There are plenty of good vibes at the Joe Craft Football Facility as the Kentucky Wildcats begin spring practice on the heels of another historic 10-win season with high hopes of breaking the glass ceiling next fall in the SEC East.
The early buzz picked up again this past week after Bruce Feldman of The Athletic ranked his Top 25 college football coaches, with UK coach Mark Stoops coming in at No. 15 behind fellow SEC coaches Nick Saban, Alabama (1), Kirby Smart, Georgia (3), Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M (7) and two spots ahead of Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss (17).
In his eight seasons at Kentucky, Stoops has run off an impressive list of accomplishments that includes three consecutive bowl game victories, the first 10-win season since 1977, and the first Kentucky coach to win SEC Coach of the Year since 1983. The Youngstown, Ohio, native also snapped two significant losing streaks, beating Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 1984 and winning at Florida for the first time since 1986.
The next mountain to climb for Stoops and the Wildcats will be beating fellow SEC East foe Georgia, who beat Alabama 33-18 to win this year’s national title. Stoops has never beat the Bulldogs, who are on a 12-game winning streak with Kentucky last winning in 2009.
Feldman had this to say about Stoops:
“A terrific developer of talent, he’s made some really smart hires, especially bringing in offensive coordinator Liam Coen from the Los Angeles Rams, if only for a season. It helped produce a 10-3 season and No. 15 ranking in the Coaches Poll. Stoops has won double-digit games in two of the past four seasons and is 33-17 the past four years. He’s thriving at a place that had won more than eight games only four times in the previous 100-plus years.”
Considered one of the “good guys” in the coaching profession, Stoops recently turned to the NFL ranks again to bring in new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and offensive line coach Zach Yenser from the San Francisco 49ers to build upon a much-improved Kentucky offense in 2021.
“It just happened to be the right head coach and the right situation that fit perfectly for where I was at my point in my career,” said Scangarello in his introductory press conference. “I just aligned with where Coach Stoops is, for what he’s looking for out of his offense, what he believes at the core, what I had heard (about) the kind of man he was to work for, the situation, and it seemed like a good fit.”
Scangarello, of the NFL’s top quarterback coaches, served as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2019 and replaces Liam Coen who returned to the NFL after just one season to serve as offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
The ability to pull some of the top NFL coaches has not only elevated Kentucky’s offense, but has also opened the floodgates to attracting many of the nation’s top receivers and quarterbacks, a game-changer for Stoops and his staff on the recruiting trail.
Fans can get a preview of the new offense Saturday, April 9th as the annual Blue-White Spring Game returns to Kroger Field at 1 pm ET. Admission is free.