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Football Season Coverage

Spring Practice Position Competitions: Quarterback

Eddie Gran will face the challenging task of selecting and developing a successor for one of the most charismatic and courageous leaders in recent Kentucky Football memory.

Stephen Johnson played in 24 games, started 20 and experienced a surprising yet effective two-year stint as the Wildcat’s starting quarterback. Johnson battled through injuries during his senior campaign which led to three surgeries to repair damage incurred during the 2017 season. He personified the “Go to Work” and “Don’t Flinch” persona that Stoops has stressed throughout his tenure in Lexington.

Stephen Johnson’s Statistics to be Replaced

  • Rushing: 200 carries, 702-yards, 8 touchdowns
  • Passing: 334/581, 23 TD’s, 12 INT’s, 4342-yards
  • Won 14 regular season games; lost 10 as the primary quarterback.

Rising senior Drew Barker also left from the program. The former 4-star’s initial intent was to play elsewhere as a grad-transfer but has since announced that he is giving up football to concentrate on completing his master’s degree.

The exoduses of Johnson and Barker leave QB coach Darin Hinshaw in a game-experience pickle. No matter the QB competition winner, his starter will sport exactly zero career passing attempts as a Kentucky Wildcat. Wide receiver Lynn Bowden is actually the team’s top returning passer. Spring practice will be the battleground for a quarterback competition that will have significant ramifications on the Cat’s 2018 win/loss record.

Potential Starters

Gunnar Hoak, 6’4, 210, RS Sophomore

Hoak has played extremely well in two consecutive spring games and has the upper-hand due to experience and understanding of the offense. He has the preferred disposition of a starting quarterback.

Strengths: Calmness and effectiveness in the pocket as well as schematic familiarity. Can make every throw required. Timing and anticipation have proven to be more than adequate. Blue collar worker. Quiet natured; but highly competitive.

Areas for Improvement: Hoak is well versed in Eddie Gran’s offense but has yet to take a game-snap. Time in the “Hot Seat” or as the starter during spring practice could define his 2018 role.

Terry Wilson, 6’3, 205, Sophomore (Transfer)

Wilson comes to Lexington with a nickname. I’m restraining from using that phrase until actual touchdowns are produced on the playing field. However, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow identified and signed the best available junior college quarterback that fits the system that Stephen Johnson led over the course of two seasons.

Strengths: Extremely high ceiling. Understands and executes the RPO at a high level. Did so in high school, at Oregon and junior college. Creator, can turn a negative play into a positive. On-field speed is faster than track-time. Quick release and can make all throws in the passing tree. A better passer than being given credit for by some analyst.

Areas for Improvement: Accuracy. However, prior completion ratios in the 50’ish percentile can be attributed to unfamiliarity with playbooks and teammates. He’ll be learning his third offense in three years as well as throwing to new receivers. Wilson must also learn the intricacies of Gran’s playbook as well as playing against elite defenders on a weekly basis.

Danny Clark, 6’2, 230, RS Freshman

Clark was originally committed to Ohio State before choosing Kentucky. All indications from the Joe Craft Football Training Center is that Clark is a team-guy that embraced his scout team role during the 2017 season. Superb attitude and work ethic. 

Strengths: A cannon for a left arm.

Areas for Improvement: Reps, reps, and more reps. Arm talent is there but the redshirt freshman must develop touch to go along with that Howitzer.

Walker Wood 6’0, 180, RS Freshman

Unfortunately, Wood has dealt with injuries since signing with the Cats. A hard worker, the Lafayette product has diligently labored to rehabilitate injuries in order to get in the QB competition fight.

Strengths: Get and stay healthy. 

Areas for Improvement: Same as Clark; reps, reps, more reps. Wood has taken less practice snaps than the other three due to injury. He must enter the race in order to have a chance to win the job. He’ll put in the work necessary to compete.

2018 Quarterback Competition Stabilizing Factors

 — Four of five starting offensive linemen return to include center Drake Jackson. Jackson’s improvement and development throughout the course of 2017 was a substantial occurrence for Eddie Gran. Jackson will assist the quarterbacks by directing his offensive line mates and easing protection/slide calls.

The “Jackson Factor” cannot be overstated. Plus, the OL will have a consistent carryover from 2017. In a QB race; the more stable other positions are the better. This is especially applicable to the offensive line.

