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What about a Mark Stoops-Neal Brown combination at Kentucky to excite players and fans

By LARRY VAUGHT

Mark Stoops certainly seems to bring a lot of things to the University of Kentucky football program that the Wildcats desperately need.

He’s relatively young at age 45. He has recruiting connections in Florida, one of the nation’s most productive states when it comes to producing Division I talent. He’s a proven defensive mind as Florida State’s defense has gone from 108th in the country in 2009 before he arrived to second in the nation in total defense at 249.4 yards per game going into Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. The Seminoles are fourth in the country in both rushing defense and pass efficiency defense.

He’s also known for his passion for the game and his ability to communicate and connect with others, something that will be needed to help win back the Kentucky fan base that bailed not only on coach Joker Phillips and his players during a 2-10 season but also on the UK administration for its perceived lack of support for the football program.

If Stoops is not a home run hire, he’s close. Especially for Kentucky. UK has become the worst team in the SEC and faces an even more difficult schedule next year. Several coaches initially approached about the job said thanks but no thanks. However, former UK quarterback Tim Couch touted Stoops from the beginning to UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the UK AD wisely listened to Couch.

Now I hope he might do the same and listen to those who are wanting former Boyle County High School standout Neal Brown to be UK’s next offensive coordinator. He’s currently in his third season at Texas Tech as offensive coordinator and once again has a productive, high-powered offense. The Red Raiders average 501 yards and 37.8 points per game and rank among the nation’s top 15 offenses.

That’s no surprise since Texas Tech was 13th nationally in total offense in 2011 with 470.5 yards per game and 22nd in scoring offense at 33.8 points per game. In his first year at Texas Tech under coach Tommy Tuberville in 2010, Texas Tech put up 460 yards and 33 points per game.

Brown has a lot of selling points that would seem to fit perfectly with Stoops. He’s young, 32, but was offensive coordinator at Troy for two years when that team won two conference titles and played in two bowl games before he went to Texas Tech. He has also worked at Delaware, Sacred Heart and Massachusetts, so he has paid his coaching dues and every move has been a step up — just like the moves Stoops has made in his career.

He is a relentless recruiter and now has solid recruiting ties in Texas to go along with those he developed in the south while working at Troy. Combine Stoops’ Florida ties with Brown’s Texas connections and UK would have strong ties to two states rich with high school talent.

Kentucky reached out to Brown’s agent two weeks ago. While I don’t know what the conversation was about, maybe it was laying the groundwork for UK possibly hiring a defensive-minded coach who would need a young, rising offensive coordinator. I also know that Couch is Brown’s former teammate and the two have remained friends, something that could play a role in luring Brown to Kentucky.

Obviously, getting a chance to return to the school where he played three years and be back closer to family would be a huge plus for him and his wife. Also moving to the Southeastern Conference would seem to be another step forward in his career.

The dangers? What if UK didn’t win? What if he didn’t click with Stoops?

Those are risks, but every coach faces risk. Ask any of the UK assistant coaches now looking for a job. Ask Tee Martin, who left UK after the 2011 season for USC where he thought he could be part of a national championship and build his resume only to see that team fizzle. There are no guarantees.

Brown’s salary at Texas Tech was larger than what offensive coordinator Randy Sanders made at Kentucky. But that problem could be solved and I would expect Barnhart not to let that be a stumbling block if the Cats wanted Brown.

What would be more important for Brown would be to know Stoops would buy in 100 percent to his style of offense and that he could determine what coaches he wanted on his staff. He likely would want someone like Texas Tech running backs coach Chad Scott, a former UK player. Maybe offensive line coach John Schlarman of Troy, another former Wildcat. Perhaps someone like Craig Yeast, a former UK star who just finished his first year at Tiffin University.

If Stoops is as good a coach as I think he is, he’ll know the importance of letting his offensive coordinator pick his staff because that’s what he wanted on his defense and what he’ll likely want to help his defensive coordinator do.

But think about the energy and passion Stoops, Brown and a group of younger coaches could bring to the UK football program. I think the Stoops-Brown combination would give Barnhart his home run hire and ignite the UK fan base again. The Big Blue supporters would be ready to come back to Commonwealth Stadium.

