Mark Stoops may not be the answer for what has long plagued University of Kentucky football. Stoops (and his staff), may not be the man that the Big Blue Nation has been looking for to make Wildcat football respectable. He may not be the person to provide the year in and year out consistency that the Cats have craved on the gridiron. He may not be that guy at all.
If, however, Mark Stoops isn’t those things, he’s doing a pretty good job at pretending that he is.
On Monday, the Wildcats signed their highest ranked recruit. Ever. Justin Rogers, a five star recruit from Michigan, is the number 30 overall ranked player and the number one offensive guard in the country. The coaching staff flooded social media after Rogers’ announcement with another Yahtzee recruit headed into the fold. Sure, it’s not a done deal and football recruiting is full of decommits and recommits, but Rogers’ announcement is a step in the right direction for Stoops and company.
From where the UK Football program was in Stoops’ first year (a 2 win campaign in 2013) to last season’s 10-3 record, including a victory over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, it’s hard not to see that the Cats are trending upward. After that 2 win season, Kentucky has either maintained or improved the win total from the previous year. And while no one is expecting the Cats to challenge Alabama and Georgia for SEC supremacy yet, Stoops has his team ready to firmly establish themselves in the second tier of SEC Football teams.
Have there been growing pains? Absolutely. There have been head-scratching play calls and coaching decisions. There have been games where the Cats were unacceptably flat. Stoops and his staff have owned up to those mistakes. But when you understand that Stoops was a first time head coach when he arrived in Lexington in 2013, growing pains were to be expected. To me, a coach can improve on his Xs and Os. A coach can improve his gameday management. What separates good, bad and great and poor coaches is recruiting and Stoops, with a big hand from Vince Morrow, has been recruiting above where a 2 or 5 win Kentucky team should be doing.
So, Stoops may not be the guy. Maybe Bill Parcells will come to Lexington. Maybe Nick Saban or Dabo Sweeney will roam the sidelines at Kroger Field. Until that happens, I think the BBN should understand that, all things considered, Mark Stoops is the best fit to be the head football coach at the University of Kentucky.