— Tight end CJ Conrad returns for his senior campaign. The BBN has clamored for the All-SEC performer to be targeted more than in previous seasons. After re-watching all 13 games in the offseason it was obvious that opposing defenses were focused on bracketing the junior more so than rotating coverages toward any specific WR. This was a derivative from UK’s lack of yards after catch and presenting a true threat by the receiver position in total.

However, a TE of Conrad’s caliber can be a new quarterback’s best friend through simple, short-to-intermediate throws to gain confidence. But, the receivers must prove they can vertically stretch the field in order for Conrad’s increased role to become a reality.

— Benny Snell. Period. There’s nothing more gratifying for a new starting quarterback than having the ability to simply hand the football off to an All-SEC running back and watching him put in work. Snell is a star. A major, major concern for 2018 is RB depth behind Snell. We’ll address that situation in a future post as well as throughout spring practice and fall camp.

What does all this mean?

This offseason is critical for the Kentucky quarterbacks. Gaining teammates’ trust and respect are musts. That starts with organizing and leading voluntary passing drills which is more difficult than it may sound due to class schedules, willingness to participate, and so forth.

In addition to extra-work in the offseason; every drill-rep in the weight room and track are vital. Maximum effort is required from the four aforementioned signal callers. QB’s can’t expect the best from the other 10 if they’re not giving it their all in non-football activities. I’m not referencing “Rah Rah” BS. I’m talking straight up, old fashioned hard work. Anybody can talk the game; leadership is not a part-time job.

Spring practice throws, handoffs, checks, and runs will be scrutinized and analyzed from every imaginable angle. Other factors to consider are game management and the understanding to build upon playbook basics. A quarterback competition will make the offense better as there will be a heightened sense of urgency with every snap.

Who has the upper-hand? Right now, Gunnar Hoak (see above why). This spring is setting up to be the most fun to follow during the Mark Stoops era. A new starting quarterback brings excitement and anxiety to a fan base.

Michael Smith’s Message to UK’s Young Wide Receivers

New assistant coach Michael Smith is inheriting a wide receivers room that only features ten scholarship players. Four of them will be freshmen this fall.  Tavin Richardson and Dorian Baker will be the only players with more than a year of college experience.

“I like the challenge of being able to mold those guys. I look forward to it. I’ve had a bunch of young receivers in my career,” Smith said yesterday.  “You have to have patience. You have to understand that they are 17 and 18-year-old young men that are trying to find their way not only on the football field, but in life.”

Smith’s first task as their coach is simple: learn everybody’s name.  To integrate himself with the players, his first meeting was with Baker, a senior who returns for one final season after suffering a season-ending injury last summer.

“I brought him in and I picked is brain about what he thought about the receiving corps and the team because I want to help these guys chase their dreams individually, but I also want to help them realize that we have to do it as a team.”

Sometimes to best help this Kentucky team it doesn’t require the receivers to catch passes, thanks to Benny Snell.  Teaching young kids to be patient blockers is not easy, but Smith believes he can get everyone to buy in.

“The team comes first. We have to do what we have to do to win,” Smith said.  “When you’re running down the field to get open, what do you think Benny is back there doing for you guys? He’s blocking, trying to protect the quarterback so that you can have an opportunity to catch a pass, so it goes both ways and it’s a team sport.”

Smith does not need his young wide receivers to be heroes.  He needs them to do their job and do it to the best of their ability.

“I just want you to be the best you that you can be. I don’t need Superman. I need Dorian Baker to be the best Dorian Baker. I need Lynn Bowden to be the best Lynn Bowden he can be and so on and so forth. It goes from my top guy all the way to the bottom guy and again, I don’t want anyone to ever look at our position group or me as a coach as a weak link.”

The wide receivers’ work starts before Smith can do anything with them on a football field this spring.  It already looks like Bowden and Isaiah Epps are doing what he has to do to become the deep threat Kentucky needs in 2018.

A post shared by Terry Wilson (@terrytouchdown3) on

UK Football had the biggest home attendance increase in the SEC

UK Football had the biggest home attendance increase in the SEC

Here’s a surprising stat: Kentucky had the largest increase in home attendance in the SEC last season. According to Saturday Down South, the football Cats drew in over 2,800 more fans per game than they did in 2016, an increase of over five percent.

