Since his hiring as the new coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, Mark Stoops has generated quite a bit of excitement among the Big Blue Nation. That excitement carried over to the recruiting trail last week, as Stoops signed the highest-rated class in Kentucky football history.
Stoops signed seven players who were given four stars by at least one recruiting service. Compare that with the recruiting of departed coach Joker Phillips, who signed only six four-star recruits in three years at the helm in Lexington.
Stoops, the former defensive coordinator for the Florida State Seminoles, used his reputation as a developer of defensive talent to lure Louisville Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher away from the USC Trojans, and getting him to sign with Kentucky. Hatcher is regarded as one of the top 10-14 defensive ends in the class of 2013.
Stoops also got Za’Darius Smith, the nation’s top junior college strongside defensive end, to commit to the ‘Cats as well.
The other coup for Stoops’ first staff was getting a highly-rated Kentucky product, wide receiver/athlete Ryan Timmons from nearby Franklin County High School. Timmons was recruited by the Ohio State Buckeyes, Louisville Cardinals and many other big-name programs. He narrowed his choice to Kentucky and the Florida Gators, where Phillips is now the wide receivers coach.
It was the hiring of Neal Brown as offensive coordinator that moved Timmons into Kentucky’s corner. Brown, known for his high-powered offense with the Texas Tech Red Raiders the last few seasons, sold Timmons on the passing offense, as well as the ability to play right away.
The Rivals.com recruiting service ranked Kentucky’s class as the 28th-best in the country, although the class was 13th out of 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference. However, the No. 28 ranking is the highest ever for any Kentucky recruiting class.
Stoops was hired just 66 days before signing day, and he was hired to coach a program with virtually no momentum. He has been able to change the mindset and perception of the program in a short amount of time and before ever coaching a game. Stoops will need to continue that, if not improve on it, for the Wildcats to compete in the brutal SEC.