KY Sports Report
A New Beginning For UK In Football
When introduced to the public the first words from new head coach Mark Stoops were – “So this is what the Big Blue Nation is all about,” he said shining on the podium amidst all the hoopla. “I’ve been hearing about it. All I ask the Big Blue Nation is for them to fill Commonwealth Stadium every week” And why Kentucky? “My attorney knows the situation here and the more we talked I felt more and more the need to be here.”
During the hunt for a new football coach things were no different in the fan wishes. Everybody was talking about the need to go out and pay megabucks for a big name coach. This has rarely been an option to the University of Kentucky. Firstly that coach already has a job and no amount of money could lure him to UK. And secondly that caliber of proven coach knows that the possibilities at UK have been a dead end for much of the last fifty-years. The reasonable minds understood that the best opportunity was to seek out an up and comer or a hot-shot coordinator. To that end the university could not have done better in their choice of Mark Stoops. He and his family are steeped in football coaching tradition. “I grew up in a coaching family,” the coach informed the media. The big Blue Nation is on fire about he choice.
Who Influenced Him as a Coach?
“My father coached for over thirty years at Cardinal Mooney high school in Youngstown, Ohio. I grew up watching him running film using the fridgerator as a screen, while eating dinner.” He has an older brother Bob Stoops that is a highly successful head coach at Oklahoma University. He coached with his brother Mike Stoops at Arizona University as the defensive-coordinator from 2004-‘09. Two other great influences on Mark Stoops’ career were Hayden Fry, veteran Iowa coach, where he started as a graduate assistant and Jim Leavitt who he has worked with; then working under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State University as his DC.
What is His Offensive Plans?
“The coach said – “This is the SEC and you’ve got to be tough and you’ve got to be physical. We will rip it around a little bit but you’ve got to be creative. We will spread it out and we’ll use some bell and whistles, but you have to be creative.” What are we talking about when we talk about being creative? “Being able to dress things up here and there being creative in how we run the ball, being creative in how we distribute the ball. Obviously you got to be balanced. I know from being a defensive coordinator for all those years that somebody that just wants to line up and run the same plays and not be creative in how they motion and shift is what I mean by being creative in some ways in how you move the football.”
Selection of Assistant Coaches
Stoops is forty-five years old and most of his assistant thus far assembled is much younger. What was the coach’s thinking? Youth. “I wanted the young guy that had a little chip on his shoulder and wanted to prove something. And they fit in nicely with the (young) coordinators and the rest of the staff. I liked the style Neal (Brown) ran at Texas Tech. I know the problems it causes for defenses and knowing my brothers have had to defend them. I was very interested in Coach (Mike) Leach and all the way back to Hal Mumme and what they did. The budget Mitch Barnhart had for Stoops was used smartly in getting qualified young coaches who were getting a step up but didn’t need to be paid top dollar. Thereby allowing him to be able to lure high profiled coordinator and pay them top dollar.
Mitch Barnhart said the Commonwealth stadium is on the hearts and minds of the Big Blue Nation. And there is no time line for upgrades but sooner rather later. “We been working on it for 10-years,” the AD said. “I think when Mister Barnhart and I talked at length, Stoops said. “I believed in him and what we have here and how we are moving forward. Sources close to the powers that be say the finances presently on hand will be put to use immediately. The extension of the weight-room and likewise the training room and including a lounge upstairs will be constructed. The bigger ticket item is imminent when the state legislature meets and they address the bonding issue for stadium improvement and other amenities. It shouldn’t be an issue because the cash-flow is more than significant to pay off the debt service.
Mark Stoops and the coaching staff hit the ground running and immediately signed two much needed recruits tight end Steven Borden and Za’Darius Smith both junior college transfers that will enroll in January. “We wanted to address the tight end situation and we are very excited to bring in Steve,” a glowing Stoops reported. “It’s very unique to be able to land a defensive end like Za’Darius.” He said Smith was a tremendous get for the Cats. Stoops said he and Coach D. J. Eliot were recruiting Smith at Florida State and getting his d-line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh also helped. Smith had run out of official visits and signed with UK sight unseen. Neal Brown had alluded to anticipating flipping some recruits that have committed elsewhere. Stoops said neither of these signings was considered a flipping. He described both as classic battles. Stoops said he has been in communication with other present commits and they are being evaluated. He said – “It wouldn’t be fair to keep them if they don’t fit our system. For some of them it would be in their best interest to go to other schools where they would be comfortable.