The Kentucky Wildcats had another successful National Signing Day today under Mark Stoops, who just completed 10th season as the head man in Lexington.
Of course, there are still more moves to be made for UK, but Stoops could only comment on who has already signed their National Letter of Intent today, and you can see a list of them here.
Now, here is a recap of what Mark Stoops said at his Signing Day press conference, courtesy of UK Athletics.
MARK STOOPS: Thanks for being here. Very excited about this class. We literally got our one more signature in, Jayvant Brown, linebacker. Highly recruited guy, inside backer that we felt we really hit another area of need. Very happy. I don’t think you have Jayvant’s information in front of you.
I think that makes 22 for us at this point with this class. Do anticipate continuing to work throughout the day to try to get a couple more, maybe the next couple days. We may have a couple more announcements with some good news. Also we’ll continue to recruit after the new year with the January recruiting period.
22 in the boat right now. That includes six transfers, 16 high school players, nine on offense, seven on offense, six in-state players, if you count the two transfers that are coming back. Happy about that.
Really pleased with the way we finished. Obviously with being able to announce some of it last night, you see the additions of some of the transfers that added to this really strong class.
If you look at us through this year, some people may have been a little concerned. I really wasn’t. We were working hard to try to finish as strong as we could. We don’t always look at that, but if you look at average star ranking, we’re really pretty high, pretty strong, top 20 nationally (going into Signing Day). We just were needing to address specific areas in the transfer portal and wanted to make sure we had room for some of that.
It always starts with the high school guys. Very pleased with the 16 players that we signed. Really feel like we hit all areas of need, some big, strong guys, physical guys on the offensive line. Three more great playmakers at the wide receiver position. Another talented tight end. Really hit some areas of needs out of high school on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively much the same. Just feel very good with the players that we signed. We went really all over the place, signed from Alabama, Ray Davis, Ray from California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Tennessee. Feel like our staff did a good job finishing extremely strong.
It’s a very hectic time as you all can imagine. We’ve touched on it briefly. Meeting with your players, getting ready for bowl games, re-recruiting or retaining the team that you have, getting the additions we got this morning, then continuing to recruit.
Had practice this morning. The players have a little bit of a well-deserved break coming up starting this afternoon.
I’ll be glad to answer any questions about specific players. Again, I know our Kentucky football team got better today with the addition of the nucleus of our guys from high school and obviously the transfers. Really headlined by Devin Leary, a guy that was highly sought after. Anybody that was in the quarterback market, I mean anybody and everybody that was in the quarterback market, was after him. We really feel like we hit a home run with him.
Again, I told you, I feel confident with the quarterbacks that we have on campus, but this gives you a one-year transfer free agent, if you will, to come in for a year and really bridge that gap, let our guys continue to grow. The quarterbacks we have on campus, I’m excited to watch them play in this game. They really worked hard, are doing some good things. I’m excited to watch them.
With Devin, it brings in a proven guy with a lot of snaps under his belt with the play-makers that we have in place. It’s a really big get for us. Obviously hit some areas of need with offensive line in the transfer portal that was really important for us. The running back gives us another guy that kind of fits our mold of running backs in Ray. That was really good.
Of course, defensive backs, we needed some corners, really feel like we hit some home runs there, as well.
Glad to open it up for questions.
Q. Both (Devin) Leary and (Marques) Cox ended the season with injuries. Do you anticipate they’ll be able to participate in spring practice?
MARK STOOPS: I do. To what extent or how much they’ll go, we’ll see. But, yes, they will be cleared.
Q. (Question about offensive coordinator’s impact on Devin Leary.)
MARK STOOPS: We’ll keep that. That’s very creative (laughter). You know better than that. I think you know me a little better than that. But it was a good try.
I think you know what direction I want to be and the clarity I want to have at the right moment. I mean, we’ll have that. I believe the transfers know very clearly what direction I want to go, where we’re going to go with this offense.
Q. Now that you’ve gotten to this point, has juggling the transfer portal along with the recruiting trail been as hectic as you expected?
MARK STOOPS: It’s extremely challenging, to say the least. I don’t know, I don’t have all the answers. But this (current recruiting/transfer schedule) right here is not sustainable. It’s clearly not.
