These past 10 years in Kentucky Football history have been nothing short of transformative.
At the beginning of the decade, it was a disaster. After Rich Brooks left the program and Joker Phillips took over, it seemed like things were only getting worse. Recruiting went down and so did the level of play.
Joker took Kentucky from a consistent bowl-appearance team to a 2-10 finish in his 3rd and final year. He ended his career with a record of 13-24, seemingly running the program into the ground.
A year later, insert Mark Stoops and hope starts to creep back into the Kentucky faithful. While his first season did end in a 2-10 record, everyone knew that it would be a work in progress.
What really changed things for Stoop’s and Co. was recruiting. He has managed to improve Kentucky’s ranking nearly every season and has now made Kentucky a desirable spot for recruits while at the same time developing lower-ranked recruits into high tier NFL draft picks. He is now on pace to have the best recruiting class Kentucky has ever seen coming in 2020.
It’s been great to see the program and Stoops improve in drastic ways since the Joker era. With all that being said, the SEC is a different animal when it comes to recruiting.
Rivals just came out with a ranking of the SEC recruiting efforts over the past decade, and Kentucky was near the bottom. Here are the rankings in full, next to each team is their average recruiting class ranking:
- Alabama Crimson Tide (2.2)
- Georgia Bulldogs (7.1)
- LSU Tigers (7.6)
- Auburn Tigers (9.2)
- Florida Gators (10.0)
- Tennessee Volunteers (13.2)
- Texas A&M Aggies (13.5)
- South Carolina Gamecocks (18.9)
- Ole Miss Rebels (21.9)
- Mississippi St. Bulldogs (30.1)
- Arkansas Razorbacks (32.3)
- Kentucky Wildcats (36.9)
- Missouri Tigers (37.1)
- Vanderbilt Commodores (48.4)
Here’s what Rivals had to say about Kentucky:
“The skinny: After finishing at No. 50, 61 and 63 to start this decade, the Wildcats have seen their recruiting improve significantly over the last seven classes. With an average class of 27.9 during this time, it is not surprising that the product on the field has also improved. Overall, the Wildcats have done a better building up lesser known recruits, like Bud Dupree, Benny Snell and most notably Josh Allen.”
“Farrell’s take: There were some bleak classes at the beginning of the decade, but Mark Stoops has done a really good job recently and the results have shown on the field for the most part. He’s hit the Southeast well and done a solid job of keeping Midwest kids interested, especially in Ohio.”
Now, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the SEC has always been the premier league for national recruits. And it is important to note that Kentucky’s numbers have improved immensely since Mark Stoops got here.
The biggest question that remains is this: Can Mark Stoops and Kentucky keep this momentum going? It has definitely been a great run, but as you can see from above, it’s going to take a lot more from this team to compete with the best of the best and have sustained success.
Only time will tell, but you have to be happy with what we’ve seen from this program to this point.