Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©February 21st, 2019 @ 1:00pm
As Mark Stoops finalizes his 2019 coaching staff, we now know the details of new deals for three UK offensive assistants.
Records obtained by the Courier-Journal reveal a few significant raises. Last week we learned Vince Marrow now holds the title “Associate Head Coach.” Along with that promotion is a substantial raise. On track to make $475,000 in 2019, Marrow’s new three-year deal comes with a $600,000 starting salary and increases by $25,000 each year.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will receive a similar deal after turning down an offer from Georgia’s Kirby Smart. The three-year extension begins with $875,000 (a $25K increase from his previous deal) in 2019 and increases by $25,000 each year.
Wide receivers coach Michael Smith’s first deal at UK was set to expire at the end of this season. Instead, he’ll get a $25,000 raise to $450,000 a year through 2020.
All three contracts come with buyouts; Smith’s is $100,000, while Gran and Marrow’s is $150,000.
We should learn more about Brad White and Jon Sumrall’s promotions before Spring Practice begins March 4.
By Nick Roush on ©February 19th, 2019 @ 10:43pm
You’ve heard for more than a week that Brad White was probably going to replace Matt House. Now that White’s promotion from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator is imminent, here’s a little more on the man who will be calling the Cats’ defense in 2019.
The Mastermind Behind Josh Allen
Josh Allen is an incredible athlete. The Kentucky edge rusher was on a path to unprecedented success before White arrived in Lexington. White helped him get there a little quicker.
White brought six years of NFL expertise from the Indianapolis Colts to UK’s outside linebackers room in 2018. The tactician used a detailed-oriented approach, but wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the middle of drills.
“He told us to hold nothing back, so I’m not holding anything back,” Josh Allen said prior to the Citrus Bowl. “He knows the consequences,” Allen laughed.
Endearing to his players, he was a hot commodity on the open coaching market. As others pursued from other Power Five conferences and the NFL, Mark Stoops kept the rising star on his staff by promoting him to defensive coordinator.
Unlike most of the other UK assistants, the Rhode Island native does not have roots in a talent-rich recruiting area. However, he can tap into an area area that is typically dominated by the team UK just beat in the Citrus Bowl, Penn State. Even though he spent six seasons off the recruiting trail, KSR has learned that White fell back in love with recruiting this year. With Josh Allen’s name recognition, results should soon follow.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) March 14, 2018
Coaching with his Mentor
White learned football at the collegiate level from Dean Hood, UK’s special teams coordinator and safeties coach. White starred as Hood’s middle linebacker at Wake Forest from 2002-04.
“Coach Hood is a big mentor of mine. I know these players have been taught the right way,” White said at his introductory press conference in 2018.
A first time defensive coordinator, it will be important for White to have a steady support system. With his mentor right down the hall, and a defensive-minded head coach, White has plenty of experienced colleagues ready to lend a hand at any time.
|2007-08||Wake Forest||Defensive Grad Assistant|
|2010-11||Air Force||Inside Linebackers|
|2012-13||Indianapolis Colts||Defensive Quality Control|
|2014||Indianapolis Colts||Assistant Linebackers|
|2015-17||Indianapolis Colts||Outside Linebackers|
By Nick Roush on ©February 19th, 2019 @ 9:38pm
Kentucky will have a familiar face calling the defense next fall. Sources tell KSR Brad White will be the Cats’ next defensive coordinator.
White will be Mark Stoops’ third defensive coordinator in seven seasons. He replaces Matt House, who departed after three seasons in Lexington to become the Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach.
Last year was White’s first in Lexington. In that short time as UK’s outside linebackers coach, he helped transform Josh Allen into a record-breaking National Defensive Player of the Year. He is expected to continue coaching that position. Prior to joining Stoops’ staff, White spent six seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
White will receive help from Jon Sumrall. The former UK linebacker coached inside linebackers at Ole Miss last season and has an excellent reputation as a recruiter.
Mark Stoops’ defense will be led by a rising star in the coaching industry, and he has new protege to help him recruit. A win-win for Kentucky’s defense.
Just days after Matt House officially departed for the Kansas City Chiefs, Mark Stoops made his next move. Multiple Ole Miss media outlets report that former UK linebacker Jon Sumrall will leave Oxford to return for a position at his alma mater.
There’s no other way to spin it: this is a great hire by Mark Stoops.