The most attended home game of the year? Florida, with almost 63,000 fans in the stands, followed by Tennessee and Missouri. I’d rather eat nails than relive the Florida game, so let’s look back on the win over Tennessee, a much happier time in Kroger Field:

Arkansas Athletics

Michael Smith’s Ties to the Stoops Family Run Deep

Arkansas Athletics

Kentucky’s new wide receivers coach will be working with familiar faces this fall.  Since he started playing college football, Michael Smith has had a close relationship with the Stoops family.

“I’ve known the Stoops family since I was 18 years old,” Smith said at today’s introductory press conference. “In 1989 Bob Stoops coached me at K-State…Mike and I worked together when I was at Kansas State.  And you asked about Mark Stoops, I played against Mark my freshman year when he was at Iowa and I was a freshman receiver at Kansas State.”

Unfortunately, Smith never got to go one-on-one vs. Mark.  “He was a deep safety. I was in the slot. He was way back. He didnt want to come up,” Smith laughed.  “I will say this — they beat the crap out of us that day.”

When Smith started playing for the Wildcats, he was a walk-on for one of the worst programs in all of college football.  He left Kansas State as one of the best to ever play wide receiver in the Big Eight for a program on the rise.  The resurrection of Kentucky’s program mirrors what Smith witnessed at Kansas State.

“I just think the job that Mark and the staff have done in getting these guys improved every year, I think that’s something you can build on.  As a player, I came from a program that was at the bottom of college football, so I’ve been trained that way, to get better everyday.  What Coach Stoops and the staff has done here is that.”  He added, “If you can get your team to do that and keep making progress each year, I think you’re heading in the right direction and that’s something I obviously wanted to be a part of.”

Smith has spent many years coaching with the Stoops family, but his biggest influence was Bill Snyder.  The Hall of Famer gave him his first job in 1995.  Smith spent the next 12 years working at his alma mater.

“Besides my dad, he’s the most influential man I’ve had in my life.  I owe everything I am as a football coach to Bill Snyder.”

Before Smith got into coaching, he spent a few years in the NFL.  One of his favorite teammates was the first to call him about the coaching vacancy at Kentucky, Vince Marrow.

“We were in Kansas City together.  Vince was a big man like he is now,” he said with a smile.  “We had a lot of fun when we were in Kansas City to gather.  He was actually one of my real good friends on the team.  When they traded him and let him go, I was a little upset, but it’s a business.  We’ve remained friends over the years and he was actually one of the guys that called and said, ‘Smitty, we want you over here.'”

Smith couldn’t be happier to be back with Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops.

“I got such great respect for their family and their story.  I’m excited to be here.  Mark and I got to work together in Arizona for two years. When this opportunity came open, I reached out to him and said I’d be very interested in becoming a Kentucky Wildcat.  We worked the thing out and I’m just ecstatic to be here.”

Talented Edge Rushers Convinced Brad White to Leave the NFL for Kentucky

For the last six years Brad White coached some of the NFL’s best pass rushers.  After working with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis with the Indianapolis Colts, the potential to create the league’s future stars was enough to lure him to Kentucky.

White did not have a long time to mull over the offer from Mark Stoops.  After talking with his wife, there was too much potential to turn down Kentucky.

“We felt this was the best move for us.  It had nothing to do with NFL vs. College, but this was an ascending program with a lot of talent there at the outside linebacker position,” White said. “That’s potential and we saw the potential, but now I have to come in and do my job and help those guys fulfill their potential and hopefully we can see those guys playing on Sunday down the line in the future.”

Josh Allen wasn’t the only person that stuck out on tape.  Denzil Ware, Josh Paschal, Jordan Wright and Boogie Watson give White plenty of talented depth to work with in Lexington.

“You want talented guys that can make plays.  If you’re afraid of that as a coach, if you’re afraid of setting the bar high in that regard, than you probably shouldn’t be in this conference.”

White had no previous working experience with Stoops, but he has plenty with Dean Hood.  Last year’s outside linebackers coach was White’s defensive coordinator at Wake Forest and gave him his first job as a graduate assistant.  He considers Hood to be a mentor.

White’s relationship with Hood should make the transition easy for the edge rushers; he’s just adding a little bit of nuance that he learned in the NFL.  That experience gives White credibility not every new coach has.

“They have to understand they have to be dominant every week on every snap on every play.  Technique’s not just a one or two down deal.  You’ve gotta be technically sound.  You’ve gotta play with effort on every down in a game.  If you’re fading, then we gotta get someone else in there because you never know when that game-changing play is going to happen.  If that’s the play you take off, that could be the difference between winning and losing, especially in this conference.”


