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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky apparently has found its new football coach — defensive coordinator Mark Stoops of Florida State.
While there has been no confirmation from UK officials, several sources close to the football team indicate that Stoops has agreed to take the job and an announcement might even be made sometime this afternoon even though Florida State will be playing in the ACC championship game Saturday.
His name first surfaced as a potential candidate Saturday when CBSSports.com broke the new that he had been interviewed. Since then sources confirmed that former UK quarterback Tim Couch was instrumental in helping putting Stoops in touch with UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart.
Stoops comes from a well-known coaching family and is considered one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators. He was a graduate assistant coach at Iowa from 1989–1991, and then became the athletic director and defensive backs coach at Nordonia High School in Macedonia, Ohio (1992–1995). In 1996, he became defensive backs coach at South Florida. He was defensive backs coach at Wyoming from 1997-1999 and head coach Dana Dimel took him to Houston with him as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2000.
He made another upward move in 2001 when he became defensive backs coach at the University of Miami and joined his brother Mark at Arizona when Mark became head coach in 2004 — another brother, Bob, is head coach at Oklahoma. He became Florida State’s defensive coordinator starting in 2010.
He overhauled the Florida State defense in 2010 with dramatic improvement and his unit was one of the nation’s best last year.
He may not rate as a “home run hire” for UK and Barnhart, but the 45-year-old Stoops certainly is a solid hire and more than worth the gamble for a team coming off a 2-10 season that needs a defensive overhaul. He lacks head coaching experience, but he has 23 years of experience and terrific recruiting ties.
Parents of two UK players confirmed today that they would be “thrilled” if Stoops is the new coach as expected.
Now the question will be who will he have as offensive coordinator. Already there is speculation he will bring James Coley, who is in his fifth season at Florida State and third as offensive coordinator, with him. Doesn’t sound right? Remember that Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has been basically calling the plays and even indicated he would hire an offensive coordinator next year — not exactly a way to pat Coley on the back.
One thing that would be a plus for Coley is that he’s also the tight ends coach and has made that spot instrumental in Florida State’s offense. UK has not had a big-play tight end since losing Jacob Tamme four years ago.
Coley has also been the recruiting coordinator at Florida State in 2008-09 and helped the Seminoles land consecutive top 10 classes. He was a Miami high school coach for six years and has terrific contacts. He’s also got NFL experience as he worked two years as an offensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins when Nick Saban was the head coach and was a graduate assistant coach at LSU.
Another source indicated that there has been more talk concerning Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who played two years at Kentucky and is a Kentucky native, possibly joining Stoops’ staff as offensive coordinator.