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Stoops telling some UK commits to look at other schools that might be a better fit now


Just as he said he would at his introductory press conference, new Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops is not rushing to make decisions about high school seniors who had verbally committed to play for the Wildcats before he replaced former coach  Joker Phillips.

“I’ve been in communication with all of them and we talked to some of them about possibly letting them look at some other schools. It would probably be in their best interest to look at some other schools just system-wise,” said Stoops Wednesday. “Everybody completely understood that.

“Either side, I don’t think you want a player that you’re going to sign come in here and be unhappy if he doesn’t fit the system and have to sit out for four or five years. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do to those players, so we’ve addressed all of those.”

Kentucky added two junior college signees — tight end Steven Borden and defensive end Za’Darius Smith — Wednesday and both will be on campus for the second semester and able to go through spring practice.

Stoops said UK could “possibly” sign more junior college players.

“There are a few more needs, we’ll look at that and evaluate as we go,” Stoops said.

Stoops said the UK staff did not “flip” the two junior college players from other schools, but simply had to battle to sign them.

“They were classic battles, especially with Za’Darius (Smith). Myself and coach (Jimmy) Brumbaugh got off a plane in Greeneville, Ala., and were greeted by the mayor and Za’Darius, so it was kind of interesting. I think the mayor is an Auburn guy, too,” Stoops said. “But it was a good, hard fight for these guys, in particular Za’Darius. (Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin) was in, I think, the morning and I came in the afternoon to see the mom and Za’Darius. Coach (Sumlin) and I have a history, so we can’t badmouth each other.”

He said there were some “high-fives” in the football office when both players signed with UK.

“We were excited. Very much so. It does. It makes you feel very good about the future. Myself and the staff, we’ve been through those. We expect to win our fair share of recruiting battles. But that first one, a player like him in such a short amount of time, definitely energized us,” Stoops said.

While Borden visited last weekend, Smith has yet to be on campus.

“I think, in particular for junior college players, because the bells and the whistles, these players need to know that you’re going to help them and that they’re going to have an opportunity. So I think the relationship system is very important to the junior college player,” Stoops said. “With Za’Darius, I think it was easy because he knows coach Brumbaugh, he knows how he’s going to be coached.

“Coach (D.J.) Eliot was the defensive line coach at Florida State. He saw what coach Eliot did for the last three years. And then I’m the defensive coordinator and he saw what we did at Florida State for the last three years. If you’re sitting there, you’re Za’Darius, it looks like a pretty good situation for him here. You got the d-line coach, the defensive coordinator and the head coach all speaking the exact same language.

He would not provide any injury updates and also would comment on whether there could be any roster changes due to academic issues.

“We’ll address that another time. They’re coming in right now,” Stoops said of the players’ grade. “It’s just starting to filter in. I was just in an academic meeting and I’m not totally caught up so I’ll go back after this and continue to address that.”

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  1. grant

    Am I the only one who thinks that UK football is the hands of men who have a firm hold of the reigns and have a plan and direction they want to go. I sure get the warm fuzzy’s thinking were out of the perpetual tail spin . I am sure enjoying this.

    1. TrueBlueJohn

      I have seen more leadership in the last three weeks than I saw in the last three years. Stoops, Brown, and Eliot had a plan when they arrived, and they hit the ground running.

      1. RJ

        Took the words right out of my mouth..

  2. JCC

    Is there any word on who Stoops plans on replacing and with whom?

  3. Brandon

    Defintley agree with you Grant. I am like a kid waiting to open his Christmas presents on Christmas morning. 4 Star players right off the bat. Now that old comment where people use to say , Who would want to come play Kentucky is fading away and I now see we can become that college football team where are coaches can make a difference in a high school players life. Now who wouldn’t want to come here?


    I don’t feel letting these commits go puts us behind. I understand the numbers game but if they are sitting on the bench and don’t have the talent to fit into our system what good are they?

    1. RJ

      I agree. One of the quickest ways to get a bad rap amongst high school potentials is to go ahead and let these kids come on in and never see the football field. Step up and be a man about it, those kids might not like it , but they can respect it.

  5. Juan4UK

    This is the hard part. the kids whose life takes a bad turn when this happens, last minute like.