Sumrall’s credentials are extensive in spite of his age. In three years at Troy, he served as special teams coordinator and helped Neal Brown’s defense finish in the Top 25 nationally in scoring, rushing and total defense. The man knows his X’s and O’s.
On the recruiting front, the Huntsville, Alabama native has connections in his home state and its eastern border, Georgia. In only one year at Ole Miss, he served as the primary recruiter for at least four players in the Rebels’ 22nd-ranked recruiting class, including four-star middle linebacker Lakia Henry, a day-one starter next season.
Most importantly, Sumrall checks all of the boxes to pave the way for Brad White to become UK’s defensive coordinator.
Sumrall can easily fill House’s vacancy as middle linebackers coach, leaving White the opportunity to still coach the edge defenders while coordinating the defense. Not only does Sumrall give the defensive side of the ball a young, aggressive recruiter, he has ties to an area UK needs to tap into to take the next step. The cherry on top — Sumrall is a Kentucky guy. He will not be too eager to leave his old stomping grounds.
In six years as UK’s head coach, Stoops has a knack for finding rising talent in the coaching ranks. Five of his former defensive assistants are coordinating defenses or special teams in Power Five conferences. That doesn’t include House’s move to the NFL. Sumrall is the next UK assistant with an incredibly bright future.
Stoops deserves plenty of praise for the impending move, but I’m giving all the credit to Adam Luckett. Minutes after news broke about House’s departure, I texted KSR’s resident Gridiron Guru.
He spoke it into existence. Follow that man, BBN. @AdamLuckettBOS
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 19th, 2019 @ 5:04pm
Well, here’s some interesting news for your Tuesday evening. Rivals’ Chase Parham is reporting that Ole Miss linebackers coach Jon Sumrall has accepted a job on Kentucky’s defensive coaching staff.
Sumrall has been on Ole Miss’ staff for just over a year, before which he worked at Troy and Tulane as the assistant head coach working with linebackers and specials teams. During his tenure, Troy’s defense led the Sun Belt conference and the NCAA in multiple defensive categories, including red zone defense (0.614). Troy’s defense also ranked second nationally in tackles for loss per game, seventh in rushing defense, and eleventh in scoring defense. Sumrall played middle linebacker at Kentucky from 2002-04.
Is Sumrall going to be defensive coordinator or will he merely be taking over at inside linebackers for Matt House or outside linebackers so Brad White can move up? Stay tuned…
By Nick Roush on ©February 18th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
Kash Daniel is always incredible in front of a camera. Tonight Hey Kentucky visited the UK linebacker in his natural environment — the weight room at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility.
Instead of a traditional interview, Kash talked about the upcoming football season while giving Chris Tomlin work out tips. He could not transform Tomlin into a body-builder, but he did reveal his “Kryptonite” and what he is doing in the offseason to improve in the aspect of his game.
Kash also shared his secrets to talking trash, which eye-popping celebrity reached out during the 2018 football season and discussed if pro wrestling could potentially be in his future. Check it out:
Click here for more from Hey Kentucky.
By Nick Roush on ©February 18th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
A wave of excitement crashed over the Big Blue Nation this weekend after the UK basketball team completely annihilated the No. 1 team in the country. The win over Tennessee was nice, and not just for the basketball team.
After focusing on quantity for Junior Day, Vince Marrow emphasized quality while hosting a smaller group of incredibly talented in-state recruits for the Tennessee game.
Four of the state’s top athletes — safety Vito Tisdale, offensive tackle John Young, quarterback Beau Allen and wide receiver Izayah Cummings — spent the day in Lexington with Marrow, Eddie Gran and John Schlarman. The crew received a standing ovation from UK fans at KSBar when they entered the restaurant. During one of the timeouts at Rupp Arena, Kash Daniel’s Super Bowl commercial aired on the Jumbotron.
Young described the experience to Justin Rowland as ‘insane.’ “I’ve never seen an arena like that.”
While they toured the facilities, the group stopped to pose in front of the National Championship trophy. It’s quite an impressive collection of talent. The top four uncommitted players in the state were joined by Warren Central sophomore tight end Jordan Dingle and Rickey Hyatt Jr.
Unlike the others in the photo above, Hyatt Jr. is not from Kentucky, however, he still has a close connection to UK. The three-star safety attends Benny Snell’s old high school, Westerville Central. Snell shared a classroom with Hyatt’s sister and has returned to speak with his team multiple times since he found stardom at UK.
