Since his hiring as head coach in December, Mark Stoops has taken the excitement level around the Kentucky Wildcats to an all-time high. Stoops has changed the mentality of the program, from recruiting to nutrition to general attitude.
And while all of this is great, and keeps the fan base excited, it will mean little if Stoops’ Troops are not able to produce on the field.
The real question is – can Kentucky consistently compete in the Southeastern Conference?
The immediate answer is no. Kentucky has very little history of success in the mighty SEC. The Big Blue last claimed a share of the conference title in 1976. And, Kentucky faces powerhouse teams within its own division. How likely is it that the Wildcats could overtake the Florida Gators, the Georgia Bulldogs, the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Tennessee Volunteers in one year?
That being said, Kentucky has never seen some of the things that Stoops brings to the table. Stoops has a defensive background, something not seen on the UK sidelines in many years. Stoops and his staff have also done an incredible job on the recruiting front. The 2013 recruiting class was the best ever at Kentucky, ranked 36th nationally by Rivals.com. The 2014 class is shaping up to be even better. As of Thursday, UK ranked third nationally (yes, nationally) in football recruiting.
While Kentucky will certainly have an uphill climb to be competitive in the powerful SEC East, the job that Stoops and his staff have done is certainly building a foundation that could produce success in the future. Only time will tell if these recruits sign with UK and/or become solid players in blue, but it appears that the Kentucky program is headed in the right direction, toward competitiveness in the SEC.