Can Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Football program take a leap in 2017?

Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images
Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images /

Does the Kentucky football program have what it takes to keep the momentum going?

Through four seasons as the head coach for the Kentucky Wildcats, Mark Stoops has a record of 19 wins and 30 losses. Which is, at a glance, oddly satisfying to the Kentucky football faithful.

In his first season, Stoops and the his Wildcats racked up just two wins. Then, Stoops followed up with two consecutive five win seasons, and then a seven win bowl season in year four.

The Kentucky football locker room is aiming to compete (and win) in every game in Stoops’ fifth season.  But can they really win every game? I think there’s a legitimate shot.

Let’s take a peak at some of the most important factors heading into the 2017 season.

The recruiting factor

Mark Stoops has recruited better than any coach at Kentucky ever has. From a top-25 class, to position-by-position classes, and strictly ‘team needs’ classes, Kentucky football is recruiting at a much higher level than ever before.

2017 will be a class to remember, especially if and when Lynn Bowden is declared academically eligible. Bowden will pose a variety of threats to opposing defenses. That’s something that hasn’t been seen at Kentucky since Randall Cobb.

True freshmen Joshua Paschal (DE), Clevan Thomas (WR), and Jamin Davis (LB), may all have a chance to impact the game in a positive way for Kentucky in their first season.

Look for Kentucky’s juniors and seniors to lead the way this year though. All of these guys were recruited by Stoops and staff, and they have a chip on their shoulders, along with a unique level of determination and confidence.

Kentucky’s schedule sets up perfectly

Kentucky draws Eastern Kentucky, Florida, Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Louisville at home.

Also, Kentucky will be taking trips to Southern Miss, South Carolina, Vandy, and Georgia.

I want to go on the record saying that if Kentucky can win two games out of four against Georgia, Florida, Tennesee, and Louisville, they will have a nine win season.

Every other game on the schedule is winnable, but you have to expect a loss to come at some point. Especially when you’re in the SEC and building a program from the ground up.

Year 2 under Eddie Gran

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is the third person to hold the position in five seasons.

With a second year of the same offense, you have to expect the players to be polishing their playbook knowledge, rather than learning something new. Which hasn’t been common at Kentucky through Stoops’ tenure.

This is a good thing and it will be one of the key factors in Kentucky football taking a leap in 2017.


The rise of Kentucky football over the past four years has had its ups and downs. But you have to think that the momentum will keep going.

After seven wins and a birth in the TaxSlayer bowl, the first bowl game in six years, the Wildcats are setting their eyes on improving that  win total.

I predict Kentucky to win eight games, with wins coming against Southern Miss, Eastern Kentucky, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Vandy.

Next: How many wins keeps Stoops' off the hot seat?

There are 30 days until Kentucky football kicks the season of in Hattiesburg, Mississippi versus Southern Miss.