Kentucky also hosted four-star all-purpose back Michael Drennen. A top 250 player in the 2020 class, Drennen attends Dublin Coffman High School, Gunnar Hoak’s alma mater. Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame are considered his top schools. He posed in uniform with a few of his underclassmen teammates.
My Brothas ?? pic.twitter.com/nVRy6ZYKf4
— The “Prodigy”? (@BThreats2) February 18, 2019
Two 2020 Offers
Young isn’t the only talented tackle in UK’s big board. This weekend there Cats offered Omari Young, a 6’4″ 300-pound offensive tackle from Memphis that is considered the No. 124 player overall by ESPN. Young has offers from everybody who’s anybody. UK also offered Jerrold Pough, a three-star safety from Hollywood, Florida.
Before I explain the significance of E.J. Price’s departure, allow me to use this platform to clap back at all the haters. Price’s last appearance in a UK uniform ended prematurely because of a sideline altercation at the Citrus Bowl. When I asked about said altercation in the postgame press conference, I was crucified for being a Debbie Downer. Now he’s gone and I still want to know what set him off on the sideline.
Price performed better than most Blue Chip transfers. In Landon Young’s absence Price started 11 games at left tackle. He was no Young, but Kentucky would not have been as successful if he wasn’t there to fill those big shoes.
Without Price, there’s no panic in John Schlarman’s meeting room. Young is back with Naasir Watkins, who split plenty of snaps with E.J. and was excellent in the Citrus Bowl, prepared to spell him as a reserve. After taking reps at guard in 2018 as a true freshman, Darian Kinnard is expected to replace Big George at right tackle. Aside from 2016, Kentucky has typically stuck with a three-offensive tackle rotation and I expect the same in 2019 with this young, talented trio.
New ESPN FPI Rankings
As you saw Friday night, my favorite advanced college football stats are the S&P+. I might have to flip flop.
Kentucky ranked 37th in the S&P+, while ESPN’s FPI ranks Kentucky 30th entering the 2019 season. Seven spots better is good, but it’s all relative. In each projection UK ranks sixth in the SEC East. The numbers can’t calculate Tennessee, South Carolina and Missouri’s ability to consistently underachieve.
Primetime NYT Treatment
Hand up, I don’t receive the print edition of the New York Times. If I did, I would have found this picture of Nik Ognenovic and his father, Steve, gracing the sports section cover on National Signing Day.
Feel free to read the online version of the story that includes the 2019 UK tight end signee here.
Spurrier don’t give AAF
You already read Drew’s post, but I couldn’t let the excellent header go to waste. What you may have missed from that game is who Spurrier’s team came back to beat: Logan Woodside.
The Frankfort native led the nation in passing touchdowns in 2016 with 45 as Toledo’s quarterback. Drafted in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals, Woodside was arrested for a DUI before completing his first NFL minicamp. In spite of the off the field hiccup, he remained with the Bengals until the final cut.
After watching a few AAF games, it’s not hard to tell that Woodside is one of the best passers in the league. Yesterday he completed 20-of-39 passes for 223 yards, a touchdown (which should have been two, if not for an embarrassing drop), an interception and a two-point conversion. Through two hames Woodside is second in the AAF in passing yards with 478. His tape should get him another shot at cracking an NFL roster.
In his second week of action, Kayaune Ross made it into a box score. The former Wildcat receiver caught one pass for seven yards in another Memphis Express loss. All the blame should fall on Christian Hackenburg’s incapable shoulders.
20 Pounds of Poop
I’ll close this chapter of the MNF Notebook with a clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, inspired by former Wildcat C.J. Johnson.
Our client CJ "Poop" Johnson makes his late night debut. We shit you not! pic.twitter.com/VugzRz9tfY
— Lawrence McGivney (@LMcGivney) February 16, 2019
University of Kentucky offensive tackle E.J. Price has withdrawn from school to pursue other opportunities. First reported by Justin Rowland, a UK spokesman confirmed Price’s departure.
A transfer from USC, Price started in 11 out of 13 games in 2018, his first year of eligibility. The former four-star recruit split left tackle duties with Naasir Watkins after Landon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final preseason scrimmage.
In Price’s two years in Lexington, he had a few incidents that attracted unwanted attention. Following a spring practice in 2018, he went on a Twitter outburst and initially quit the team. Once he cooled down, Mark Stoops gave Price another chance. The talented offensive tackle kept a relatively low profile until an altercation at the Citrus Bowl forced him to the sideline for the entire second half of Kentucky’s victory over Penn State. Since then he had one more odd Tweet-storm before he deleted the social media account.
