Mark Stoops is already making a difference. It’s March, and we’re talking about Kentucky football. There’s more optimism surrounding the football program in quite some time and a pulse within the program that’s been noticeably absent, as evidenced by the school’s 30,000 spring game tickets sold.
Stoops is a defensive guru entering the sexiest defensive conference in the country, and he has six returning starters to work with on both offense and defense this spring, along with the addition of stout JUCO DE Za’Darius Smith.
Stoops’ biggest asset at Kentucky may be offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Brown’s air raid offense will be tough for any SEC team to prepare for week-in and week-out, and thankfully, the coaching staff realizes the Wildcats won’t beat anyone lining up in a pro-style offense.
Stoops talked to the media after practice and noted a high number of dropped balls by the receivers. But that comes with the territory of installing a brand new offense and the nervousness of impressing a coaching staff.
But despite the lack of execution, he was encouraged with the players’ attitudes after the first practice yesterday, via Courier-Journal.
“I thought the guys had a really good attitude,” Stoops said, “and what I can tell was that they had a clue on what to do offensively, a clue on what to do defensively. … Now, the execution was very sloppy. It was sloppy.”
Kentucky is one of the few teams to open spring without a depth chart, because no one has proved anything yet, according to Stoops. That’s why there was solely an alphabetical roster released, not a depth chart.
“I just didn’t feel that was right until we had a chance to work with these guys,” Stoops said. “Nobody has earned anything yet. So we are going to make them all earn their spots and we’ll evaluate that as we go.”
Despite returning much of a defeated and battered roster that notched only two wins in ‘12, Stoops feels like there’s some players to work with in his first year.
“I was encouraged,” Stoops said of Day 1. “I really feel like there’s some things to work with there.”
Stoops has 14 more spring practices to try to change the culture of a two-win team before summer workouts.
Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports