By LARRY VAUGHT
For the first time college football coaches with teams in bowl games have to balance bowl preparation with the early signing date that starts Dec. 20th.
Kentucky played in the TaxSlayer Bowl last year when the signing period was in February. Now UK coach Mark Stoops and his staff have to get UK ready to play Northwestern Dec. 29th in Nashville in the Music City Bowl.
Stoops says he feels good about players he expects to sign when the national signing period begins.
“I have to be very careful with where we’re at in numbers. I think we’re pushing it. We’re already pushing it on where we’re at and how many we can sign. We don’t have a big class. We’ll be pushing it to sign any more than 23 or 24. We’ll see,” Stoops said.
“Sometimes you get some very good players down the stretch here that it’s very difficult to say no to. I’m very pleased with this class. They have great character and great talent, so I feel very good about it.”
Stoops admits recruiting priorities have to change at times based on how high school players might play during the season or the improvement certain players already on campus might make.
“If we feel like we may have some youngsters that are going to step up, then that may alter some of the positions that we go after. Again, there’s always some change or hiccups that come along and you just have to deal with that and move on,” the Kentucky coach said.
Stoops has liked bringing recruits on campus in December for officials visits when UK had home basketball games rather than during football season when his time is limited.
“We do have official visits during the season but the negative to that is we’re preparing for a game so we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them. Myself personally, if you have a night game I’m not done until about midnight and then I have TV and radio shows when I leave here. It just depends on whether the athlete has a chance to come to a game unofficially and see the environment and how important that is to it,” Stoops said.
“In December, we get to spend two full days with them and sit with them and their families during meals and get to know them. It is a changing landscape when it comes to recruiting. It’s an exciting time for us and I’ve really enjoyed the visits we’ve had.”