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By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s signed his first recruiting class and already hosted his first junior day for 2014 recruits, but new Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops admits things have “definitely more demanding” than even he expected.
“It’s a little bit more challenging on your family and things like that, but it’s been a lot of fun because I’m not trying to be anybody that I’m not,” said Stoops. “I’m going to be exactly who I am, try to be very consistent and try to do things right. We know we’re not going to be perfect but I’m going to strive to do the best I can every day and that’s fun. It’s good to put together this staff. To work with the staff every day — and, again, I’m not going to change. I am who I am and I’m going to stay consistent with that.”
Stoops was pleased with the first recruiting class he put together, but not satisfied even though it was the highest ranked UK has ever had and included eight players with a four-star ranking in at least one recruiting service.
“It was a group effort. The staff — that’s a big part of it is the staff coming into this. The first year it’s important when you hire guys that they have some connections, so that’s a big part of it, guys with relationships that they have had either with players or with coaches,” Stoops said. “We feel we have an awful lot to sell. I would like to thank the BBN (Big Blue Nation), tremendous support. I think our recruits felt their presence, they felt the support of the fan base, so there’s a lot of things that go into it.”
Stoops had pledged to go “toe-to-toe with the best schools in the country” for recruits and felt UK did that.
“We’re not going to take a backseat to anybody. We’re going to recruit hard. We will win our fair share. We don’t win ‘em all, but we’re going to work hard,” Stoops said.
Stoops said the success offensive coordinator Neal Brown had at Texas Tech gave instant credibility to UK’s recruiting effort.
“He brings us tremendous credibility. Again, a guy that’s done it, especially within this state and really nationally, they have done a tremendous job on offense as a coordinator,” Stoops said. “It certainly helped with (Franklin County receiver) Ryan Timmons, with Ryan being very familiar with the offense.”
Stoops was a successful defensive coordinator at Florida State and that helped with defensive recruits.
“Statistically I’m not sure what it was but we had the most three and outs when I was at Florida State than anybody in the country by far, so I know we present the offense with a lot of opportunities,” Stoops said. “So I would imagine that would be appealing. You need to be good defensively to win consistently.”
The chance to play early — UK was 2-10 last year — also appealed to recruits.
“We always present an opportunity. We’re never going to guarantee anybody — that wouldn’t be fair or be right to the players that are in our program, but, we always tell them they’re going to have a great opportunity,” Stoops said. “They’re only behind 15 practices (from players who will go through spring practice), so when they arrive here in the fall, they’re not going to be too far behind with learning the scheme and so on and so forth.”
Stoops was pleased that several of his signees were active in trying to persuade other players to join them at UK after they committed to the Wildcats.
“It was very important because players want to play with other great players. They see what we’re doing, they see the plan that you lay out for them, they understand your commitment to winning, but they also want to know that there are other great players around them,” Stoops said. “It takes a whole bunch of us to be successful. It takes a great commitment from a lot of people, so I think that’s part of it.
“The players want to feel that there are other great players around them. Our players did a great job of communicating with each and building this class and making it special. That along with the Big Blue Nation and the social media out there, our players felt that, they felt that on Twitter and they felt the support of our fan base and I want to thank them for that because that makes a difference.”