Top Ten Plays of the 2017 UK Football Season, No. 5: Juice is Loose

Missouri arrived at Kroger Field beaten and battered.  Kentucky’s offense had just enough explosive plays to outlast a team that won their final six games.

Stephen Johnson threw quite a few impressive touchdown passes.  His strike to Blake Bone near the pylon was a dart, but it cannot top this bomb to Garrett “Juice” Johnson.  The Johnson-to-Johnson connection went 64 yards for a touchdown, thanks to Juice’s filthy hesitation move.  It was the longest passing play of the 2017 season.

Stay thirsty my friends.

The Top Ten Plays from the 2017 UK Football Season: No. 10, No. 9 No. 8No. 7, No. 6

UK Fans of the Day want a few Saturday Football Notes

UK Fans of the Day want a few Saturday Football Notes

Eli Brown Bids the BBN Farewell

Eli Brown’s decision to transfer was a stunner.  The Bowling Green native was the highest-ranked player in Kentucky’s 2015 recruiting class.  Unable to add bulk to his wiry frame, Brown fell behind his classmate, Jordan Jones, on the depth chart.

When Jones was injured, the defense did not miss a beat with Brown.  He was spectacular at South Carolina.  He had six stops and a tackle for loss at the goal line that eventually caused a turnover on downs.

Why Brown decided to leave, we can only speculate.  However, he is leaving UK on good terms.

Brown will have two years of eligibility remaining.  Kentucky has three underclassmen who can fill his spot as Jones’ reserve — redshirt freshman Jamin Davis, early enrollee DeAndre Square and four-star signee Chris Oats.

Cole Mosier’s Jersey Retired

A walk-on that transformed into one of the best run blockers in the SEC has been honored by his high school.  Walton-Verona retired Mosier’s No. 74 last night.  Mosier’s final season at Kentucky ended before it even started.  After spending the last eight months rehabbing his preseason ACL tear, Mosier plans on participating at next month’s Pro Day.


Kash the QB?

In high school he was the Tim Tebow of the mountains.  We now have even more proof that Kash Daniel should take some snaps at quarterback.

I bet he could throw a football over them mountains.

Tyler Couch is Coming to UK

The son of the late, great Joey Couch has accepted an offer to be a preferred walk-on for Mark Stoops.  The Paintsville lineman told Shawn Smith of Go Big Blue Country what it means to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“It means a whole lot to me to play at the same place as my dad. He wanted me to go to Kentucky and he would be very happy with my choice.”

Get Up

Watch Terry Touchdown do work at Nutter and try not to get excited about football season.  I dare you.

OFFICIAL: Linebacker Eli Brown will transfer from Kentucky

This afternoon, UK confirmed that redshirt sophomore linebacker Eli Brown would be transferring out of the program.

Tyler Mansfield of the Sporting Times was the first to break the news.

The Kentucky linebacker played in 12 games for the Cats this season, racking up 38 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one pass deflection.

In Jordan Jones’ absence this season, Brown came in and played well for the Cats, and many thought he would be making a big step up as a redshirt junior. With playing time to be had at the linebacker position, it seemed it would be Brown’s to-lose.

As a recruit out of Bowling Green, Brown was listed as a four-star prospect with offers from Ohio State, Penn State, and Vanderbilt, among others.

Best of luck to the Kentucky product!

Top Ten Plays of the 2017 UK Football Season, No.6: Stephen’s Sideline Scramble

Kentucky let a team hang around, until Stephen Johnson stole the show.

For the second time in the Mark Stoops era, EKU put up a fight against the Wildcats at Kroger Field.  The ugly game turned into a scary game as Kentucky entered the fourth quarter with just a one-point lead.  Johnson was prepared to calm the concerned fans.

Faced with a third and long, it looked like the Cats would be stopped short of the end zone again.  With all of the receivers covered, the Kentucky quarterback put the game in his hands.  He tucked it down the right sideline and slipped by four defenders on his way into the end zone for the game-clinching score.

Johnson finished his final year with five rushing touchdowns, although this was not his most impressive rushing touchdown or his most impressive rushing play.  This is his most impressive run:

The Top Ten Plays from the 2017 UK Football Season: No. 10No. 9 No. 8, No. 7

The Depth Chart Podcast’s 2018 National Signing Day Recap

The Depth Chart Podcast returns to recap an excellent National Signing Day for the Kentucky Wildcats.  This year’s class is ranked No. 37.  Freddie will help you understand how the Cats slightly dipped in the recruiting rankings and why you shouldn’t be worried.  You’ll also hear the NSD from a high school coach’s perspective when Scott County’s Jim McKee joins the program.  Highlights:

—  The significance of the Early Signing Period and stealing on from Ohio State.