I think any and all head coaches will say that in some form or fashion. So we’ll see where it goes. I mean, hopefully we’ll all get together and find some common ground and some ways to help everybody that’s involved.
Q. You had a lot of success with Will (Levis) coming from the portal. A lot of people are going to want to compare Devin and Will. How do they compare, how are they different?
MARK STOOPS: You know as well, it’s really not fair to compare people. You have two talented players, two very good players. Different situations the way they came in.
With Will coming, primarily used as a running quarterback, not really seeing him throw that much. Will came in and really proved himself that first year.
With Devin, he has quite a few more snaps on tape. Much different in that aspect. Devin has clearly more experience and more snaps under his belt. They’re already different in that area.
They’re both very good players, very talented in their own right. That’s all I can say at this point.
Q. The high school guys, you were able to bring in some wide receivers to help. The freshmen made some impact this year. Do you anticipate any of these guys you’re bringing in to make an impact?
MARK STOOPS: I do. I feel like some of the guys we had that redshirted this year, we’re going to play them in this game. Jordan Anthony, Brandon White, it will be good to see those guys play a little bit. Obviously Dekel (Crowdus) has been coming on. We had some guys that are ready to make the next step, but we definitely needed some depth.
These are the type of high school receivers that definitely could come in and play.
Q. We talked with your new running back coach the other day. How important was it when recruiting these transfers, high school kids, to bring him in when you did?
MARK STOOPS: I wanted to bring him (Jay Boulware) in when I did. Another reason I wanted to lock him down, I wanted to get him. He really stepped in. You could see how charismatic and how good of a recruiter he is, just with the visits I’ve had with him. He’s done a really good job.
Q. You referred to the border-to-border aspect with the players. Does that speak to I guess the new status of UK football or just a coincidence?
MARK STOOPS: It is what it is. I think you know, we’ve talked about it, from where we’re located I try to base within a six-hour radius of here, but our footprint expands a little bit. We’ve gotten some exposure the last three, four, five years. We’re able to reach more places.
We’re in one of those geographic areas that you have to go in a lot of different areas.
Q. With Ray Davis, how important was it to get him, a power back, bigger back?
MARK STOOPS: It’s definitely important. You look at Ray, he kind of fits that mold of what we’ve been, how you need to have that tough, strong, physical guy. But we also wanted some dynamic play-makers, as well.
We’re still working at that position and hopefully sign a very explosive, dynamic high school guy as well. We’ll work that for more time.
But it was very important with Ray. I think he’s another guy that obviously did very well against us. He’s a proven player in the SEC. It’s been a great addition. He’s got a very charismatic personality, very strong man on and off the field. We’re grateful to have him.
Q. What did you see from Cox when you played him (vs. Northern Illinois)?
MARK STOOPS: Just a big, athletic guy. Again, arguably one of the very talented tackles in there. We know we needed a tackle. I think that was a real important get for us. You saw length, you saw athleticism. Another great addition.
Q. What do you like about (defensive backs, Avery) Stuart and (Jaremiah) Anglin coming in?
MARK STOOPS: I think they’re both good football players, versatile guys. I like guys that are versatile, intelligent. They have length, they have speed. I think they both bring a lot of versatility.
Q. You hadn’t been to south Florida since Eddie (Gran). What is the thinking there?
MARK STOOPS: I just felt like we needed to get back in there. We had success, as you know, early on in that. Without trying to say anything negative about it, but maybe a few guys didn’t work out. We kind of got away from it for a minute.
With Mike (Stoops) coming onboard, he got stretched out. He went all the way from the west side, trying to cover the whole state. That’s pretty hard to do. But he got in front of a lot of people. Getting a guy out of St. Thomas (High School), out of south Florida, is very important, especially a very talented player, a guy that we needed.
I think it was really good for us to get back in there. You know the athletes that you can get out of Florida. The thing about Florida players is there’s so many of them, a lot of them are going to travel.
Q. Khamari Anderson, what are your impressions of him? You lost an assistant from Detroit, yet you were still able to get a good player out of Detroit.