Without Price in the picture, Landon Young will be back with two years of eligibility at left tackle. Along with Watkins and Darian Kinnard, who played a few positions as a true freshman in 2018, the Cats are still in good shape at offensive tackle.
Best of luck to Price in his future endeavors.
By Eli Mitchell on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
It was reported around New Year’s day that Vince Marrow had agreed to a three year deal to stay at Kentucky.
FootballScoop is now reporting that the extension will include a promotion for Marrow to become Associate Head Coach. The new deal comes with a starting salary of $650,000 for Kentucky’s lead recruiter.
In addition to his new role as Associate Head Coach, Marrow will continue to serve as the team’s tight end coach and recruiting coordinator. Marrow is now signed through the 2023 season.
It’s hard to overstate the role that Marrow has played in the continuous rise of the Kentucky Football program. The BBN should be very confident with Coach Stoops and Coach Marrow leading the way.
By Nick Roush on ©February 15th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Entering the 2018 Kentucky football season, nobody (except Charles Walker) predicted ten wins for the Wildcats. It’s obvious that Mark Stoops’ team overachieved. Now their over-achievement has been quantified.
SB Nation’s stat man Bill Connelly is the primary proprietor of the S&P+ analytics. A college football forecasting tool, the metrics are awfully handy when picking games against the spread (a la KenPom for college basketball). I can’t explain exactly how they’re compiled, but this details the S&P+ rather simply.
Entering the season Vegas set Kentucky’s over/under win total at 5.5, a line so bad, it inspired me to make my first official sports wager in a Vegas casino. Meanwhile, the S&P+ was much more reasonable, projecting 7.8 Kentucky wins. Jack Pilgrim and I are the only two from KSR who logged preseason predictions over the 7.8. As you know very well, Kentucky won more than 7.8 games.
Only two teams in college football won at a higher rate than their S&P+ projected win total.
1. Army +2.9 (8.1 expected wins, 11 actual wins)
2. Northwestern +2.8 (6.2, nine)
3. Kentucky +2.2 (7.8, 10)
4. Ohio State +2.1 (10.9, 13)
5. Georgia Southern +2.1 (7.9, 10)
6. Texas +1.7 (8.3, 10)
7. Notre Dame +1.7 (10.3, 12)
8. Liberty +1.6 (4.4, six)
9. FIU +1.6 (7.4, nine)
10. Syracuse +1.5 (8.5, 10)
Haters may blame it on randomness, but they’re wrong. Kentucky overachieved by +1.9 in 2017 as well.
The advanced analytics are never kind to Kentucky, but they prove that Mark Stoops is one of college football’s best at making the most out of his talent. After compiling data back to 2005, Stoops’ teams win on average .63 more games than they’re expected to, finishing just shy of the 90th percentile of all college football coaches.
It should not surprise you that there’s another UK coach on the list of college football’s greatest overachievers. Rich Brooks ranked second, behind only Tom Herman, winning 1.22 more games than expected per year through five seasons.
The stats profile concludes that Kentucky is in good hands with Mark Stoops, but it isn’t all good news. Overachieving teams eventually regress back to the mean. Kentucky defied those odds from 2017 to 2018, but it’s not a sustainable statistical trend. In the early 2019 S&P+ rankings Kentucky is ranked 37th, predicted to be favored in only six games.
The Kentucky football team defied the advanced stats over the last two seasons. For the third time to be the charm, Terry Wilson and the UK offense must be able to score plenty of points at Kroger Field to cash in on a favorable home schedule.
It’s February 14, which means everybody is thinking about one thing: SEC Media Days.
The league announced this afternoon plans for this year’s unofficial kickoff to the 2019 SEC football season. After one year at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the event returns to its home at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.
After a ten-win season, Mark Stoops did not get rewarded with a primetime position. UK’s head coach will speak on the final day of the event, after many reporters have already departed. Instead of speaking on the same day as a headliner, Stoops will share the stage with Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, the driest coach in the SEC. For those who prefer to drink out of half-full glasses, it’s an opportunity for Stoops to be the event’s exclamation point.
2019 SEC Media Days Schedule
MONDAY, July 15
Florida – Dan Mullen
LSU – Ed Orgeron
Missouri – Barry Odom
TUESDAY, July 16
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Ole Miss – Matt Luke
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher
WEDNESDAY, July 17
Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
South Carolina – Will Muschamp
THURSDAY, July 18
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason
As always, KSR will be in the building for updates throughout the week. We’re only 151 days away.
