with him at Cincinnati, Rick had great knowledge of both sides of the ball. He does a great job of communicating with players and putting them in position to make plays.
“I’ve watched Steve for a lot of years and how he handles himself as a coach,” Phillips said. “He’s earned the respect of his players and of his fellow coaches through his work on the state boards in Georgia. Being a Kentucky native, he brings a lot to the table in Kentucky and Georgia.”
The head coach with the most wins in Cincinnati football history and a highly effective defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, South Carolina, Ball State and Marshall, Minter comes to UK from Indiana State, where he spent one season as the linebackers coach. The Sycamores, who had a 2-54 record the five previous years before his arrival, improved to a 6-5 mark in 2010, as the ISU defensive unit led the conference in interceptions and ranked second in total takeaways.
Minter spent the 2008-09 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Marshall. The Thundering Herd defense doubled its turnover rate in Minter’s first season, taking the ball away 14 times after gathering only seven turnovers the year before. He was the interim head coach for his last game at Marshall, guiding the Thundering Herd to a 21-17 win over Ohio in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Prior to leading the Marshall defensive unit, Minter spent the 2005-06 seasons as the defensive coordinator for Notre Dame, a position he also held during the 1992-93 seasons. During his four years as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Minter helped lead the Irish to a 40-8-1 record with four prestigious bowl games, including two Cotton Bowl berths in the ’92-93 seasons and appearances in the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls during his latter term. In 2005, he coached a unit that produced 24 turnovers while contributing to Notre Dame's plus-10 turnover margin. The Irish defense limited opponents to only a 35 percent success rate on third downs while Notre Dame foes scored touchdowns on only 56 percent of red zone opportunities.
Minter made major improvements in the South Carolina defense in 2004 under legendary head coach Lou Holtz. The Gamecocks ranked 20th nationally in total defense and 15th nationally in pass defense. Among his pupils was freshman free safety Ko Simpson, who earned second-team All-America honors and ranked third nationally in interceptions.
As head coach at Cincinnati from 1994-2003, Minter won more games than any coach in UC history. He led the Bearcats to four postseason bowl games and was co-champion of Conference USA in 2002. His 1997 team finished 8-4 after a Humanitarian Bowl victory over Utah State, marking the first bowl appearance for Cincinnati in 47 seasons. Minter's Bearcats went to three straight bowls in 2000-02. He was named C-USA Coach of the Year in 2001 by CollegeFootballNews.com.
In 2000, kicker Jonathan Ruffin became the program's first consensus All-America selection, as Ruffin led the nation in field goals and won the Lou Groza Award as the top kicker in the country. During Minter's 10 seasons in C-USA, the Bearcats produced 26 first-team all-league selections.
While at UC, Minter coached the top two offensive passers in school history and improved the program’s graduation rates.
It was at Cincinnati that Minter and Phillips became well-acquainted. In 1997, Phillips coached wide receivers and in 1998 he coached defensive backs for Minter. Minter had several notable coaches on his Bearcat staff, including Phillips; current New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who served as Cincinnati defensive coordinator; current Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who was UC’s special-teams coach; current Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who was a defensive backs coach at UC; and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, who was an offensive coordinator at UC.
During his first stint at Notre Dame from 1992-93, working under Holtz, Minter earned a national reputation of being one of the top defensive minds in college football. The 1993 Irish defense held nine of its 12 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing en route to an 11-1 season and runner-up finish in the national championship race. Notre Dame finished that season with the nation's fourth-best rushing defense, with three of Minter's defenders earning first-team All-America honors.
The 1992 Notre Dame defense allowed an average of just 91 yards rushing and 277 total yards over the last nine games of the season as the Irish posted a 10-1-1 mark, won the Cotton Bowl and were ranked fourth in the final polls. That season also saw the Notre Dame defense finish ninth nationally in rushing defense, with cornerback Tom Carter earning All-America honors. During his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Minter coached 21 defensive players who went on to play in the NFL.
Prior to joining the Notre Dame staff, Minter served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Ball State for seven seasons, annually developing units that were ranked among the national leaders. The 1991 Ball State squad was ranked ninth in the country in scoring defense, 11th in total defense and 16th in passing defense. A year earlier, in 1990, the Cardinals were second in the nation in total defense, third in pass and scoring defense, and 10th in rush defense.
Ball State combined for a 28-15-2 mark over his final four seasons in Muncie, Ind., from 1988-91, including a Mid-American Conference title and California Raisin Bowl appearance in 1989. During Minter's seven seasons, Ball State produced nine All-MAC players on defense, including three-time MAC Defensive Player of the Year (1987-89) Gary Garnica.