—  Who will be able to make an immediate impact?

—  How high school coaches are involved in the recruiting process.

—  Why kids should play as many sports as they want to in high school.

—  UK signed zero instate kids; is it an anomaly or cause for concern?

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to Kentucky Sports Radio on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Kentucky signee Allen Dailey’s mother diagnosed with stage four breast cancer

Trussville Tribune

Kentucky wide receiver commitment Allen Dailey signed with the Wildcats this morning, officially joining UK’s class of 2018.

The three-star talent caught 80 passes for 1,441 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns as a senior, leading his team to a Class 6A championship in the state of Alabama.

While his school celebrated Dailey’s big day, the receiver signee had his mind in another place.

Marilyn Dailey, Allen’s mother, was recently diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and wasn’t able to attend the signing day celebration as a result.

After making it official, Dailey was asked about his mother’s health and how he’s feeling through all of it.

His answer? No crying allowed.

Afterward, he commented on the video, saying “I love you momma.”

Like his mother’s wishes, he stayed strong and kept away the tears. In fact, he even asked his girlfriend to prom on his special day.

My thoughts and prayers are with Dailey as he struggles through this difficult time, and I know the BBN certainly feels the same way.

If you want to give him a shoutout on Twitter and let him know you’re thinking about him, head on over to his profile here: @Ymm_Allen9

Mark Stoops wanted to “lock up” newly-hired OLB coach Brad White midway through the interview

When KSR reported last week that former Indianapolis Colts OLB coach Brad White would be joining the Kentucky football staff, it came from left field. The majority of speculation surrounded former All-Pro safety Ed Reed and former Tennessee DC John Jancek, among a few others.

Not even head coach Mark Stoops was necessarily familiar with White until he made some calls around the league and heard promising reports on the six-year coach.

“There are some guys in the Colts organization, that were in the Colts organization, that I have great respect for,” Stoops said in today’s National Signing Day press conference. “Coach Pagano, what he says really matters. Rob Chudzinski, their offensive coordinator, and I go way back. As far as what type of person you’re getting, I had no questions there.”

Stoops said former Indianapolis Colts first-round draft pick and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner was a big help in the hiring process, as he vouched for White as a coach.

“Brad coached a close friend of mine in Bjorn Werner also,” Stoops said. “Bjorn raved about Brad as well.”

When the interview process began, Stoops knew just midway through that White was the man for the job.

“Then when we bring him in, go through the interview process, he really impressed me quite a bit,” he said. “I knew halfway through that interview that I wanted to wrap it up and get recruiting him to take the job because he was having some other opportunities. I wanted to lock him up.”

With linebackers Josh Allen and Denzil Ware, among other bright talents back in fold next season, Stoops believes White’s expertise with that unit can take the defense “to another level.”

I think what was very intriguing to me is Brad being such a technician, I really feel like we have some NFL outside linebackers. Bringing him in to coach those guys, to take them to another level.”

TRANSCRIPT: Vince Marrow on National Signing Day


 Recruiting Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach, Vince Marrow

On being from Ohio and recruiting against Ohio State …
“You see me smiling? I recruited Chris (Oats) since he was a freshman. I think there are times they came in on kids late that are here now, but this was a kid that they’ve targeted since he was a sophomore. Beating them on this kid speaks volumes of what we were able to do. A lot of these other kids in 2019, it is a big recruiting class for Ohio next year. I’ve being getting a lot of DM’s (direct messages) already from kids and they’re like, ‘wow’, because up until last week everybody thought Chris was going to Ohio State. And, I kind of knew where he was going, just kept it to myself. But, until he signed the paper, I was nervous all the way to last night. It was huge getting him.”

On pinpointing Chris early and being able to keep him …

“Like I have told you guys before, our logo is probably the second-most dominating logo right now when you talk about recruiting in Ohio. So, when Ohio State came in, you always were nervous like are they going to offer this kid? They (Ohio kids) get a lot of Big 10 offers, but that Ohio State offer, every kid in that state just like in Kentucky, they want to play for their state school. This goes up a notch because like I said again, I know they recruited this kid from day one. This kid is a really good football player. A lot of high school coaches called me last night and were saying you guys got a really good one. This is definitely going to boost us in Ohio for next year. I really do believe that.”

