Mark Stoops was introduced as the head coach of Kentucky yesterday and one of his comments was that Kentucky can contend in the SEC, but he did say there “are no magic wands”. Stoops will also face questions as this is his first head coaching job but Stoops knows it all starts with defense.
Still, Stoops knows there will be questions about his lack of head coaching experience.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “If you look at every place I’ve been we’ve been very successful.”
Turning Kentucky around will be one of his toughest challenges. The Wildcats allowed 391 yards per game this season and ranked 11th in the tough, 14-team SEC.
The new coach said he plans to use multiple defensive formations from a 4-3 alignment. Stoops would not name any candidates he would like to hire to complete his staff, but said he has several in mind.
One of his first priorities will be Kentucky’s offense. The Wildcats ranked near the bottom of the conference in several offensive categories. Stoops pledged to the crowd that, “You will have an offense that you guys can enjoy.”
But he knows success in the SEC starts on defense.
“I’m a defensive guy,” Stoops said. “This is the SEC. It’s a physical conference. I realize that. I want to be tough and I want to be physical.
“We have to build this foundation with great defense. There’s no way around it. If you don’t play great defense, you’re not going to win consistently.”
As Mike Pratt did with the hire of John Calipari, Tim Couch is getting a big assist on the hire of Mark Stoops. Larry Vaught has a bit more on Couch’s role:
Yet when former UK quarterback Tim Couch had a chance to be part of the selection process for Kentucky’s new football coach, he was all-in with Florida State defensive coordinator and was there Sunday to watch the press conference that actually was more of a pep rally when Stoops was officially introduced as the Cats’ new coach.
Couch didn’t know Stoops personally when Joker Phillips was fired with two games left in the season. However, because Couch is a college football analyst for FOX Sports, he talks to coaches and knew Stoops’ reputation for being one of college football’s top defensive minds — a claim backed up by the way the Seminoles ranked among the nation’s top defenses the last two years.
“I know one thing at Kentucky that we have always struggled with is stopping people in this conference. His name came to my mind initially when this job opened up and (UK athletics director) Mitch (Barnhart) was thinking the same thing and we continued the process and turns out he was a great fit for us,” said Couch Sunday.
Couch said the plan Stoops had to revive UK football after a 2-10 season that included an 0-8 mark in Southeastern Conference play and losses to Louisville and Western Kentucky sold him.
“Every question we had for Mark about what he wanted to do in recruiting, scheme-wise, everything like that. He had a tremendous plan for what he wanted to do and he had been waiting on this opportunity for a long time,” Couch said.