Sept 15, 2012; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive coordinator Mark Stoops yells to a player during the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Kentucky Wildcats: Once in my Lifetime


I’m 31 years old, and I can say without hesitation and with complete confidence, this is the watershed moment for the Athletic Department and University of Kentucky that screams to me, “Yes, we DO give a damn about the football program. Yes, we DO understand what it means to the smaller programs that the football team be successful on every level. And Yes, we do have a clue what we’re doing, even though it didn’t appear that way.” So to Mitch Barnhart and the rest of the Athletic Administration who had a hand in this, Thank You!

After suffering through the longest losing streaks in the nation for much of my natural born life, ala Tennessee and Spurrier, though those demons have now been dispelled, we still are on the hook for the longest in the nation with our current 28 game losing streak to Florida. Am I saying that we will beat Florida in 2013? Absolutely NOT, but what I am saying is that we now have something more than the hope I have been begging for all season. The hope that came to fruition when Joker named Maxwell Smith as our starting QB before the UL game. The hope that we would begin a coaching search after the WKU loss, though that happened 10 games in. Disappointment in that decision abounded across the Big Blue Nation, but in hindsight, the season was lost anyway so it wouldn’t have made a difference. Actually could have made things worse. And yes, there are worse things than going 2-10.

Admittedly, I knew nothing about Mark Stoops outside of his last name, and the weight that name carried. As this train gained momentum, his Defensive Coordinator exploits have become something of legend around the Blue Grass already, taking the FSU defense from 108th in the nation to 42nd in his first year, 2010; 4th in 2011, and 2nd in 2012. Oddly enough, UK typically has the SEC’s leading tackler, or is among the leading tacklers, ala Trevathan, Woodyard, Williamson, but the total Defense has always been suspect. I don’t think that will be the case any longer.

It goes without saying that Mark Stoops’s Offensive Coordinator will be his most important hire, and while there is great speculation that it will be current FSU OC Coley, no one has indicated the likelihood as yet. However, as the DC is concerned, according to caneinsider.com, it appears that Stoops is expected to hire FSU DL Coach DJ Eliot to take the DC position for your Kentucky Wildcats. I won’t hang my hat on this until it’s announced this Sunday when the media get their first chance to interview Coach Stoops but if this proves to be the case, the Defense will see a vast improvement, especially on the line where we suffered hugely in the running game.

The Big Blue Nation is tired of seeing an inept Offense get embarrassed week to week by less than stellar Defenses and FCS schools. Under no circumstances should that happen. I don’t think it will happen any longer.

Sure, some will be upset that Stoops has no Head Coaching experience and try to compare that to Joker, but there is no comparison. He is far and away a better Defensive Coordinator than Joker was an Offensive Coordinator. Coming from Florida State, he knows and understands what exposure is like and how to handle it. There will be no “deer in the headlights” look when he comes out to a rocking CWS.
I don’t know what this hire will do to motivate the fan base, but it is infinitely better than any of the other names that were bandied about, save for Bobby Petrino. For those that expected better, I suggest you quit huffing paint or cooking meth and come down to reality. This is a GREAT hire.

And speaking of upgrades, I am very interested to hear about any “agreements” the powers that be had to commit to in relation to facilities upgrades. Since Stoops is coming purely from a football school, $$ was never an issue. Coming to a basketball school, it’ll be a bit of a curve, but I expect that he got some concessions out of those involved, to make us more competitive in recruiting, etc.

To say I’m excited for the first time in my life about UK football would be a gross understatement. Sure, we had some success in the mid-late 90’s with Air Raid, but for that success we got popped by the NCAA for recruiting violations, and we have suffered mightily since. We shall suffer no more.

To capture the sentiment of some of the leaders on this team: QB Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow and LB Avery Williamson, check out their quotes below from Tom Neeley, Director of Media Relations, UKAA

Patrick Towles, Fr., QB

On what his first impression of the hire was …

“I have never met (Coach Stoops) but from what I hear he is a very enthusiastic guy and very, very passionate, which is what I think we need around here. We need a guy that is going to come in and not take any nonsense and going to get us to start winning football games.”

On how he would describe the mood of the team …

“I would say that last week we were all just waiting patiently for a decision. When we heard who the coach was going to be there was definitely a since of excitement and anxiousness to meet him. Now it is go time. Now, we know what the future holds and we have to work as hard as we can to be productive.”

On what his emotions will be when Coach Stoops is about to walk into the team meeting room for the first time …

“I think excitement. First impressions are everything and we are super excited to have him here to join us in an effort to compete to get to Atlanta.”

On this being the end of a roller coaster three weeks …

“It has been a roller coaster, that is for sure. Like you said, a couple three weeks ago is when we found out that Coach Phillips wouldn’t return next season and that was emotional. We really do still love him and we wish the best for him. The win here at Senior Night was awesome to send these guys out of Lexington with a win. Yesterday, finding out who our head coach was going to be next year just really excited me. It should really excite the fans, too.”

Jalen Whitlow, Fr., QB

On what his first impression of the hire was …

“I am excited. I am ready to get started.”

On what he knows about Coach Stoops …

“My high school teammate (who plays at Florida State) said that he loves him and all the guys love him and that he is a good guy and good coach. I am excited for him to get here and try to get some wins and get to a bowl game next year.”

On the mood of the team …

“Everybody is up and intense and ready to get started. We are ready for a fresh start.”

On what athletics director Mitch Barnhart told the team the last few days …

“He just polished us up on getting good grades and staying focused and doing everything we have to do so we are ready. When Coach Stoops comes in we need to be ready to work.”

On getting to meet Coach Stoops …

“We are excited, of course. Very excited. We are ready for a change, ready to get started and ready to beat some teams next year.”

Avery Williamson, Jr., LB

On when he first learned of Coach Stoops being hired …

“I saw it on Twitter and everybody kept saying it so I figured it was probably him.”

On what his first impression of the hire was …

“I started to look into it and got really excited. He is a great defensive coordinator and he has a great defense down there. I feel good about the pick.”

On Coach Stoops being a defensive-minded coach …

“Yeah, it is kind of exciting. I know that he is going to be a really aggressive. I am excited to see what his coaching style is and what he brings to the table.”

On what his emotions will be when Coach Stoops is about to walk into the team meeting room for the first time …

“I really don’t know, I am just excited to see what it is going to be like.”

On what athletics director Mitch Barnhart told the team the last few days …

“To expect an up-tempo and really aggressive style of coaching and be ready to work hard because that is the type of guy that Coach Stoops is.”

On this being the end of a roller coaster three weeks …

“I am glad that we got a win for Coach Phillips on his last home game and for the seniors as well. This has been a rocky season with a lot of stuff happening, ups and down and different emotions.”

Clearly, these kids get it and they are no where near my age. They haven’t been a part of the long suffering tradition of UK sucking at football. Where the only positive activity is tailgating. When I see these kids so excited for a fresh start, it is only encouraging on many, many levels. From competition amongst the team at every position to recruiting to revenue to not being the worst football team in the State of Kentucky. With one hire, Mitch Barnhart removed the weight that the entire Big Blue Nation has carried around for more years than I’ve been alive.

My final, and unequivocal statement, about this hire and the Athletic Administration is this:

Mitch Barnhart and the University of Kentucky actually made a football decision that I have seen countless others make, and often wish we would have.

We got a top notch Coordinator from a Top 10 program, who has something to prove.

Job. Well. Done.

On, On, U of K

Tags: Football Kentucky Wildcats

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