Today, we learned that Florida State’s defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops, will become the next head football coach for the Kentucky Wildcats. The announcement, of course, halts many weeks of speculation and rumor on who would be the one to replace Joker Phillips. Mark, the brother of Oklahoma head coach coach, Bob Stoops, is taking his first college head coaching job with Kentucky, but he has worked a long career as a coordinator and has earned the respect of his peers. His personal background and his coaching successes are well documented at this point, but how do his defenses perform on the field? To find out, I looked over his team’s most recent statistics to find out which areas they excel in and which areas they may need improvement. Below is the table which dates back to his days as Arizona’s defensive coordinator from 2007.
The first thing that stands out about his defenses, you ask? Points allowed per game. During Stoops’ past six seasons as a defensive coordinator his per game average of points allowed per game has fallen by a total of 11.7! The common argument against that improvement would be something along the lines of “he only could accomplish that with the caliber of athlete that Florida State had” or something along those lines. But consider this. The Pac-12 is known as one of the most notoriously fast paced leagues in the country. In addition, the Pac-12 is also home to some of college football’s better offenses (see Ducks, Oregon). Considering the fast tempo of the league and the general quality of offenses, the statistics his defenses managed put up at Arizona look better than a quick glance at a stat sheet would suggest.
The other things that obviously stand out from Stoops’ defensive statistics are the yard per attempt figures. This season, the Seminoles’ opponents are only managing to get a measly 5.0 yards per passing attempt and a minuscule 2.65 yards per rush. For some perspective, Alabama is allowing 5.7 and 2.36 respectively. It can’t be stressed how important it is to keep opponents from moving the ball down the field, it’s obviously the main premise of football, and that’s exactly what a Mark Stoops coached defense has a history of doing. Stopping the rush is of primary importance in the SEC, given the outstanding rushing attacks that are faced nearly every week, so the fact that Stoops has been able to effectively stop the rush over his history as a coordinator is perhaps the most encouraging sign of them all.
This truly is an excellent hire for the University, and despite your personal feelings, credit must be given to Mitch Barnhart for this one. With upgrades coming to the facilities and an energized coaching staff coming to Lexington, this is truly something to be excited about. It may take some time before Stoops can get things going at a high level given the circumstances, but from all accounts his passion and knowledge of the game should soon shine in Lexington.