Credit to Tony Neely and UK Athletics for providing us with Mark stoops’ press conference transcript.
COACH STOOPS: Thank you. Appreciate y’all being here. It’s been a tremendous effort by our staff. We went out and signed 22 players today, 12 on offense, 9 on defense and one kicker. So, tremendous effort. I want to thank my staff. They did a tremendous job, just a group effort all the way around.
Q. On the addition of Jason Hatcher …
COACH STOOPS: Tremendous, as you know the importance of recruiting the best players in the state. With the addition of Jason we signed three players from Kentucky and Jason was important in a lot of ways, important person, great family, Mama was Louisville, that was hard to get around for a while but a great person, gives us great credibility in moving forward.
Q. On putting together a quality recruiting class in such a short time frame …
COACH STOOPS: It was a group effort. The staff ‑‑ that’s a big part of it is the staff coming into this. The first year it’s important when you hire guys that they have some connections, so that’s a big part of it, guys with relationships that they have had either with players or with coaches.
That was a big part of it, again, we feel we have an awful lot to sell. I would like to thank the BBN, tremendous support. I think our recruits felt their presence, they felt the support of the fan base, so there’s a lot of things that go into it but great effort by our staff, great work ethic and did a fantastic job.
Q. On having confidence he could pull off a strong recruiting class in such a short time frame …
COACH STOOPS: I told you that, didn’t I?
Q. You did!
COACH STOOPS: I did, and I said that in the first press conference when we introduced the guys at mid‑year, that we would go toe‑to‑toe with the best schools in the country and with the best schools in the SEC. We’re not going to take a backseat to anybody; we’re going to recruit hard. We will win our fair share. We don’t win ‘em all, but we’re going to work hard.
Q. On the importance of recruiting in Ohio …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it means an awful lot as well. Three players from Kentucky, three from Ohio. The caliber of player that we’re getting from Kentucky and from Ohio obviously means a great deal. With Marcus (McWilson), he’s, again, a fantastic player but he’s even a better person. He’s just wonderful to be around. I told Marcus the whole time I said, “What’s it feel like to be the second best player to play at Cardinal Mooney High School? (Laughter.) That was my high school (Laughter.) But just a fantastic person, a joy to be around.
Q. On Alex Montgomery, JoJo Kemp and Khalid Thomas …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, with Alex, again, he comes from a tremendous program, big‑time wide receiver that I knew about while I was at Florida State and had my eye on him for a good bit. Anybody that goes into the state champship game and has ‑‑ what did he have 9 catches for 190 yards or something like that, you know he’s a heck of a football player. I’ve known Alex (Montgomery) for a while. It was a great “get” for us, a guy that’s a strong receiver who can make plays.
Jojo (Kemp), he’s tremendous, a home‑run hitter. As we assembled our staff and got together, he was a guy that we targeted right away and felt he was a “high priority” for us. So Jojo is a home‑run guy, can make some big plays for us.
Jeff (Badet), tremendous speed, again, a guy we targeted right away. The nice thing is, I want to say we signed 70% of the guys we brought on campus, we signed. Some of them we didn’t have a “push” on for commitment, but Jeff was a guy that right away we targeted and loved. He’s got that home‑run speed so it was important to us.
Khalid (Thomas), a program I’m very familiar with, out of Tallahassee, and he is a solid player that’s going to give us some depth and have a punch to our class, but I’ve been familiar with Khalid for some time as well.
Q. On Jason Hatcher …
COACH STOOPS: Well, with Jason, you know, what makes him so dynamic is how explosive he is. He’s very good on his feet, he’s very good off the edge, he can do a lot of things but it’s his first step, he’s dynamic with his quickness and speed and athletic ability. We’re excited about that. What was the second part of the question?
Q. On convincing Jason Hatcher to stay in state …
COACH STOOPS: I talked about it before. It’s about relationships, it’s about presenting a plan, how we ‑‑ we’re going to use him. Things we have done in the past, the way our defense works, how he’s going to fit into it and, again, we had to make up a lot of time in relationships and we spent a lot of time with Jason and his family, his mother, Donna, so, you know, we spent a lot of time and effort into that.
Again, whether it be a group of us going to his home, on our last visit when I went into the home we brought four of us with us, and we spent a good deal ‑‑ they were gracious enough to spend a bunch of time with us, and they got a chance to see us and see what we’re all about.
Q. On recruiting Kentucky players …
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, very important to keep Jacob (Hyde), big, strong guy, I love his accent. Just a great person to be around. Big, strong guy and very excited to have him in our program.
Ryan (Timmons), again, Ryan is a home run. A big‑time important guy to us. Ryan was the first school we went into, this new staff, myself, or the assistants, first guy we went to see was Ryan Timmons, so that’s the priority we had on him and, of course, that was on the way to go see Jason Hatcher. First guy – Coach (DJ) Eliot was in place, the first guy on staff, and sent him to see Ryan and Jason.
Q. On why signing Ryan Timmons was a priority …
COACH STOOPS: Dynamic player, and, again, high priority in state. The key point there is “dynamic player” and Ryan is fantastic. He’s a home‑run threat every time he touches the ball. He’s very versatile, and, again, tremendous family, great person, great student, joy to be around and, you know, was very high priority for us.
Q. Do you know much about Ryan or did you have to play catch‑up on him?
COACH STOOPS: I had to play catch‑up on him, being that I was on the defensive side of the ball and it wasn’t my area. No, I wasn’t familiar with him.
Q. Coach, you talk about the day‑to‑day processes, moving forward. What’s your plan for the coaching staff?
COACH STOOPS: Great question. The big thing now is to get signing day behind us and, again, a tremendous amount of work for a lot of people. We are anxious to get back working with our staff and our players. The next phase is to develop our players. Now, they have been working in the weight room, working extremely hard in the weight room, and now it will be important in winter conditioning where our coaches get to go out and put our players through drills.
So we will do that in the a.m. as we put the schedule together, but we will go through a couple of weeks of training our players in the morning and we will get a chance to get out there and coach ‘em, and see them and see them move. Obviously there will not be a football involved but you will get to see them move around and run around a little bit.
Q. You guys put this class together in a very relatively short amount of time. Is this something the Big Blue Nation can expect from you guys?
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely. We feel like we have great momentum, but, yeah, we have we’ve been on the phone this morning talking to the top prospects in the ’14 class, and we have been evaluating the ’14 class for a week or so, which puts us behind, but we had to put so much time and energy and concentration into this class. And we are going to work hard the next couple of weeks, but a big part of our plan is just put aside ‑‑ get caught up with the 2014 class right now and get caught up with our players as well.