Ever since I got a late night text message saying that Kentucky may have actually hired Mark Stoops as head football coach, things have been coming up roses for UK football. Stoops hired almost every coach he wanted to his staff. They signed the best recruiting class in UK history. The excitement around the program led to $110 million in renovations being approved. Fifty-thousand people showed up to the Spring Game. Kentucky landed transfer Braylon Heard. Stoops has become friends with Joe Craft, UK’s largest donor, and gotten him on board with football. And the 2014 signing class is off to a HUGE start and looks to be headed for a new record ranking.
There have been very few steps backward under Stoops. There has been and will be some more attrition. Kentucky missed out of Ra’Shaad Samples and Asiantii Woulard. Ashely Lowery was in a car accident. But even that last one is positive, because Lowery was miraculously spared major injury.
Now here is the point where someone jumps on their soapbox to tell me that none of this matters, Stoops has yet to coach a game at Kentucky, let alone win one. Then you will say that everyone talked about Joker Phillips being a good recruiter and look how that turned out.
I see where you are coming from Negative Nancy, but I just don’t buy it. In the end winning is what really matters for Stoops and Co., but to say that none of what he has accomplished is ridiculous. Stoops has brought legitimacy to a team that was 2-10 last season and lost to Western Kentucky. The facilities upgrades alone are amazing to anyone who has called for them for the past 10 years. The coaching staff is young and energetic and does all of the little things we used to envy other staffs doing. Getting Craft on board with football is astonishing and will pay dividends for this program for years.
And say what you want about the Spring Game. Say it was an aberration. Say it was just because basketball had a bad year. Say it won’t happen again when the new-ness wears off the coaches. You are probably one of those people saying that everyone just got the tickets because they were free and maybe 20k would show up. It’s no secret that the Spring Game has always been a pet project of mine and what happened last month brought a tear to my eye. Literally. And it has paid immediate dividends in recruiting. Every recruit that was there buzzed about it, our new commits all cited it as a factor in their decision (including Drew Barker). So don’t say it was nothing, it was huge.
Now let’s talk recruiting. The new staff is crushing it by UK standards. They have a guy in Vince Marrow who will be in the running for some recruiting awards this year. They signed the best UK class since classes have been ranked. Hopefully most of those kids get to redshirt this year. That’s how you build quality depth. In comparison to the Phillips regime, there is no comparison. When people say that Joker Phillips was a good recruiter, they are right. When he was an assistant he was. Once you become a head coach the rules change and you don’t get to recruit as much. Also throw in the fact that Phillips did sign better prospects than Brooks or Morris did. Unfortunately his staff wasn’t very good at developing those players. What these coaches are doing now is in another league. Instead of being a recruits best offer, UK is taking players who were recruited by Ohio State, Florida State, Louisville, Tennessee, South Carolina etc. The list goes on and on. Just look at how many commits have said some form of “ I would have never considered Kentucky before.”
It’s a little over four months until we find out what kind of coaching this group can do. They will face a Western Kentucky squad that is working with less talent but will surely be prepared under Bobby Petrino. I’m betting on Stoops, he hasn’t failed me yet.