Mark Stoops and his new staff have made quick waves in the recruiting world, signing a pair of highly regarded junior college players, getting in the door with several prominent homegrown stars and creating a buzz Kentucky football typically lacks on the recruiting trail.
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There is little doubt Kentucky must improve its roster if it hopes of getting back to a bowl game in short order, but one of the most difficult transitions for any new coach is assessing what he has in his own locker room before laying out a recruiting plan. In taking over a team that went 2-10 in 2012 Stoops needed to gain a relatively clear picture of what the Wildcats had with little time to do so.
Enter Kyle Krantz, Steven Montalvo, Tyler Sargent and Andre' Woodson. The four graduate assistants went to work, putting together videos of every player on Kentucky's roster for Stoops and his staff to quickly evaluate. The process wasn't easy but it was invaluable.
“It was challenging,” Stoops said. “The graduate assistants that were here broke down film and got anything. It could’ve been practice, could’ve been scrimmages, could’ve been games and they made cut ups of each particular person and each position, so then we went through as a staff and got a little feel for what we have and what we need. The coaching staff past and present, the new guys and the old guys working on that together and we really hammered that out.”
Stoops wouldn't go into detail about what he saw on those tapes but did acknowledge Kentucky's roster needs work if it wants to compete in the Southeastern Conference. A look at the projected returning roster suggests UK may need immediate help at tight end, offensive line and wide receiver.
“Like I said, in my initial presser was I believe we need to get bigger and stronger and I think we’re going to address that situation and get a little better physical presence,” Stoops said. “You know, we need to get in the weight room and gotta develop the guys we have and we need to get more recruits with more size. We need speed. You hear that all the time: size and speed, but it’s true.
“We need to get some more skill positions and get bigger up front. You know that. Every school will tell you the same thing. There isn’t a coach in America that wouldn’t want good big guys and get some fast, talented skill. We need it all, just like everybody. There’s an opportunity here. I believe some great players are out there and know there’s an opportunity.”
The other factor Stoops must weigh is how the prep players who committed to Joker Phillips' staff fit into the equation. The first-year head coach said he reached out to those 14 recruits and encouraged several of them to explore their options.
“We’ve talked to some of them about possibly letting them go look at some other schools,” Stoops said. “It would probably be in their best interest to look at some other schools, just system-wise. Everybody completely understood that.
“I don’t think, either side, you want a player that you’re going to sign and then come in here and be unhappy if he doesn’t fit the system and then have to sit out for four or five years. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do to those players.”
With just six weeks remaining before National Signing Day much remains to be worked out for Stoops and his staff.