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New UK football coach Mark Stoops addresses attendees at Sunday's press conference. (Clay Jackson photo)

New UK football coach Mark Stoops addresses attendees at Sunday’s press conference. (Clay Jackson photo)

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.”

17 Responses to New Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops wants to keep top state players at UK and will evaluate current commits to see if they fit his style

  • LarryPup says:

    Great insight on potential recruiting. Loved this article.

  • RJ says:

    At least he is honest about local talent. Every new coach that comes to KY says that we are going to keep our HS players home but seldom do. This will be interesting to watch as time goes on this spring.

    Also, the 4-3 makes sense. It’s what successful teams use. It’s what most players will face in the pros. On the other hand, a 4-3 takes very big, tough, fast and smart players to run successfully. Recruiting will be crucial. Defensive Football is a game that can utilize “whistles and bells” but most often, it’s the tough defense that makes plays that usually wins the day. If you could out think the opposing team, the U.S. military acadamies would be national champions every year.

  • eddie says:

    if he wants to make true to that recruit james quick so that our QB will have someone to throw to and the harrison kid out of madison southren who led the state in rushing this year just a thought.

    • Ashley Scoby says:

      Will be really interesting to see if Stoops starts hitting Trinity hard. James Quick is a special talent

      • LarryPup says:

        All the Louisville schools, especially Trinity. However, I will take all he can get out of South Florida. If coach gets his fair share out of Florida in the future, he will turn this program around. Success breeds success.

  • Bill says:

    The 3-4 defense is the gold standard. The problem is that it is very difficult to learn and equally difficult to implement. I don’t think it can be learned and implemented effectively with freshmen and sophomores. It just takes time and experience. I have a feeling that teams go to the 3-4 because the number of outstanding defensive tackles are in limited supply. It won’t work without an outstanding nose tackle and defensive ends that can both shut down the run and apply pressure.

  • LarryPup says:

    UK needs a defensive alignment that players can learn and execute properly. By the way, with coaches who can get them playing in the right position and frame of mind. Our 3-4 looked like a chinese firedrill. Never could get off the field on 3rd down. I don’t care if they all lineup on the line of scrimmage, just stop somebody consistently. Force a punt now and then. Defense is attitude, and you gotta have it. I say simplify, and intensify.

  • JCC says:

    The one thing that Randy Sanders was good at was going into Knoxville and getting the one UT screws up on. I hope Stoops continues to recruit East Tennessee because High School football is good and really getting better. Most of the State Champs are from the east.

  • hawaiibillT says:

    He has good contacts on the west coast also. I’ve said for years that Joker should vacation in Hawaii every year and get to know the HS coaches there. There are a lot of real good defensive players on Oahu and St Louis HS has had their last 11 QBs start at D1 schools.

  • Jim says:

    I am hoping he can reel in a few gems in this class. Wonder if the Louisville high school kids are stuck on UL, with the threat of Strong being hired away to another program? It could get interesting.

  • RJ says:

    In recruiting there are so many opportunities to get a real “gamer”. But there are many, many more opportunities to get gun shy players that don’t show up for football games. We get too many of those.

    • Anonymous says:

      RJ..I don’t think our players past or present are gun shy. They may not be quite as talented or as big and strong. But gun shy? What are you talking about?

  • Larry Pup says:

    I don’t consider our past or present players gun shy RJ. They may not be as big or strong. I hope coach Stoops can change that. But gun shy?

  • shinny says:

    Never fear Stoops first hire is the real deal. Go to tomahawknation and read fans comments about Coach Eliot you will want to give him a big C-A-T-S!!!!!

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