Will it happen? I don’t know. Could it happen? Certainly. Should it happen? I’m biased because I have known Brown for almost 20 years, but I think it should. Stoops could possibly have another coordinator in mind, but he’ll have a hard time finding one that has been more productive or would be more enthused about being at Kentucky than Brown would be.

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34 comments

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  1. UK 24 7

    Larry your dead right on this one. Neal Brown would be the perfect fit for this system. With his offense and Stoops’ defense, the UK football program would change dramatically. Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas gift for the BBN?

    1. Seymour

      I must have missed something. I thought we hired Stoops to be HC, not defensive coordinator. Surely he will be able to hire someone to run the defense so that he can attend to the HC duties. And he likely will want to hire his own pick for the offensive coordinator position. Anyone think Coley might be his pick?

      1. larryvaught

        Coley will be at UK but could be in role other than coordinator depending on who else might be available

  2. Gary Dearborn

    Great insight Larry!! We can only hope that Coach Brown and Coach Stoops are able to work something out. That combination would create havoc in the SEC.

  3. LarryPup

    Larry V. I’m with you on Neal Brown. It will be interesting to see who coach Stoops brings on board. I just watched some video about FSU and Jimbo F. was telling sports writers he was going to bring on a OC as a future plan, and mentioned the one they have now. Fisher I understand calls all their plays now. Perhaps the current OC is coming with Stoops.

    1. larryvaught

      Come be bringing current OC at Florida State, or maybe he could bring him and style hire Neal as OC. could be interesting to see

      1. jew4uk in mizzou

        The OC they have right now at Florida State from everything I have been hearing is basically a recruiting tool. He is young and connects with the players, I have all ready heard two 4-star recruits are jumping ship if he leaves

  4. eric stevens

    mark STOOPS at kentucky… MITCH BARNHART HIT A BIG TIME HOME RUN THIS TIME..NOW WE NEED A AWSOME OFFENSIVE MIND LIKE NEAL BROWN …WITH HIM WORKING WITH PATRICK TOWLES….WE WOULD BE ABSOLUTLY SCARY!!!!!!!!

  5. eric stevens

    QB COACH…CAN U SAY …TIM COUCH?????…ANOTHER HOME RUN HIRE..AND YOU KNOW TIM COUCH KNOWS QUARTERBACKS

  6. john4uk

    Hiring the right staff is very critical for Coach Stoops.I guess we will have to wait and see how many of the FSU staff Fisher is willing to let go and how many of those guys Stoops would want to hire.
    Neal Brown and his exciting offense would certaintly put fannies in the stands at Commonwealth.Here’s hoping Coach Stoops gives him some consideration.

  7. Larry T Clemons

    I Gave MB props for this move and agree wholeheartedly that Neal Brown would be a perfect fit and a Quarterback / Receiver Recruits Dream Coach…This will bring in Talent…ask Coach Cal, what Talent can do ?

  8. RJ

    Great article Larry. We can only hope that something like you propose comes to pass. KY has a huge recruiting problem to overcome. The current team is very young and this year’s recruiting class will be freshmen. Stoops et al is going to be facing some huge personnel challenges next season in addition to having a tougher schedule than this year.

  9. Bill

    We need to let Stoops pick his own people.

  10. coldspringmike

    Very informative story Larry. I for one did not realize Brown was at Texas Tech just knew they put up huge numbers. Also amazing how many former Cats are now in the coaching profession. Also agree with one of the above post, bring Timmy back to be our QB coach.

  11. Trey

    Larry, if Neal Brown was from some town that wasnt in central Kentucky, would you be pimping him?

    And, can we expect a article tomorrow detailing why Stoops should keep Chuck Smith?

    1. LoveSECF-Ball

      Brown & Smith both have proven records. Smith probaly won’t be hired because most new HC’s will hire their own staff but both are excellent coaches.

      1. larryvaught

        LOVESECF-ball, would love to see Chuck stay as well, but don’t see it happening

  12. Lex_man34

    I don’t know if Brown is married but if he is and she’s from here that’s just one more reason to move back here. I also understand that the Lubbock area isn’t nearly as nice as it is in Lexington. The summers can be pretty brutal there. I’m hearing that Mitch is willing to fork over a lot of money for the assistants so I’m confident the new OC will be a good one no matter who it is.

