As you can plainly see, Mark Stoops was a little nervous in front of the assembled media at SEC Media Days. This event can be a bit overwhelming, and a young guy like Stoops is still learning how to be comfortable in front of the bright lights and relentless attention of the sportswriter orgasm which is SEC Media Days.
As the availability goes on, Coach Stoops becomes noticeably more comfortable, and got into the spirit of it pretty quickly. I really liked his comments regarding the basketball team, and as much as we talk about Kentucky being a basketball-first school, there has to be a tremendous benefit to having John Calipari available as a resource, not just for recruiting, but as a model to run your program. I'm sure Stoops has his own ideas about how to run his ship, but he need look no further than the Joe Craft Center for the archetype of what a successful sports program looks like. I have no doubt that he is sincere when he says that the success of Kentucky basketball does "nothing but help" Kentucky football.
His comments regarding brother Bob Stoops, the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, were also instructive. Mark is extremely fortunate to be surrounded by success, both in his family and at the University of Kentucky. There is an old saying that success breeds success, and I'd go a bit further and saying that being around a lot of successful people in your chosen career can do nothing but help. Stoops is more fortunate than many young coordinators promoted to the top job because of the success in this same field of endeavor in both his family, and around him at UK.
Stoops talked about the fact that Kentucky has some quality players returning on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the defensive line and linebacking corps. Not only does that help him as a defense-oriented coach, but it puts Kentucky in a position to succeed in the fall if the defense can give the offense a chance to be competitive. Kentucky figures to be light in the offensive skill positions next year, and the loss of Josh Clemons to an Achilles tendon injury exacerbates that shortcoming. A strong defense will help mitigate the need for the offense to score on every possession.
Finally, Stoops' comments about recruiting really encourage me. There's no need to give them a song and dance, and honesty is exactly the right policy for this program. Kentucky cannot hide it's lack of on-the-field success in recent years, and incoming players aren't going to be fooled into believing that the Wildcats can come from SEC cellar-dwellers into SEC East contenders in just one or two years of slightly better-than-average recruiting for an SEC team. Almost every team in the SEC is at or near the top of the nation in recruiting on an annual basis. Making Kentucky into a competitive program in this league is a long-term proposition.
Overall, I thought Coach Stoops' appearance was very successful. It will do nothing to dampen the buzz around the program here in the Commonwealth, that's for sure. Now, it's up to Stoops to demonstrate on the field that his talk is not just talk. That's always the tough part.
Bonus video. Donte talks about his first meeting with Coach Stoops. [a2d2]