    1. larryvaught

      I agree Juan4UK. Hard on lot of kids when a change is made. But I do like that Stoops is at least being up front about all that. Better for everyone to know from day one

      1. grant

        Good points Juan and Lars

  6. Ira

    You just feel this coaching staff gets it. Its like the old coaching staff just went thru the motions. Joker’s old staff recruited the same quality players the same diamond in the roughs and it has bitten us in the behind again and again. We don’t have the quality or the depth that we need. Coach Stoops and staff wouldn’t be looking at JUCO’s if he didn’t feel that otherwise. He made the statement we may be looking at JUCO’s at other need positions. That tells you we are missing quality players in recruiting.

    I feel for the kids that kept their commitment all thru the rough times with Joker’s staff. I really do. But if they don’t meet this staff’s expectations then I’d rather them be told now, than them be told a week before signing day or less and they have to decide on a school they would never would have given thought to going. This still gives them time to set up officials with other schools, gets an unoffical in. Lets other schools know their recruiting is open again. They have a whole month before signing day. It gets them prepared over Christmas especially to get on their computer and do more research about other schools with their families. It can be done. They just need to get to it.

  7. Anonymous

    Coaching changes are always hardest on the players. I dare say that there are some on the existing roster that will never see the field. Those players need to be checking out their options as well.

  8. JCC

    Stoops has mentioned a couple of names he plans on keeping Thomas, and Phillips for sure, will be cats’, after that I have no idea.

  9. Hank Rippetoe

    There are three elements to college football success. Recruiting, Coaching and Execution. I believe this bunch of coaches have the recruiting part nailed down, although we really won’t know until we see the results of the other two elements.

    What I see are coches who have been around big time programs, but are still young enough to relate to today’s players. These coaches are bringing in a proven and exciting offense and a hard nosed defensive philosophy.

    For those who remember, UK was a top 5 offense under Mumme. Those days are coming again. We will also see, I believe, the best defense we’ve seen since the Curci days, hopefully even better. The success will be a long term process that will be built from year to year.

    1. UKFAN197TONE

      So, what you are saying is UK will be well balanced? Good on both Offense and Defense and not “good” in one or the other, every other year?

      I agree with you. Won’t it be refreshing?!

  10. Pacman

    The most amazing thing is that Neal Brown can install his offense in three days. It seemed like the previous offense required years of preparation before the QB could run it correctly. I remember coaches saying Mossakowski couldn’t be the QB because he didn’t know the offense. Same knock this year on Towles.

    1. RJ

      A lot of people remember those words. Especially Ryan Mossakowski.

    2. UKFAN197TONE

      Who said Moss couldn’t learn the system? I believe he left because he was told that Newton was going to be the starting QB without even giving Moss a shot; that’s my understanding. As far as Knowles, he hasn’t been on the field long enough to know if he can learn anything or not. We all are about to find out…

      1. larryvaught

        UKFAN, you are right about Mossakowski’s reason for leaving

        1. Jeffro_

          How has that turned out for Moss, Larry? Is he on schedule to get his degree or has he already received it? From which University is he getting his degree?

          1. UKFAN197TONE

            He’s currently at Lamar University, JR, no mention of him not graduating on time.

          2. larryvaught

            ryan is doing great. Recently got engaged

  11. shinny

    I’m just proud to talk football with my buddies. Think about the coaching staffs weve had at Kentucky since say Blanton Collier. Not one that I can think of has been an overall coaching staff like this present one is shaping up to be. Not one victory yet but it has the wow factor! We have us a big time coaching staff that know how to sell. If this staff can’t get it done then I’m not sure it will ever happen. I’ve told my family Santa has already given me what I’ve always wanted”A real chance to see what we can do in the mighty SEC”.

  12. Jeffro_

    Hey Larry, do you think the title “Stoops telling some UK commits to look at other schools….” is a stretch of what Coach actually said in his presser and what each of the commits have said when interviewed after speaking with him/new staff?

    Hey, he may be telling a couple that, but he didn’t put it that way and from reading the interviews of the commits, they aren’t characterizing it that way either. But of course, it’s the internet and the internet readers all want to go on about who’s not deserving of a scholarship offer ad nauseam.

