The Kentucky football program has never been what you would consider an SEC powerhouse over the last few decades. The Wildcats haven’t won an SEC Championship since 1976 and experienced their only National Championship victory under then-head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in 1950.
However, there is a great deal of optimism amongst the fan base since the hire of new head coach Mark Stoops. Stoops has never served as a head coach, but has worked as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator with many major programs, including his previous tenure with Florida State.
Stoops has already left a serious impact on the recruiting trail as he currently has the No. 4 overall recruiting team according to Rivals.com. The Wildcats have uncharacteristically made an early splash with commitments from three 4-star players and a total of 23 prospects.
Historically, Kentucky has had little success when compared to their SEC counterparts. The expectations in Lexington are rarely high when it comes to the gridiron, as football is typically overshadowed by one of the most dominant basketball programs in NCAA history.
This will benefit Stoops as he has less pressure to succeed early. Kentucky fans may have an increased amount of optimism, but expectations surely aren’t unrealistically high.
Stoops will have a window of opportunity to develop his program into a winner if he can, in fact, keep the momentum of a strong recruiting class and change the identity of Kentucky football. Similar to James Franklin at Vanderbilt, Stoops could use the the SEC and trying to change the history of the program as selling points to recruits.
It would be hard to argue that Stoops will turn Kentucky into a dominant SEC program right away. However, he has already made great improvements to the usually disappointing program in his short amount of time as their head coach.