On where Chris will play …

“He reminds me of the kid that was at Mississippi State. We went against them and I remember Coach Stoops saying that he has a lot of length. I remember that kid (Benardrick McKinney) was about 6-foot-4, Chris is a legit 6-4 or 6-5. He is very twitchy, can bend, he is going to play inside. He can play Mike or Will, but he is so long that you can put him on the outside as a pass-rusher because he can run. I know right now Coach House is really excited about him playing inside or outside.”

On recruiting in Michigan …

“Yeah, you talk about getting top guys out of Ohio but now we are getting players out of Michigan. Getting those two players out of Michigan was huge. You got the No. 1 and No. 3 or 4 player in the state. And, that’s a school if you get locked in at that school, it’s like some of the bigger schools in Ohio. You get in that school, and Coach Clinkscale is doing a good job with his relationships with the coaches there. And, they are loaded there for the next couple of years too. So, it just a platform that we keep going forward. We are going to Michigan, Maryland, Ohio, of course we’re going to recruit Florida. Coach Brad White, our new linebackers coach, he’s going to New Jersey, he is from Rhode Island, hopefully he does some recruiting there. We are still going to stay in a six-hour radius but also do some spot recruiting.”


TRANSCRIPT: Mark Stoops on National Signing Day

Mark Stoops

Glad to announce the addition of four more recruits that came in today. Allen Daily, a wide receiver from Alabama, Nick Lewis, an offensive tackle from Jacksonville, Chris Oats, a linebacker from Cincinnati and Kavosiey Smoke another running back from Alabama. You guys all smile with that. That will be fun to say (laughter). Let’s hope he scores a lot of touchdowns. Great guy.

You’ve heard me talk about it before. I think the nucleus of our class was signed in December. I think that was very good for us. It was very good for the University of Kentucky. I also think it was very important. It was a great day today. As I’ve mentioned, learned from Jimbo (Fisher) a long time ago, it’s really important to recruit a solid class top to bottom. But, the last two, three, four guys are absolutely critical.

I really feel like we hit a home run with the guys we signed today. Excited about this class. With these four guys here, it puts a really solid class together with 24 players in total. That’s a perfect number for us. I felt like we hit the number right on the spot.

We signed 13 offensive players, which we needed, nine defensive players and two specialists. It really is a complete class. I feel very good about it. It worked out really well.

I appreciate the efforts of our assistant coaches. They worked tirelessly around the clock for years sometimes to recruit these guys. It paid dividends here with this recruiting class.

It’s kind of nice, the early signing period, we had talked back in December, I think it was very good for us. Had a chance to kind of hit the reset button after the December signing period to see exactly what we needed for this February signing day, and hit the spots. That worked out very well for us. I also think it helped us get a jump, gave me an opportunity to go out and look at juniors, get in front of people, hit a lot of different places because in the spring, head coaches are not allowed on the road. Just moved the calendar up a touch. Made for a very busy December, but it made for a better January for us. Overall, I’m very excited about it.

Also, this is the first time I got in front of you. I’ll answer any questions about our new assistant coaches, Brad White and Michael Smith, as well.

Q. Ohio State has been able to come in and take some of those in-state guys. What was different about Chris’ (Oats) recruitment?

MARK STOOPS: Coach Marrow really did a good job, Coach House, all of our defensive guys, they all went up, made one last pitch a week ago Saturday. Watched his basketball game, got in front of him. The guys worked hard building relationships. I think Chris felt comfortable with Coach Marrow, with our staff, what we’re doing down here. I think that made the difference this year.”

Q. How rare is it to hire a guy (Brad White) you didn’t really know?
MARK STOOPS: It is rare. There are some guys in the Colts organization, that were in the Colts organization, that I have great respect for. Coach Pagano, what he says really matters. Rob Chudzinski, their offensive coordinator, and I go way back. As far as what type of person you’re getting, I had no questions there.

Then when we bring him in, go through the interview process, he really impressed me quite a bit. I knew halfway through that interview that I wanted to wrap it up and get recruiting him to take the job because he was having some other opportunities. I wanted to lock him up.”

