A year ago, hardly anyone on Kentucky’s roster was being discussed on the national level. Now, a handful of UK players will find themselves in this year’s NFL Draft, several of them in early rounds. Kentucky has the chance to be one of the top schools in the nation in terms of total draft picks, a fact that likely shouldn’t be lost on future recruits.
“I definitely don’t think it hurts, that’s for sure,” Mark Stoops said during today’s press conference. “I would imagine since the NFL cut from the number of rounds, I would assume this would be a record for us as far as number of guys taken in one draft. So that certainly doesn’t hurt.”
In addition to his work with recruiting, Vince Marrow also plays a substantial role in communicating with the NFL. According to Coach Stoops, Marrow is the team’s “NFL liaison” and makes sure professional teams have plenty of information about the Wildcats.
“Vince will set them up and does some of that, but we all will field calls on those guys – myself and position coaches, different guys,” Stoops said. “A lot of times it’s very general information. They know I’m going to be very positive about our players because that’s how I feel, but they have to make sure they fit their system and everything.”
In addition to the upcoming NFL Combine, some former Cats got the chance to show off their skills during the Senior Bowl. Apparently, it was all good news.
“I heard great things when I was down there. The NFL executives and coaches and people that were there really like our players – not just the three that were there at the Senior Bowl, but all of our guys,” Stoops said. “They’re all helping themselves. They’re working extremely hard; they’ve done good off the field. They’re putting themselves in a position to be looked at.”
One player who has made major jumps in the mock drafts lately is Lonnie Johnson. While the cornerback’s recent jump is largely due to his impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Stoops says he’s been singing Johnson’s praises for quite some time.
“Lonnie is a guy I talked about all year to people and scouts and NFL talent that’s come through about him and his upside,” Stoops said. “Only being here for two years, the talent that he has, he’s got a high ceiling and he’s going to continue to improve. He’s a very, very good player right now and he has a lot more upside.”
While Stoops has become accustomed to fielding the NFL’s calls about his players this season, it didn’t end there: members of his staff are apparently also getting calls from the pro league. After being asked about the upside of keeping his entire coaching staff intact for the upcoming season, Stoops admitted it’s “really big” for the program. But “it’s not quite over.”
“I just fielded a call from a head coach in the NFL 15 minutes ago,” Stoops said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not quite over. I hope we keep everybody intact, but I’ve had much more NFL interest than I’ve had in the past.”
Creating a consistent coaching staff proved to be beneficial for the Wildcats this season. Hopefully they’ll be able to say the same this next year.