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Kentucky Wildcats Football: Mark Stoops still unsure on coaching changes

Lamar Thomas and Steve Clinkscale have contracts that expire in June.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It is inevitable that there will be at least one new coach on Kentucky’s staff next year due to a new rule, but will any of the current coaches be replaced?

Stoops said he isn’t sure right now.

“I really don’t even have time to even get into that right now, but I do feel good an appreciate our staff,” Stoops said. “Change is inevitable in certain ways within the turnover of our roster and coaches may get other opportunities and move on, so we’ll see what happens and work our way through that as time goes here.”

One potential candidate for change, defensive coordinator Matt House, has already been reported to be secure in his job, but House sounds like he will be coming back next year based on reports.

Assistants on each side of the ball have contracts that expire in June, which could potentially factor in.

Among those are defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale and wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas.

Clinkscale has drawn some criticism from the fanbase due to the secondary seeming to regress this season. With potentially three guys that could play in the NFL in the secondary, that position group was expected to be the strength of the defense—and really the team as a whole—going into the season, but the secondary struggled for the majority of the season, especially down the stretch.

Obviously the secondary isn’t all to blame. A better pass rush certainly makes a defensive back’s job much easier. However, Kentucky gave up the 18th most passing yards per game at 263.5 according to ESPN this season. Opposing quarterbacks also had a 63.5 percent completion percentage against the Wildcats, the 13th highest mark nationwide.

Does that all fall on Clinkscale? Certainly not. But questions have to be asked after a secondary that has looked very promising seemed to struggle greatly, especially on the back half of the season.

Stoops will also have to look at Clinkscale in terms of recruiting, where he has made arguably his biggest impact. According to 247 Sports Derek Terry, Clinkscale was the lead recruiter on five of Kentucky’s commits for the class, including the top commit in the class, 4-star OL Marquan McCall.

Clinkscale has shown to be a solid asset on the recruiting trail, but something has to change with the secondary on-the-field to justify keeping his job.

On the other hand, Lamar Thomas also has a contract expiring in June.

The Kentucky receivers coach drew some negative responses for his actions (or lack thereof) during the Louisville brawl. We won’t get into all of that, but to me, Thomas seems like a guy Kentucky should keep on staff.

The receivers were solid for the most part of the year. They didn’t set the world on fire, but I felt like they were better than in years prior. It’s hard to see Stoops letting go of Thomas unless he decides to leave for another job. Other than that, expect to see Thomas on the Wildcats sideline next season.

All the other current assistants have contracts that extend through next season.

As for the new coach, Stoops isn’t providing a ton on who that might be, except that it will be a defensive coach.

“We have four and a half (coaches) on defense, and my time gets split with head coaching duties,” Stoops said. “I think in this day and age with the difficulties of defending such multiple offenses and the challenge of all that it just makes sense for me to hire a defensive guy. I think in this hire that person will be obviously responsible for managing his players and will contribute schematically and obviously handling his position.”

There have been several names floated for the 10th assistant. Bret Bielema is a defensive guy that has a history with Stoops. Could Kentucky be his bounce back job after being let go at Arkansas? Bo Pelini’s name seems to come up every year; he could be a fit to join the staff. Randy Shannon maybe?

Maybe Stoops goes outside the box and reaches out to Ed Reed again. It isn’t the most likely scenario, but why not give it a try, especially when talking about the aforementioned secondary problems?

However he approaches it, it sounds like Stoops is going to be careful with the hire and wait for the right guy that he feels meshes with the current staff and can help out on the defensive side of the ball.