    1. larryvaught

      No, don’t see it as a stretch Jeffro. Key word is some recruits, not all. Heck, he might be telling some current players the same thing

      1. TrueBlueJohn

        Larry, that is reminicent of what Cal told some of the kids when he took over. They didn’t fit his system and they would have been setting on the bench when they could get playing time somewhere else.

  13. Larry Pup

    I like the offensive philosophy coach Brown brings, but if you guys remember, Mumme’s teams did not win many sec games. Never beat UT. Why? No talent after Tim Couch and company left, and Dusty Bonner got dusted and left. We need top football talent to win in this league. This coaching staff appear to be strong recruiters, I sure hope so.

    1. larryvaught

      Larry Pup, these guys seem confident they can get it done. Mumme’s problem was no defense. Stoops eventually won’t have that problem

      1. Larry Pup

        You are right Larry. Mumme had no stoppers. Coach Stoops is a defensive minded coach and should be inclined to stack his side of the ball with athletes who can play a little D.

  14. SoCalUKfan

    Coach Stoops’ decision to encourage commits to reconsider and go elsewhere is fine and dandy for him, for UK football success, and for warm and fuzzy feeling fans, but what about the players affected. I’m sure that some won’t care all that much, but what about the ones who bleed blue and have dreamed all their lives about playing for the Cats. it’s one thing to not realize your dreams because you were not recruited, but it’s entirely another thing to have been recruited and to have your scholarship offered an in hand and have it suddenly taken from you. yeah, i know, it’s big-time SEC football and it’s cut-throat competition, and the players are being given the “opportunity to reconsider and go elsewhere.” yeah, right. how many of u believe that those players affected are being given a real opportunity to keep their scholarships? i vote to allow those who have been offered and who’ve accepted scholarships to keep them if they want without penalty. i know i sound too idealistic about this, but how far are we willing to go in ignoring the human element of the student athlete? (That really was a naive question, wasn’t it? Don’t answer that question). Anyway, there can’t be that many players who fall into this category, right? (please, don’t yell at me, harsh language or profanity might damage my idealistic and overly sensitive soul). Larry, your thoughts????

    1. larryvaught

      I don’t think most of the UK commits grew up dreaming of playing for Kentucky. Jacob Hyde might be only one and his scholarship is safe. At least half of the commits I know have heard from Stoops that all is good. And I have not heard of him telling anyone they won’t have a scholarship, just maybe it would be better if they kept looking around. to me, would be worse to let a player come, not play, get unhappy and then have to scramble to find a place in a year or so. But I think Stoops is honorable man and won’t leave any kid just hanging

  15. Cats Claw to Contend

    Lots of interesing, accurate, insightful and enjoyable comments!

    I absolutely believe the fact that Moss was RUN OUT OF DODGE by an inept Head Coach who was bound and determined to play Newton, even at the expense of UK football – and that is reason enough to be happy to see Joker gone, gone, gone!

    Also agree with those who acknowledge that Stoops and his staff hit the ground running, WITH A PLAN, and immediately we see significant results in the recruiting trail at the Junior College level – – awesome to see results, instead stocking up on 2-star “prospects that need developed”. JUCO players tell me that Stoops and staff want to see results on the field in 2013, and not just “down the road”.

    Can’t help but wonder what would have happened if this staff had come in to replace Brooks, with that high-octane offense in place (until Joker decided to slow it down so it wouldn’t score too quickly). Instead, we are starting from much closer to scratch.

    Well, this little stretch of “not up to UK roundball standards”, which standards were re-set the past 3 years, has given the Big Blue Nation opportunity to look over at the at the only other revenue producing sports programs and enjoy the fact that we have a shot at climbing out of the SEC football cellar in a hurry.

  16. UKFAN197TONE

    I’m not necessarily a “fan” of telling commits to look elsewhere. These kids WANTED to come to UK. Sure, they may have not gotten the “big time offers” they would like (who wouldn’t), but they still decided to come to UK in one of the worse stretches in recent memory.

    ON THE OTHER HAND…they all are big boys. They understand the concept behind what Coach Stoops and staff are trying to do. Sometimes it’s better to start from scratch, which by all means…UK is and has too; new system, coaches, etc.

    Am I mad at Coach Stoops? NO. Am I little sad that these guys won’t come to UK now. Sure, but in the long run, it’s just as Coach Stoops said, “Why come here to sit and watch, when you can go somewhere else and play.”

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