Reaction is now pouring in to the recent news that current Florida St. Defensive Coordinator Mark Stoops has accepted the head coaching position at Kentucky. From Kentucky fans, except for a relatively small cadre of determined and unwaveringsupporters, for whom no other hire would have been acceptable, the reaction to this announcement is overwhelmingly positive. Around the Internet, though, not so much, at least not from the perspective of the hire being a good thing for Stoops
Let's turn first and foremost to SBNation's Florida St. blog, Tomahawk Nation:
Well, what do you expect from Seminoles fans? Honestly, this guy isn't really wrong. Kentucky has reportedly been referred to as a "dead-end job," and if we are completely honest with ourselves, we have to admit that this perception is justified.
Since we started out with that negative shot in the comments, let's head over to Team Speed Kills and the highly-respected (at least by me) Year2:
I'll be honest, Mark Stoops is a better candidate than I thought Kentucky would be able to get. He's got a tall task ahead of him as all Kentucky head football coaches do, and of course, his choice of offensive coordinator will be important. However, it's hard to imagine anyone in Lexington complaining about this hire. Stoops is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football right now, and now he is all Kentucky's.
This perception, whether you agree or not, comes from a guy who knows football, particularly Florida football (and by that I mean the state of Florida, not just the Florida Gators), and his opinion in this case should be respected. This validates Alex's perception that this was quite possibly as much of a "home run" hire as Kentucky would have been able to get. Stoops is essentially the ACC's version of Kirby Smart.
From John Clay:
[Corey] Clark [FSU beat writer for the Tallahassee Democrat] said Stoops is a likable, personable guy who turned around the Florida State defense and is known as a tremendous recruiter, especially in Miami and the South Florida area. He said that Stoops has made no secret about the fact he wanted to be a head coach and should do a good job at UK.
Nothing makes me happier than a coach that gives us ready-made inroads into Florida. Why? Two words: Charlie Strong. Florida is so talent-rich in football that you could build a top 25 program on the leavings and scrapings from Miami , FSU, and Florida.
Just in case any of you were worried that this is just a rumor:
I think that should put it all to rest.
The Seminoles' prowess is a continuation of the 2011 season, when Stoops' troops led the nation in fewest yards allowed per carry (2.3), ranked fourth in the nation in total defense (275 yards per game), second in rushing defense (82.7 ypg), fourth in scoring defense (15.1 points per game), eighth in tackles for loss (8.6 per game) and quarterback sacks (3.1 per game). FSU led the ACC in eight defensive categories.
I think at this point, I should acknowledge that Stoops (and by extension, Smart) were not my preferred candidates. I preferred an offensive coach who would bring an exciting style to Kentucky over a defensive stalwart. It is my view that Kentucky is unlikely to ever achieve the kind of level in the SEC where great defense will be as or more valuable than great offense, i.e. like Alabama or LSU.
With that said, let me also acknowledge that if you were trying to seriously hire a coach that could take Kentucky not just to the next level, but to the level where we actually compete for SEC championships, Stoops is that kind of hire. To me, anyway, the style of this hire represents a genuine, swing-for-the-fences commitment to Kentucky football that I had not thought Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart capable of. In my view, hiring a guy like Stoops speaks volumes about Barnhart's personal commitment to the program. Whether or not that commitment can extend to facilities improvement remains to be seen. Let's just say Barnhart has more sales jobs ahead of him in that regard.
It takes more than just a head coach, it takes a staff, and speaking of staff, here is Y! Sports:
Stoops biggest challenge will be bringing in a staff that can finally make Kentucky competitive in all facets with the rest of the league. Rumor has it Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown is ready to assume the same position with the Wildcats. Brown played on the same team with Kentucky great Tim Couch, who was part of the coaching search committee.
We have also heard that James Coley, FSU's current Offensive Coordinator may be on Stoops' short list, but I personally am a little more excited about the prospect of Neal Brown, who has been associated with the Kentucky head job and had repeatedly been contacted by UK in some capacity already. I also have some doubt that Kentucky would be able to pull all of FSU's coordinators away at once, but who knows?
Mr. SEC makes some interesting points about hiring a guy from the coordinator ranks with no head coaching experience, something I and many others have expressed concerns about:
But there’s nothing wrong with rolling the dice on an assistant. Georgia has enjoyed a lot of success under Mark Richt who joined the Bulldogs after serving as Florida State’s offensive coordinator. Will Muschamp led Florida to an 11-1 season this year in just his second season as a head coach. And we all know about the jobhas done at Vanderbilt, despite the fact that he landed in Nashville to a chorus of "who’s he?"
If Stoops works out as well as any of those guys, I think we can all be very happy, indeed.
Even the enemy is suitably impressed with Barnhart's hire. From Mike at Card Chronicle:
It's a surprisingly good hire by Mitch Barnhart, as Stoops has done a wonderful job with the defense at Florida State and has the name recognition to be an effective recruiter for the Wildcats. His challenge will be ratcheted up a notch at UK, however, as he takes over a program that hasn't finished above .500 in its conference since 1977.
Yeah, we get it, we have sucked. We've sucked less than Louisville between 2007 and last year, but lately, yeah he's right.
One thing is for sure, though, assuming Strong hangs with the Cardinals, there are going to be some epic recruiting battles around here, both in and out of state and particularly in the Sunshine State. To me, that's a fascinating concept that just makes the Louisville game that much bigger. Plus, you have a recent Florida DC and recent FSU DC opposing each other as head men of the 'Cats and Cards.
Can you say, "Delicious", boys and girls? I knew you could.
This tweet will chap the backsides of Barnhart haters everywhere:
UK president in release says he's "deeply impressed with the way Mitch Barnhart has conducted this important process."— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) November 27, 2012
I must say, I am impressed by how close to the vest that Barnhart played this. Stoops' name did not emerge credibly, until nearly the day he was hired. Keeping the process that leak-free probably enabled this hire as much as anything. Anyone who isn't impressed with that, in my view, simply lacks credibility except in their own tiny mind.
Overall, it would be a solid hire, but I thought Mitch Barnhart would go in a different direction and hire more of an offensive-minded coach.
SBNation's Jason Kirk is understandably skeptical, and in many ways, for the same reason as SDS and me -- we were all thinking "gimicky, high-powered offense" and not solid, defense-first football:
I don't really see how this hire changes things that much at Kentucky. He might do a very good job, but UK's overwhelming disadvantages in recruiting, resources and support make underdog tactics all but essential. Stoops isn't likely to veer too far outside the box, but we'll wait and see who he hires at offensive coordinator.
Again, this just underscores the boldness of Barnhart's actions, and the commitment to football it implies. If Barnhart does not make the kind of commitment needed, this hire will likely go sideways, to the ruin of all involved. Stoops had to know that the talent problems traditionally dealt with by Kentucky make a defense-first strategy viable only if that deficit can be turned around.
Of course, Stoops as head coach could go off the reservation and embrace the Air Raid or some Oregonesque spread option attack. He's never been a head coach, and never been able to fully express his football philosophy except in the narrow world of position coaching and coordinators. He may surprise us all by not being nearly as traditional as everyone thinks he will be.
Okay, that's enough for now. We'll have more later. Welcome, Coach Stoops, and Go, 'Cats!