Infused with new talent thanks to the program’s first-ever Top 20 signing class, Mark Stoops says Kentucky has moved on from last season’s slide and isn’t letting a futile recent history cripple the mindset of his football program.

If you’re putting stock into Stoops’ optimism at SEC Media Days, it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats suffering another implosion this fall with a pair of potential all-league defensive ends Za’Darius Smith and Alvin Dupree leading the turnaround.

“I feel more comfortable with (this year’s) team and we have a good idea of what to expect with each other,” Stoops said. “Recruiting has gone exceptionally well and that’s a big part of it. We have some big things happening and it’s a great time to be at Kentucky.”

Stoops’ ability to land an impressive class despite a 10-loss season in 2013 was a main talking point in Hoover, one the former Florida State defensive coordinator couldn’t wait to tackle.

His recruiting pitch in Lexington?

Be a part of change.

“Recruiting is where it starts,” Stoops said. “You’ve got to have great players. Our staff has worked extremely hard. I think most of our prospects we were recruiting knew we were in for a rebuild, had a little bit of work to do. There was no mystery there.”

Stoops said he’s not putting a number on success in his second season and that he’ll instead grade the Wildcats on how well they prepare each and every week.

“Our players are paying the price,” Stoops said. “They’re working extremely hard this offseason. Our coaches are putting them in a position to be successful. We’re doing everything we can.

“That’s everybody in our program, starting with myself, to do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to win each game.”

More from Stoops’ SEC Media Days appearance:

  • On how much advice he takes from his brother, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops: “He doesn’t need to give me advice in that area. You may follow Bob or know Bob. He’s been around a long time. But, you know, that’s not something we talk about. We discuss, you know, areas in our program where we can improve. We certainly talk about scheme and things like that.  But he knows I have what it takes.”
  • On Kentucky being picked to finish seventh in the East: “We are? Really? I thought we’d have been at the top of the pack there. (Grinning) We’re not worried about all that. You know that. You’ve heard me say it over and over again. We’re worried about getting better. We’re worried about putting our head down and going to work. I’m excited.”
  • On who he rooted for during last year’s BCS title game: “Of course, watched the national championship game. I know this is SEC country. Believe me, I’m all for this conference 100 percent, but in that case, I was tied too close to the Florida State program. Very happy for them. It was fun to watch. They’re a special group.”
  • On moving the rivalry game against Louisville late in the season: “It’s my understanding that’s a permanent switch. It will fall in line with some of the other rivalries with the SEC and the ACC on that weekend. We’re looking forward to it. I just left Florida State where there was a great rivalry at the end of the year with Florida and Florida State.”