LEXINGTON — Tyler Brause was not overly thrilled midway of his freshman season in 2010 when he was moved from quarterback to linebacker.
After all, he was a first-team all-state quarterback and led Bucyrus Wynford (Ohio) High School to a 12-1 mark his senior year when he threw for 1,731 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for 1,340 yards and 26 scores. He completed 57.7 percent of his passes during his career, good for 5,519 yards and 56 touchdown, and rushed for 2,259 yards and 40 scores.
The transition went so well this preseason that he has now found himself No. 1 on the depth chart at outside linebacker going into Sunday’s game at Louisville. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said when projected starter Malcolm McDuffen struggled, it gave Brause a chance to move up and even though McDuffen seems to have improved his play since Brause’s promotion, Brause is still the projected starter.
Smith, who recruited Brause, has not been surprised by his rise up the depth chart.
“He has done a good job. He is really an intelligent kid. I believe his grade-point average is 4.0. If it is not, it’s 3.9. He is really a smart kid and he uses that to his advantage,” Smith said. “He really knows the package well.¿He knows his responsibilities. He is usually where he is supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there. He is using all those qualities. Besides that, he’s a big guy. He is probably 6-4, 235 or 240. He moves pretty good. He has a lot of positive qualities.”
Brause was valedictorian of his senior class and graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average. He was also vice-president of the senior class.
“Every day is a learning process. You can learn something every day out here,” Brause said. “I¿feel I¿understand schemes and my assignments pretty well, but there is always more to learn. You just have to listen to the defensive staff and know they are teaching.
“I think just knowing my assignments and knowing the defense is a big thing in this defense. You can’t blow assignments because that gives up touchdowns and will lose games. You have to be in the right place at the right time.”
Brause believes playing quarterback has helped him adjust to being a full-time linebacker.
“I have a pretty good understanding of what offenses can do out of different personnel and different formations and what they can’t do. Blocking schemes and things like that, too. So I think I have a pretty good understanding of offenses,” Brause said.
Plus, he was always a physical player even on offense.
“I ran it quite a bit in high school. I wasn’t shy about the contact at linebacker. It was more about the technique and instead of being the one trying to make people miss being the one hitting people,” Brause laughed and said.
Smith noticed that when he was recruiting Brause.
“I talked to him about that. He was a good high school athlete and usually when you have those good high school athletes, if they don’t make it at quarterback then what else could they do. I thought he could be a really good linebacker and fortunately I have been able to get him over on our side at our position,” Smith said.
Brause, who was projected by some to be a Division I¿tight end, said Phillips also talked about possibly moving him to another spot when he was being recruited.
“I always knew there was a possibility of being moved. I was open to it and just wanted on the field,” Brause said. “Coach Smith recruited me, so I have known him for a long time. Even when I was at quarterback, he would talk to me every day and see how I was doing and encourage me. When I¿moved to linebacker he was immediately on me about learning techniques and things like that.
“It made the move really easy because I¿already knew him and felt really comfortable around him. Not that I¿don’t feel comfortable around the other coaches, but I¿have known coach Smith the longest. I knew he cared about me and I could take his coaching immediately. I still remember our first (training) camp and he told me and Miles Simpson (who was a running back then) that he would take us over at linebacker whenever we wanted to move and ironically we are both there now.”
It’s more than Brause could envision when training camp opened and was backing up Avery Williamson at middle linebacker. Williamson has grown into one of the team leaders and is expected to be one of UK’s leading tacklers. However, he was asked to possibly “slide over” to the outside, a move he quickly made.
“Coming into camp I was thinking I would be backup and maybe get some playing time, but I¿kept working hard and tried to improve and ended up moving up to the one spot at another position,” Brause said. “I can’t wait to play. We have a lot of work to do so you have to keep your emotions contained, but it is going to be fun.”
Smith is proud of the emotional and physical transition Brause has made.
“It has taken him a while. He didn’t play much defense in high school. He was the star quarterback and they protected him over there like most high schools do,” Smith said.¿“It has taken him a while not to get just the feel for the skills of defense, but for the speed of the defense. It has taken him a while to get that good feeling where all the action is happening, but he is starting to really come into his own and play with more confidence. He is starting to believe in himself more and is more comfortable with being in all the action. He is doing a good job and developing into a very good player.”