Reaction to the Mark Stoops’ hire:
Stoops, it would stand to reason, will make defense his calling card at UK, and along with it the attitude of toughness that Brooks worked to instill. Frankly, that’s much-needed. SEC defenses are so good that they rarely are torched. Even as offensive-minded a coach as Bobby Petrino had to fashion a serviceable defense before becoming competitive in the SEC. SEC champions are forged by physical running attacks and passing games that can stand up, first and foremost, to A-list defensive lines.
The job of keeping Florida State’s recruiting class together in the wake of Stoops’ departure could also be a concern. Several FSU recruits expressed disappointment in Stoops’ decision Tuesday, and Joyner said it’s not uncommon for younger players to put a lot of stock in coaching changes as they attempt to formulate a final decision on their college choices.
It’s also possible that Stoops may not be the only departure from Fisher’s staff. Message boards floated numerous rumors following the announcement that Stoops may bring one or more of FSU’s current coaches with him to Kentucky, but again, Fisher said those decisions have yet to be discussed.
It’s a great opportunity for Stoops, and Jimbo Fisher has said before that he encourages his assistants to take head coaching jobs. FSU has not said yet whether or not Stoops will coach in the ACC championship game on Saturday. Stay tuned.
I think at this point, I should acknowledge that Stoops (and by extension, Smart) were not my preferred candidates. I preferred an offensive coach who would bring an exciting style to Kentucky over a defensive stalwart. It is my view that Kentucky is unlikely to ever achieve the kind of level in the SEC where great defense will be as or more valuable than great offense, i.e. like Alabama or LSU. With that said, let me also acknowledge that if you were trying to seriously hire a coach that could take Kentucky not just to the next level, but to the level where we actually compete for SEC championships, Stoops is that kind of hire.
For Kentucky to move forward as a program, Stoops will need plenty of real support from the UK administration. When John Calipari wants a new locker room for his hoops team, he gets it. When a Rich Brooks or Joker Phillips has asked for a new recruiting room for the football program, they’ve been stone-walled. That will need to end. Vanderbilt — and that’s a good comparison for Kentucky at the moment — has invested in its program and in Franklin. If Kentucky truly gets behind Stoops, the Cats can improve. If the administration just gives lip service and fails to support its football program with dollars and cents, it wouldn’t matter if the Stoops being hired were Bob rather than Mark.
If Stoops is not a home run hire, he’s close. Especially for Kentucky. UK has become the worst team in the SEC and faces an even more difficult schedule next year. Several coaches initially approached about the job said thanks but no thanks. However, former UK quarterback Tim Couch touted Stoops from the beginning to UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the UK AD wisely listened to Couch. Now I hope he might do the same and listen to those who are wanting former Boyle County High School standout Neal Brown to be UK’s next offensive coordinator.
It’s a surprisingly good hire by Mitch Barnhart, as Stoops has done a wonderful job with the defense at Florida State and has the name recognition to be an effective recruiter for the Wildcats. His challenge will be ratcheted up a notch at UK, however, as he takes over a program that hasn’t finished above .500 in its conference since 1977. Congrats to Coach Stoops on landing the part of Robin in Lexington.
In my view, Kentucky got a potential great one today and more importantly, showcased a desire to finally put an investment into UK football that it deserves. A lot will depend on the facility upgrade plan that goes to Frankfort in January, but if it passes as all hope, today could be the start of a new era in Kentucky football.
If universal approval is what Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart was looking for in finding Joker Phillips’ successor, then he got it with Mark Stoops. The 45-year-old Florida State defensive coordinator will get his first shot as a college head coach with the Wildcats. Rivals.com Southeastern regional analyst Kynon Codrington said the hire will settle recruits and add energy to the program.
I’ll be honest, Mark Stoops is a better candidate than I thought Kentucky would be able to get. He’s got a tall task ahead of him as all Kentucky head football coaches do, and of course, his choice of offensive coordinator will be important. However, it’s hard to imagine anyone in Lexington complaining about this hire. Stoops is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football right now, and now he is all Kentucky’s.
Stoops’ biggest challenge will be bringing in a staff that can finally make Kentucky competitive in all facets with the rest of the league. Rumor has it Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown is ready to assume the same position with the Wildcats. Brown played on the same team with Kentucky great Tim Couch, who was part of the coaching search committee.
Hiring Coach Stoops, and doing so early, puts Kentucky in an advantageous position. Not only will we be able to recruit prior to the December dead period, but as the earliest hire we will get a lot of attention from the media. Already ESPN’s College Football LIVE approved of the hire and surely other shows will follow. (College Gameday?) The Kentucky topic is sure to get a lot of run during the broadcast of the ACC Championship game this weekend. So much good publicity should be great for the program.
I don’t really see how this hire changes things that much at Kentucky. He might do a very good job, but UK’s overwhelming disadvantages in recruiting, resources and support make underdog tactics all but essential. Stoops isn’t likely to veer too far outside the box, but we’ll wait and see who he hires at offensive coordinator.
My guess is it will clear the wall, however. For all the criticism Barnhart has endured this long football season — my beef was his silence after firing Phillips — he has done his homework, enlisted the aid of former UK star quarterback Tim Couch, and pulled off what the program needs right here, right now.
That’s a coach who can be a home run hire.