MARK STOOPS: I think it’s important to keep that pipeline going. Very happy with Khamari. Very athletic guy, a big-time tight end. We’re excited to get him.
Q. Back to the secondary, Jantzen Dunn. Will you play him at corner or do you want him to start him at safety?
MARK STOOPS: The plan is to play him at corner right now. I think that’s where we have an area of need. He’s a guy with very good top-end speed and length. Again, he’s a guy that’s versatile, though.
Q. The secondary, the way the game is played now, you can’t have enough guys...
MARK STOOPS: You look at certain teams, you look at some teams in our league. You have to be able to match up with some of that speed, guys that are spreading you out, putting stress on you to win one-on-ones. Yes, I think it’s very important to continue to build the secondary.
Q. You talked about filling needs in the transfer portal. Have you addressed those needs or are you looking for a few more guys?
MARK STOOPS: I think we did a pretty solid job of what we were aiming for in the portal. I feel pretty good about that. It’s not to say you don’t want to take more (smiling).
Q. What are your expectations for Tanner Bowles?
MARK STOOPS: Again, a guy with experience, that’s been in a great program, from in-state. It’s a big, strong guy. He’s excited to come back home and play. We welcome him back and are excited about bringing him in.
Again, I think he kind of fits what we’ve been, a physical, tough guy. Again, he’s been coached well, been in that program. We’re excited.
Q. Do you envision him as a guard?
MARK STOOPS: We do, yes.
Q. (Question about Shamar Porter.)
MARK STOOPS: It’s a good point. Shamar has been so solid with us. There’s no drama. Sometimes gets lost in the media drama. But Shamar is a great young man, great family. Extremely solid. Been so solid with us. He can play at so many different places.
Again, big, strong, serious player. Anticipate he’s the type of young man that can come in and have an impact early.
Q. You had three freshmen this year getting recognition. How does that help you on the recruiting trail when you have kids that are doing so well?
MARK STOOPS: You never know how that’s going to go. You covered it long enough to know that we used to have to play freshmen because we didn’t have guys that could play. Now you have guys that are coming in that are too good to keep off the field.
Again, the truth is you’re recruiting somebody, it proves to them if you’re the best player, you’re going to play. We have to do that. The competition’s open. If guys are confident enough in themselves, know that they can come in and compete, it shows and proves to them if they’re the best player, they’re going to be on the field and they’re going to play.
Q. Turnover at linebacker this off-season. Talk about Grant (Godfrey).
MARK STOOPS: Grant is another guy you take for granted because, again, unbelievable family, so solid. Been so solid to us, you so appreciate these guys. They’ve all been that way. There’s been very little drama in this class. I appreciate all of that. They’ve been very loyal to us, very strong.
Grant is such a good football player, great length, great upside. Again, he’s a guy you definitely see at outside backer, but certainly could probably play inside as well. We’ve had some of those guys, Jamin Davis had that kind of length, played outside, inside. Very talented player. Just a strong young man, great addition.
Q. There were some coaches coming in trying to get Nasir Addison late in the process. He’s not ranked very high. Where do you see him?
MARK STOOPS: I’m very excited about him. Just great length, very strong, competitor, versatile. I love guys that can play receiver. If you’re going to coach corners, you’d want them to be able to catch and run. Nasir is versatile, length, very good top end (speed). I like how competitive he is.
Q. (question about Malachi Wood)
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, just great length, great talent, very good player. Just a guy that you want to come in and develop.
Q. What did Ty Bryant get out of the extra year?
MARK STOOPS: Confidence, size. He looks really good out there, really comfortable just watching him in the state championship game, watching the way he moves around. He’s playing in a state championship game here. I think the confidence. He belongs. I think he’ll come right in here and it won’t be a big transition for him.
Q. Tommy Ziesmer is not as tall as some of the defensive linemen as you recruit. What do you like about him?
MARK STOOPS: What we like about him, the thing that jumps off the tape is how active he is, how hard he plays. He just has that knack for making plays.
I think you could overcome that. I think we have a good balance. I think it’s very clear that we want some length, but that doesn’t mean that’s the end-all, be-all. When you have a player like him that can make plays, be as active as him, there’s a good mixture.