Minter also has collegiate coaching experience at New Mexico State, North Carolina State, Louisiana Tech and Arkansas, where he was a graduate assistant under Holtz in 1978.
“I’m ecstatic about coaching at the University of Kentucky and returning to the Southeastern Conference,” Minter said. “It’s a privilege to work with Joker Phillips and I appreciate the opportunity to join the team and work with the existing defensive staff and players.”
Born in Nash, Texas, Minter is a graduate of Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas. He was a three-year starter at defensive end at Henderson State, where he earned both his bachelor's (1977) and master's degrees (1978) in education. Minter is the father of two sons, Josh and Jesse.
Pardue, meanwhile, joined LaGrange as an assistant coach in 1991 and took over as head coach in 1994. Over the last 17 seasons, Pardue collected 161 wins, including three Class AAA state championships. The Grangers won the state title in 2001 with a 14-0 record and took home back-to-back state crowns in 2003 and 2004, featuring 14-1 and 15-0 records, respectively. LaGrange also won eight regional championships under his guidance. In addition to leading the program as head coach, Pardue coached the running backs for the last 16 seasons.
Pardue has received numerous honors through the years, headlined by a pair of citations: Class AAA Coach of the Decade by the Georgia High School Daily Report and the 2003 Wright Bazemore Award for All-Classification Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta. He received multiple recognitions during the state championship seasons, including Class AAA Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Sportswriters Association, Touchdown Club of Atlanta and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. He garnered the GACA Region Coach of the Year Award eight times, in 1996, 1997, 2000-04 and 2006.
Pardue also was recognized as an outstanding educator and was selected as the 2006 Star Teacher at LaGrange High School. In addition, he was active on the state level as vice-president on the board of directors of the GACA and the state football chairman of the GACA. He also was chosen for the Coaches’ Advisory Board of the Atlanta Falcons’ First and Ten Foundation.
Phillips and Pardue became well acquainted on the recruiting trail as Pardue helped develop several outstanding players who went on to wear the Blue and White at Kentucky. The first LaGrange product at UK was Quentin McCord (1996, 1998-2000), who was recruited by Phillips and became one of the best wide receivers in Wildcat history, totaling 112 catches for 1,743 yards and 15 touchdowns.
After returning to Kentucky in 2003, Phillips tapped the LaGrange pipeline often. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard (2004-07) led Kentucky in tackles three straight seasons and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors as a junior and senior. Woodyard is now in his third season with the NFL’s Denver Broncos and is captain of the special teams.
Another LaGrange linebacker, Braxton Kelley, played at UK from 2005-08 and led the team in tackles as a senior, marking the fourth straight year that a Granger paced the UK defense. LaGrange product DeMoreo Ford (2005-08) is best remembered for his 70-yard touchdown catch in the 2006 Music City Bowl.
Former Grangers currently on the UK roster include starting defensive backs Mychal Bailey and Randall Burden, defensive end Tristian Johnson, linebacker Qua Huzzie, and kickers Joe Mansour and Patrick Simmons.
Pardue sent numerous other players into the collegiate ranks, including players such as All-SEC linebacker Sam Olajubutu at Arkansas, South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell and Florida running back Skyler Thornton. Additional players signed with Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State and several other schools.
A native of Hopkinsville, Ky., Pardue played at Christian County High School under KHSAA Hall of Fame coach Fred Clayton. Pardue was an offensive lineman at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., and got his master’s at West Georgia College.
Pardue began his coaching career as the offensive line coach at Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Ga., in 1985. In 1986, Pardue coached offensive and defensive lines at Albertville High School in Alabama, before moving to Crittenden County High School in Marion, Ky., where he served as head coach from 1987-1990. He moved to LaGrange as an assistant for the 1991 season, coaching outside linebackers, as the Grangers won the state championship and were declared national champion by USA Today. He coached the offensive line in 1991-92 and was defensive coordinator in 1993. Pardue then took over as head coach and running backs coach in 1994.
“The number one reason I came to Kentucky is because of Joker Phillips,” Pardue said. “I believe in the way he’s doing things here and his vision for the program. And, because it’s the University of Kentucky, the state school of my home state.
“This was the toughest decision I’ve ever made, to leave the town of LaGrange, and if it weren’t for Joker Phillips and the University of Kentucky, I wouldn’t have left. But I’m ready for a new challenge and am excited about the future of Kentucky football.”
Pardue is married to the former Pamela Bennett of Goodlettsville, Tenn. The couple has two children, a daughter, Morgan, and a son, Chas.