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By ASHLEY SCOBY
One of the biggest questions facing the University of Kentucky after the hiring of Mark Stoops as its new football coach is recruiting. Will Stoops honor the commitments of those who have already pledged to play for the Cats next year? Will he bring along some of Florida State’s committed high school players? Where will Stoops’ own UK recruiting journey begin?
During his first Kentucky press conference Sunday at the Nutter Fieldhouse, Stoops talked about his goals of bringing UK to an SEC championship game one day, and even further, winning it. Where that journey starts, however, is on the recruiting trail.
Currently, UK has 16 verbal commitments, with only two of them from the state of Kentucky (Jacob Hyde of Clay County and Bubba Tandy of Christian County). Stoops said that it was important to continue to recruit Kentucky players, but that truly SEC-caliber talent usually resided elsewhere.
“Obviously there aren’t probably as many SEC-caliber players in Kentucky, but there are some,” he said. “It’s our job to get out and work hard and recruit and keep the great ones home and to take any player that can help us win. I understand that there’s not as many in this state as others, but there are some good ones and it’s our job to keep them home.”
According to the Courier-Journal’s Steve Jones, Stoops had already contacted some of Kentucky’s committed players by Friday. Hyde, Blake McClain, Alvonte Bell and Khalid Thomas each received a phone call from the new coach telling them their commitment to UK would be honored. The rest of UK’s commitments, however, will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“We need to make sure they’re going to fit our system,” he said. “It would be unfair to them if we took their commitment and (they) didn’t fit what we’re going to do. So, we have to evaluate and work our way through that process.”
Stoops did not get into specifics on Sunday about what kind of system he was planning on running once he gets his feet underneath him in Lexington. He did say he wanted to run a 4-3 defense, and that his offense would focus primarily on being tough, yet creative.
“We’re going to have an offense you guys are going to enjoy, I promise you that,” he said. “We’re going to get out there and rip it around a little bit. We’re going to throw it but you have to be creative. We will have a physical presence about us but we will spread it out and we’ll use some bells and whistles to get the run game going.”
Whether Kentucky’s current commitments fit the bill for that kind of system is yet to be determined. In the future, however, Stoops plans on making his mark throughout the southeastern United States as Kentucky’s coach.
“We’re going to recruit Kentucky hard and take care of our home,” he said. “We’re going to recruit Ohio very hard. I have strong ties in Ohio, and there are very good football players in Ohio. We’ll work through the Carolinas, into Georgia and into Florida a little bit.”