Q. You said earlier players now know more of what you’re about than earlier on. Does that change what you look for in a player? Any different now than it was when you first got here?
MARK STOOPS: I think clearly if you think the talent threshold, it always has to be what we want it to be to go into the SEC. As we keep on competing, building the program, I think maybe that talent threshold we try to keep on elevating. I believe we’ve done that.
You look at classes, and you put it together. When it’s all said and done, if you get some impact guys like we did a year ago, it’s not always the highly ranked guys, but when you get some impact guys out of that, that’s how you build a program, just stacking it.
With this portal, it is a different world right now. You’re going to lose some, you’re going to gain some, but it helps you address specific needs. Again, we’re very confident that we hit on some areas of some proven players that we needed some help.
Q. (Question regarding recruiting area for Jay Boulware.)
MARK STOOPS: I’m not prepared to answer that right now. I’m going to contradict myself on that. Quite honestly, been overwhelmed. But we’ll look.
Jay is a guy that can go a lot of different places. He’s a seasoned vet that can adapt and recruit anywhere.
Q. Koby Keenum, how good was it to hold onto him?
MARK STOOPS: I was very excited about Koby and keeping him. A lot of people, you get down there into the deep south, things happen. A lot of people were coming after him.
Really appreciate the loyalty he has shown in sticking with us because it was an area of need. Again, it fits that mentality that we want, continue to get back to being a very physical offensive line. He certainly fits that mold.
Q. (regarding does Keenum remind you of Logan Stenberg, who is now with the Detroit Lions)
MARK STOOPS: I hope so. I do, yeah (smiling). I know they wear boots and they like to hunt, so...
Q. Yesterday Vince (Marrow) said he felt sorry for you because you were being pulled in so many different directions, in-home visits. What is that process like for you?
MARK STOOPS: It’s not the holiday that you guys are having (laughter). But that’s okay. It is what it is.
It’s a busy time. Very hectic from the end of the year to right now, to today. Very busy time. Looking forward to being off, spend some time with my kids.
But having the surgery really didn’t help. If you see me out of the sling, don’t tell Doc (Darren) Johnson. He’d be pissed. That didn’t help.
It’s a busy time for everybody. I think that needs to be readdressed. I was all for early signing period. I still like it in some ways. But I think with the portal, bowl games, managing your roster and everything, there’s a lot of things we need to address, kind of get on the same page because it’s kind of chaotic there for a while.
Q. Meaning the calendar?
MARK STOOPS: All the coaches, whether it’s Power Five, the calendar, looking at how everything falls. Or adjust it. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I’m holding onto my own you know what (smiling).
Q: Rich Brooks was a big proponent of the early signing period
Things are adjusting. Things are changing. I was voting for the early signing period. Now this month is so crazy, I don’t know. I think we just got to get together and have some great leadership and some discussions about how to improve this process.
Q. Do you get the sense other coaches feel the same way?
MARK STOOPS: I think a lot. I can’t speak for anybody. I know there’s many coaches that I talked to, yes, that feel the same.
Q. Looks like you’re going to have seven high school guys coming in early. We saw guys really benefit from that in the past. How much does it help these guys coming in early?
MARK STOOPS: I think it very much does. However, a couple things. I think over time I’m in favor of that now. You know what I mean? I think these kids are very mature. We have systems in place. We keep an eye on them. They get ahead in school.
For us, the transition, it’s a much easier transition in the spring than it is in the fall. It’s extremely difficult in the fall. Even if they come in the spring, doesn’t mean the fall is going to be easy for them. The first fall they go through is difficult, challenging, no matter where you’re at.
As far as playing time, I think we’ve proven even if they come in in the summer, if they’re good enough, can have the impact, they’ll work their way on the field.
I think it helps. It benefits them in a lot of ways. It certainly helps us, our depth, getting them ready. A guy like Dane (Key), the impact he had. Then you look at Barion (Brown) on the other side, he didn’t come in. Both had a great impact. One came in the spring, one came in the summer.
