Of all the challenges Mark Stoops has faced since taking over the Kentucky football program, he’s never once had to deal with what he faces in 2019 — expectations coming off a historic season.
It’s a great “problem” to have and one Stoops and his Kentucky program must be thrilled to experience but the reality is matching last season’s 10-win mark is going to be even tougher considering all the personnel losses on both sides of the ball and the departure of defensive coordinator Matt House to the NFL.
During his Monday press conference, Stoops’ first media availability of the spring, Kentucky’s coach discussed the possibility of his program suffering a letdown coming off the 10-win season, which included a 27-24 win in the Citrus Bowl over Penn State.
“I think it’s pretty easy for us to want more. We lose so many defensive players and offensively we know we want to improve. I think defensively, the hunger is there because these players have a lot to prove. Many of them haven’t done much to this point. They’ve contributed, but not to the point that we’re going to count on them this year. That should be easy for us,” Stoops said.
“It really doesn’t enter my mind, complacency, because we have so much to do. Hopefully, it won’t seep into them and believe me, I’ll continue to pound it through their head, and we’ll be very hard on them, so they won’t get complacent. They have a lot to prove. Offensively, we’re just looking to execute better, we’re looking to throw the ball better. We’re looking for new playmakers to emerge. We need that. I am encouraged by what I have seen so far. Defensively, like I said, there’s a lot of guys with a lot to prove.”
The Wildcats have been aware that many of the program’s outstanding seniors and Benny Snell wouldn’t be returning for 2019 but the departure of House may have been something Stoops didn’t anticipate heading into spring camp in Lexington. Much like he did when he promoted House to defensive coordinator two years ago, Stoops kept things in house and promoted Brad White to defensive coordinator this offseason.
The way Stoops tells it, promoting from within is the best way to continue continuity in the program following an outstanding defensive season.
“That’s one of the reasons why you look at promoting from within because you want to continue to build on the good things we’ve done, keep that consistency with our staff, with our defensive staff and defensive players,” Stoops continued. “It was a relatively easy transition, because our players have so much respect for Brad (White) and what he’s done and the way he can coach and how detailed he is. It’s a lot of fun.
“It’s just like when Coach (Matt) House took over, he and I sifting through everything, recalibrating and resetting things. It’s the same way now. That doesn’t mean drastic change with Brad taking over, him putting in the way he sees things and packaging it and the way he teaches it. So, we have a lot of confidence in that and what we’re doing and a lot of confidence in him. It’s been an easy transition to this point.”