Following the 2015 season, it was gut check time for Mark Stoops. The Wildcats were fresh off consecutive 5-7 seasons and it was clear changes were needed on both sides of the ball. Heading into his fourth season, the head coach was feeling heat for the first time in Lexington. He responded by making some major changes.
In that offseason, Stoops brought in four new coaches and promoted Corey Edmond to the head coach of the strength program. The main change from this offseason was naming Eddie Gran the offensive coordinator and we’ve extensively covered how big of an impact the veteran SEC assistant coach has made on the program. However, there was another coach that made a big splash.
After being promoted to defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh by Paul Chryst in 2014, House ran a defense in the ACC that finished 56th per S&P+. It was a solid job, but once Chryst left to become the head coach at Wisconsin, House found himself on the job market. He landed at FIU and ran the defense in 2015 under Ron Turner. Under House’s guidance, the Panthers finished 110th per S&P+ in a 5-7 season. When a power five opportunity to run the special teams and coach linebackers at Kentucky opened up, the Michigan State alum jumped on the first flight to the Bluegrass.
Mark Stoops appeared to like the versatility House brought with a four years of NFL experience from 2008-2011 to go along with two years of FBS defensive coordinator work. He was named UK’s special teams coordinator and he instantly became a major contributor to the coaching staff.
In House’s first season, UK’s special teams were much improved and included multiple game-winning kicks that pushed the Wildcats into bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. Following Mark Stoops moving on from D.J. Eliot at defensive coordinator, the Wildcats named Matt House the man in charge of the defense for the 2017 season. In that season, UK had the second best scoring defense of the Stoops era to that point. Then the big change happened.
You know the story. UK made a slight shift by putting Matt House on the field and placing Dean Hood in the coaching box. The move paid huge dividends with Kentucky finishing 15th in defense per S&P+ on their way to a historical 1o-win season. Behind the development of a bunch of future pros, UK’s defense turned into a stalwart in what seemed like overnight. House was a big reason why.
Now after a week of flirting with the Chiefs, House is off to Kansas City to work for Andy Reid and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Back in 2009, Matt House was hired by Spagnuolo when he was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Now it’s time for UK to join the coaching carousel.
Why the Move?
Once the search develops, we’ll delve more into who will be next for the Wildcats when some candidates emerge. Now is the time to recognize what UK is losing in Matt House.
During his three-year run, the assistant coach oversaw major improvement in both special teams and on defense in addition to becoming a very excellent recruiter. House turned into this staff’s point man in Georgia and that paid off big time in the class of 2019 with Kentucky reeling six recruits from the Peach State.
For a guy that seems to have it rolling as a college assistant, making the move to NFL to be a linebackers coach now seems like strange timing. House is likely to take a decrease in pay from the $650,000 per year salary he is currently making that was likely to be bumped up in 2019. If the defenses continues to produce in Lexington, he could be setup to land a defensive coordinator job at a blue blood program or become a Group of Five head coach (he was linked to the Central Michigan opening earlier this offseason).
Why make the move? Well, it’s for a multitude of reasons.
First off, whoever is given the defensive coordinator role at Kentucky is in a unique spot perception wise. Mark Stoops is always going to get either too much credit or too much blame for how the defense performs. It is no secret that he is heavily involved with the play-calling and since taking over for D.J. Eliot in 2016, Stoops has emerged as the face of the defense.
It could be tough for House to get seen for potential gigs. In today’s college football world, three years is a lengthy amount of time for any assistant to stay on one staff. Coming off the best year of his coaching career, House could’ve felt it was time to strike while the iron was hot. After lasting through most of the coaching season with no sniffs, it looked like he was set to stay in Lexington for a fourth consecutive season. Then the Chiefs made a defensive coordinator change.
After working a combined three years at Fresno State and Buffalo, House got on with the Panthers for one season before making the jump to St. Louis. He would be there for three seasons before Steve Spagnuolo was fired following the 2011 season. That forced House out of the NFL and he then was in college ball for the next seven seasons.
Timing is everything in life. House’s only real connection in the NFL gets hired to be a defensive coordinator on a Super Bowl contender after House’s best season in coaching. It feels like the stars aligning. With a chance to coach a perennial AFC power, House may feel that he is just a few strong years in Kansas City away from becoming an NFL defensive coordinator.