Q. Jeff Brohm came in late (in the recruiting period) to Louisville. Does it change that dynamic in recruiting you think at all?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, definitely. Jeff, as I said in one brief conference or call I had, they asked about it. I said it’s kind of tough because I like Jeff (laughter). Not that I didn’t like Coach (Scott) Satterfield. I just didn’t know him very well.
Coach Brohm, he’ll do a really good job. Great connections to the state, strong impact in Louisville. He’s a good coach and a good person. They’ll do very well. We’ll continue to battle with them and everyone else.
Q. (Question about transfer quarterbacks.)
MARK STOOPS: We had a lot of guys interested. A couple things. I think, number one, with Devin having one year, it kind of shows to the quarterbacks that you have on campus that we believe in you, that you’re going to have a bright future.
With Devin, I think you know what the quarterback position is, splitting hairs, whether it’s your system, what’s going on. There’s some very talented guys out there. We were fortunate that so many were interested in us.
For myself even, that gets to be a little bit of an awkward situation because I have such respect for those guys. There’s so many really good players, really high interest in us. You had to juggle that.
As I hope you all feel, I really try to be very honest and transparent with everybody. That gets tough in that situation, in that free agency, if you will.
Q. What was the feeling like when you did answer that big question you found out Leary was coming here?
MARK STOOPS: How did it feel, did you say?
MARK STOOPS: It felt really good. I felt relieved. We felt confident that he was high on us, but he still had another visit to make. He was very strong. He was very much, as I’ve mentioned about different guys before, like Josh, very much like what he said he did, the process he went through was he followed through to a T. Very thorough. I respect that. I like the way he went through it. He wanted to go on the visit, wanted to go home, wanted to sit down and look his parents in the eye, have a conversation, then call me. That’s exactly what he did.
I always have great appreciation for people as detailed and thorough, very much process-orientated as he is. He’s already on football. He’s getting after it. He’s the type of guy you’re looking for.
Q. The characteristics you’re looking for, new quarterback, do you see Devin potentially coming over and becoming a leader for you pretty early?
MARK STOOPS: I think you could see that. You could see that happening very easily. Much like Will, authentic. Not forced. He’s one of those guys, he’s a dude. He’s one of the guys. Very much you could see him being a great fit. It happens easily.
I appreciate our football team because they’ve always been very accepting. It’s a new world now. I think we all understand with the portal, rosters change much more dramatically than they have in the past.
I think our team has always been that way, going all the way back to Courtney (Love) becoming a captain after a short amount of time in transferring in. I think our team is very good that way.
I appreciate our team, again, the way they handle things and accept guys coming in. They know there’s going to be great competition, but they want our team better. They do a good job of that transition with transfers.
Q. Once you get a recruit on campus, when he’s still thinking about it, who are the guys you like to put them with, current players, ambassadors?
MARK STOOPS: There’s a variety of guys honestly. I’d hate to single out some of them. We have a lot. That’s what I was just complimenting our team, there’s a lot of really good guys.
I’ve talked about that a lot, but I love and appreciate our team, the culture we have. We’re not perfect. There’s some things I’d like to do better this year, recommit to certain things, if you will. There’s things we all got to do.
But I appreciate ‘em. They’re locked in. They’ve been very good with this. This gets to be a little bit of a difficult time. They’re ready for a break, too. They’ve been here a long time. They practice. Everybody leaves, all their friends leave, campus is empty, they’re sitting here practicing. They’ve been very good and very committed. I appreciate that from them. They’ll get a little break now that they deserve, then we got to get back down there and get refocused and compete to win a football game.
Any time you’re playing a game, I think Kenneth (Horsey) mentioned, all of our players, we’re there to compete, we’re there to win. We have a game to play. We’re not taking that game just to go show up down there. They don’t need any more gifts, they don’t need any more gear, shirts, T-shirts, sweats and shoes. Let’s go play to win.
Q. You mentioned waiting on a potential. Do you have any other wiggle room at other positions?
MARK STOOPS: Did I say that? I might have (laughter). I caught myself.
Q. Another position out there?
MARK STOOPS: There’s players out there. Can’t make that same mistake twice. There’s players out there that we’re looking to still reel in.
Thank you all. Happy holidays.