When it became obvious that Kentucky would be in the market for a head football coach at season’s end, most thought that AD Mitch Barnhart’s search would be tailored around offensive-minded guys. And, for the most part, it was. LA Tech’s Sonny Dykes, Duke’s David Cutcliffe, and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter were all rumored to be involved for the position when it became available. The reason was simple: Kentucky is so bad defensively, its best bet is to try and outscore people. To some extent, this is true. The bulk of Kentucky’s talent for next year can be found on the offensive side of the football, but that doesn’t mean that the defense can’t be really good. When Kentucky hired Stoops it assured it’s defense would be a priority for the future. In Stoops, Kentucky has brought in one of the best, young defensive minds in college football to head its program. The Wildcats will now switch back to a 4-3 scheme after a failed two-year experiment with a 3-4 scheme. In many aspects the 4-3 is a better fit for winning college football games than the 3-4 and Mark Stoops is one of the best guys in the country at running it. Here is what we can expect from our defense next year with Stoops calling it:
–A much, much better pass rush. Florida State has the most feared pass rush in the nation. DE Bjoern Werner was just named ACC defensive player of the year under Stoops’ tutelage. He current leads the nation in sacks with 13 and 18 TFLs. Not far behind Werner is his defensive end counterpart, Cornellius Carradine. Carradine has tallied 11 sacks so far this season and 13 TFLs. Their production would lead you to believe they are five-star recruits… but, nope. Werner was a three-star DT prospect coming out of high school, according to Rivals, and Carradine was a four-star. Stoops not great recruiter, he brings the best out of players as well.
–More confident Kentucky players: With a 4-3 scheme, play calls will be more simplistic. There were far too many blown coverages and missed assignments by Kentucky players the last couple of years and that can be contributed to having too much football to digest. Kentucky had to play a lot of freshmen and some of them struggled with learning the scheme. If it was a simpler scheme they might have had an opportunity to be more successful.
–Better talent: Stoops is an Ohio native, a state that Kentucky is closer to than any of its SEC foes. If Kentucky can corner that market and do well in the states of Florida, Georgia and Alabama there will be much more talent in Lexington than we’ve ever seen.
It’s rare that a school can be competitive in almost every sport that it plays, but Kentucky is on track to do so. With the hire of Stoops and the football upgrades that are on the horizon, Kentucky is working hard to change the perception that it is just a “basketball school”.