  13. Mike C

    I can understand and do respect your bias Larry, but I think Stoops should be given the opportunity to hire who he wants without pressure from either UK or the media.

    If this man is going to get the job done, we need to appreciate and respect is credentials and therefore let him go to work. Starting out with opinions on who you or anyone else in the media thinks he should hire puts a lot of pressure on a guy who has never coached his first game, let-alone in the SEC.

    Yes, Brown’s staff could be comprised of many UK players and coaches from the past; I just witnessed that happen for the last three years and it didn’t turn out very well.

    Give the guy a chance, let him bring in his staff.

    1. larryvaught

      Don’t worry Mike, Pretty sure Stoops is not reading my column or being influenced by me. Suggestion is not pressure. Just one opinion and one I think would work and trust me there are those at UK who feel the same way

      1. Mike C

        I understand and respect that Larry, the problem is that UK should not pressure Coach Stoops into hiring anyone…the guy should be given the opportunity to run the program.

        IMO, if Coach lets the administration force him into hiring anyone then he is basically a “yes” man; that has been going on since Bill Curry stepped off the plane in Lexington.

        We do not need that at this point.

        1. UKFAN197TONE

          I don’t see what Larry writes as pressuring Stoops. As he stated, I doubt he’s reading at this point and we know MB isn’t going to listen to the fans; how could he? If so, most would pick Petrino, most would pick Kirby Smart, etc etc.

          I’m sure Stoops will pick who HE WANTS to pick. I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride and wait patiently for kickoff.

          1. LoveSECF-Ball

            Good Response

      2. UKFMLY

        I’m with you Larry. The duo would be great. But who ever he picks for his staff should be a cool thing to watch.

      3. Katdaddy

        I’m sure with The Deuce involved this has been brought up. Sit back and watch. Christmas came early folks!

  14. coldspringmike

    Mike C., I’m sure Mark was not hired with stipulations attached as to who he should hire as asst. coaches. If Mitch attached such things we’d still be looking, no coach would agree to any such thing.

  15. JCC

    I was reading a tweet that was something like Stoops had offered the OC position to James Coley, the OC at FSU. Coley returned a 48hr, let you know response. Coley would bring a “pro style” scheme to Lexington. Those of you hoping for an all out “air raid” blitz offense may be disappointed a bit. I get the feeling that Stoops would prefer a ball control offense to a spread offense, thus eliminating the Neal Brown hire.

    1. larryvaught

      JCC, look for Coley to come but not as offensive coordinator. Maybe associate head coach. He has not been calling plays at Florida State

  16. Jim

    Can’t wait until Mr. stoops is finished with his old job and starts working full time for UK. I will be looking forward to “football” news for a change. UK has found an inroad into recruiting the state of Florida. Will he assemble a top notch staff? Will recruiting improve? I say yes to both questions.

  17. grant

    can’t wait to hear what the goals are at the presser.

  18. TrueBlueJohn

    From what I have read, Stoops will coach in this weeks ACC championship game, then assume his duties at UK Sunday. First order of business should be meeting with the team to layout his plan for the future. Then it should be selection of a staff, and hitting the recruiting trail. I feel that the biggest need is some stud linemen on both sides of the ball. I believe that there is a lot of young talent on the team already. Looking forward with some excited anticipation.

  19. jew4uk in mizzou

    Footballscoop.com is reporting that OC COLEY to go with Stoops to UK, BBN welcomes you as well fine sir, just bring the recruits with you. Larry my question is do you think he is bringing him to recruit or actually call the plays, b/c Jimbo called everything at FLA St

    1. LarryPup

      Coach Stoops will bring in a great staff, just wait and see. If they can make inroads into the state of Florida as far as recruiting elete football players, lookout! I lived in Florida for almost 20 years. It is a football factory. They start kids out down there when they are just babies. They look like helmets with legs in Super 8’s football. Those kids growup playing football together all the way through Pop Warner leagues to middle school and high school. We need to see an influx of 4 and 5 star players at least giving UK a shot every now and then. Ohio, same thing. Only time will tell. It all boils down to recruiting football talent and then coaching them up. If UK can start doing that, we’ll win our share. It is hard to beat skilled and more talented athletes week in and week out in the SEC.

      1. larryvaught

        You got that right Larry Pup about trying to beat more talented teams week after week. Next to impossible

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