Guest post: Has UK defense improved since Mark Stoops became head coach?


Perspective is a funny thing. Related to sports perspective seems to come mostly from the “eye test.” at least for me. I watch a fair amount of college football and every UK football game. The eye test for me has provided the only perspective that I have so far in evaluating Mark Stoops’ defense during his tenure at UK.

But since my perspective can always use some calibration, let’s check the facts.

Also in the interest of transparent disclosure let me say that I am not a fan of D.J. Eliot as a defensive coordinator but I did think that Mark Stoops was a great defensive coordinator and a tremendous hire as head coach in 2013.
Now, on to the facts:
UK football currently ranks 92nd in scoring defense out of 128 FBS teams. At the end of the 2015 season UK finished 69th in scoring defense. In the 2014 season UK defense ranked as the 93rd best in scoring defense. And last but not least, in Stoops’ first year as head coach (2013) UK ranked 89th in scoring defense. To finish the perspective Joker Phillips’ team ranked 85th in scoring defense for his last year in 2012.
If Stoops had been able to continue his upward trajectory for his defense into this season (or even hold steady at 69) I might be able to say that his recruiting and coaching schemes were having a positive effect. But since we are currently ranked 92nd in scoring defense after five games it is difficult to find areas of improvement.
The secondary looks better but linebacker and defensive line play have been inconsistent at best. The “eye test” tells me that we don’t look any better against quality teams when it comes to stopping them from scoring points and the facts seem to bear that out. We have given up 44, 45, 42, 10 and 34 points respectively to Southern Miss, Florida, New Mexico State, South Carolina and Alabama. Based on the facts and the “eye test” it doesn’t appear that 3 1/2 years of recruiting and coaching have changed the results very much.
So whether emotion or personal preference or anything else tells us that Mark Stoops is a good defensive coach unless he can get his team to 69th or better in scoring defense by the end of the year it appears that a perspective based on the facts will win the day when evaluating whether or not he has improved UK’s Football situation on the defensive side of the ball.


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  1. I’m not certain I buy your reasoning Keith. You certainly “hint” around at the real answer. Rankings and correlations do not necessarily translate to wins and losses and they are a sort of backward glance in the mirror. Well, Saturday is a new game. We saw this at Alabama. The UK defense stiffened against the Tide like it has not done in previous games. Therefore it was better than its ranking but the ranking did not give the KY defense credit for it because the Tide scored so many points against it as well as gaining a ton of yards. If the KY defense had played its first two games like the last one, I suspect it’s ranking would be much higher.

    So, is the KY defense better than in past years. Well, you have to ask the question “against whom”. Rankings can hint at what will happen next Saturday but they will not tell you what will actually happen next Saturday.

  2. I agree with this analysis. The defense showed incremental improvements in 2013, 2014, and 2015, but to date in 2016, the defense has regressed to the 2012 level. Not a good thing for a head coach whose primary resume’ attribute is his defensive coaching at Florida State.

  3. These types of rankings are only good for conversation. A lot of rankings really depend on which conference you play in and who your opponents are. Most teams that play Alabama are going to drop in the Offensive and Defensive ratings. Putting stock in these type of rankings is like having a player make a 100 yard run for a touchdown, then carrying the ball another 19 times with NO gain. He still has a 100 yards for the game and averaged 5 yards per carry. Did he have a great game or great run?? It is very hard to compare 1 year to another because many of the players and teams change. If you played the same players and the same teams 4 years in a row, you might have something to compare.

    1. OldFan, I have often had the same thought, when a back would have a couple of long runs and then get stonewalled the rest of the game. Stats can be deceiving.

      What I have been looking at is 7 points in the second half of New Mexico State, 10 points to South Carolina, and holding Alabama to their lowest point total of the year. Included in that was a defensive touchdown by Bama. That looks like defensive improvement to me.

      I also can see a measure of improvement in the offensive line. 122 rushing yards is the most Bama has given up all year. The main thing is sustaining the effort that the team showed against the rest of the schedule.

  4. It’s impossible to say that the So. Miss. game was anything but a freaking disaster. The New Mexico game started the same and then at half time something ‘clicked’ . Gave up 44points in the following 10 quarters, 27 of which went to the #1team in the country.
    The Vandy game will tell us about what is developing on the defensive side of the ball at UK. It could be exciting or,,,,,,!

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