Q. Coach (Michael) Smith has had a lot of experience recruiting Louisiana. Is that somewhere you think you can exploit?
MARK STOOPS: Definitely going to let him explore that, yes. I was a little hesitant early in the process. You remember back when we had Coach Peveto here, he had some connections there, as well. We were close on some things.

But I just felt like at that point we were a little bit too far stretched. I wanted to isolate, concentrate on the areas we have. We let Coach Clink expand a little bit to Detroit, it’s paid some dividends. We’ll let him expand a little bit into Louisiana, yes.

Q. Is it fair next year to assume anyone who doesn’t sign in December is open game?
MARK STOOPS: Without a doubt, yes. That’s the way we looked at it the whole time. That’s why we didn’t miss a beat.

Q. Does moving Dean Hood to the secondary strengthen the defensive staff
MARK STOOPS: I think it will help us overall. Number one, I think what was very intriguing to me is Brad being such a technician, I really feel like we have some NFL outside linebackers. Bringing him in to coach those guys, to take them to another level, we all know what kind of coach Dean Hood is, a great coach, but most of his experience is in the back end. It will give Dean time to concentrate on special teams and work in the back end with Coach Clinkscale.

I wanted to improve and get some help in the secondary. Again, I really feel very excited because you’ve heard me talk for years about the nuances of coaching that position, coaching outside linebackers because There’s a lot on their plate.

We need them to be elite pass-rushers, we need them to be run stoppers, but they also have to play in space and have drops and a guy with that kind of experience makes a lot of sense to me.


How the Kentucky Coaches Convinced Chris Oats to Become a Wildcat


Kentucky beat a long-time Ohio State recruit for a four-star linebacker from Cincinnati on National Signing Day.

Let that sink in for a moment.  That actually happened.  Less than five years ago, Ohio State won a National Championship while Kentucky was just happy to win more than two games in a season.  Now the Cats are stealing recruits from the Buckeyes?

“Everybody thought Chris was going to Ohio State,” said his primary recruiter, Vince Marrow.” “It was huge getting him.”

But how does that happen? Marrow saw his talent early, and has been relentless ever since.

“You see me smiling? I recruited Chris since he was a freshman, and that juggernaut up there at Ohio State, they do great there, Urban recruits very well,” he said.  “This was truly a kid that they targeted since he was a sophomore. Beating them on this kid, it just says volumes.”

Kentucky’s influence on the Ohio recruiting scene has steadily been on the rise.  The addition of Oats proves Kentucky is a serious player in one of the most-talent rich states in the nation.

“Our logo right now is probably the second-most dominant logo in recruiting in Ohio,” Marrow said at today’s post-NSD news conference.  Unlike previous years, that logo was enough for UK to win out against the kid’s favorite childhood team.

“It’s just when Ohio State came in [in the past], you’re always nervous like, ‘Are they going to come offer this kid?’ They had a lot of Big Ten offers, but when you get that Ohio State offer, every kid in that state wants to play for their state school. This goes up a notch because I know they recruited this kid from Day One.”

As usual, Marrow used the SEC to initially appeal to Oats.  The Cats stayed in the game until the game changed.  This year was the first year for the college football early signing period.  After the Cats locked up 20 signees, it allowed Marrow to dedicate time and resources to Oats that would not have otherwise been available.

“I think us signing them guys and having 20 guys secure really played in factor in me going full bore on Chris Oats, because when you’re trying to get that type of kid, it’s a constant.  You gotta recruit that kid everyday.  If we didn’t have the early signing period, we probably would’ve been battling Ohio State for two more guys that we have that’s already locked in.  I really like it.  You got most of your class signed and then you can focus on four or five guys, I’ll take that anytime.”

Marrow used that opportunity to put on a full court press at Oats’ basketball game.

“I took the whole defensive staff and we went and seen Chris and we watched his basketball game and we did an in-home visit.  I think that was the turning point.  Even though he was still back-and-forth, I think he seen, ‘Wow.  I’m really a priority for these guys.'”

Oats was at the top of UK’s recruiting big board for a reason.  A four-star talent from Winton Woods High School, he is considered one of the 20 best outside linebackers in the country.

“Chris is a legit 6’5, he’s very twitchy, can bend, so he’s gonna play inside,” Marrow said.  He can play Mike or Will, but he’s so long that you can even put him on the outside as a pass rusher because he can run.  I know right now (Matt) House is very excited about him.”

It’s safe to say the entire Big Blue Nation is very excited to see the Oats at Kentucky, not Ohio State.