There is also the lifestyle that the NFL provides opposed to college. As Mark Stoops mentioned on KSR yesterday, “This job will absolutely consume people. We have no downtime.”
When you add up all of these factors and it feels like everything connected for Matt House to make a move right now.
Due to the timing of the move, Kentucky is a bit behind the eight-ball. The majority of staffs have already filled out the lion’s share of their opening positions. Coaches UK would’ve had a chance at are now settled into their new roles. Now Mark Stoops could have to work a little faster than he has for previous hires in the past.
When forced to make recent defensive hires, Stoops has shown a tendency to lean heavily on X’s and O’s. Derrick LeBlanc was a former LSU grad assistant who had never served a full-time role on a Power Five staff. He was known more for his development of defensive lines. Dean Hood was a former FCS head coach and Wake Forest defensive coordinator who was a current assistant at a C-USA school when Stoops hired him. He’s turned into a steady hand and an excellent special teams coach. Finally, Brad White had only two seasons of FBS experience at Air Force. He spent the six prior seasons with the Indianapolis Colts working his way from an off-field role to full-time member of the coaching staff. He put in instant work developing edge players Josh Allen and Boogie Watson.
It’s easy to see that the hires have paid off with the individual development of the defense over the last couple seasons. Now UK needs help on the recruiting trail. In the last two classes, Matt House emerged into the best recruiter on the defensive side with corners coach Steven Clinkscale being a close second. Replacing that void will play a huge part in who the new coach is.
No matter what Mark Stoops decides to do at coordinator, recruiting must be addressed with the new hire. On the offensive side, UK has two ace recruiters in Eddie Gran and Vince Marrow. The defense needs someone to come in and make an immediate impact on the trail.
Staff departures are just a major part of FBS college football. In the last three years, the Wildcats have done a great job at keeping continuity in the football facility. Having to replace just one full-time member of the coaching group is a good thing. It just stings that it is so late in the process and that it is your defensive coordinator off one of the best seasons in program history.
Entering spring ball, Kentucky is in very good shape right now. Eddie Gran turned down Kirby Smart and the entire offensive staff returns. The defensive staff worked very well together last season and the head coach will play a major role in the day-to-day operations of that unit. Now it is time to find the next coach who can come in and make an immediate impact. With a lot for the program to sell heading into the fall, this should be a very attractive opening.
By Nick Roush on ©February 12th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
After an abnormal back-and-forth between Kansas City and Lexington, Matt House will leave Kentucky to coach the Chiefs with his mentor, Steve Spagnoulo. If you’re going to lose somebody that helped transform your defense into one of the nation’s best, you might as well lose him to a Super Bowl contender.
This morning on KSR, Mark Stoops said he will take his time to find a replacement. He will weigh a potential outside hire and the viable candidates that are already on his staff. The name that makes the most sense is Brad White. Here’s why:
1. Stoops Hires Within
The last time Stoops needed a defensive coordinator, he hired a linebackers coach who had served on his staff as a position coach for one year. White just finished his first year coaching outside linebackers at Kentucky.
Stoops and White have already developed a rapport, an essential aspect of the hire because Stoops is more intimately involved with the defense than most head coaches. Hiring from within also means there will not be a dramatic shift in the scheme of UK’s defense. Nuances will surely change, but the transition for players will be much smoother if Stoops hires from within.
2. Josh Allen
In one year Allen transformed from third round draft pick to top three pick. Of course, Allen deserves most of the credit, however, you’d be crazy to not give some to White as well.
Praised as a tactician, White’s six years of NFL experience brought something new to the table in 2019. His expertise made him a hot commodity on the coaching search market this offseason. A promotion to defensive coordinator would help deter more high-profile suitors in the future.
3. Stoops’ Strength
White is in his mid-30s and does not have any previous experience as a coordinator. It’s a bit of a risky hire, but it’s not quite as risky when it’s the head coach’s area of expertise. Unlike the offensive side of the ball where Stoops must hand over the keys, regardless of who is hired to be UK’s defensive coordinator, Stoops will be more involved with day-to-day operations than a typical head coach. That should ease the learning curve for White and mitigate risk.
There’s another experienced veteran on the staff who could help the young coach develop into a star. When Dean Hood was a defensive coordinator at Wake Forest, Brad White was his starting linebacker. White’s first coaching job was a graduate assistant for Hood. The value of an experienced mentorship for a young defensive coordinator is immeasurable.
4. A Unique Recruiting Tie
Matt House helped Kentucky tap back into the Georgia recruiting pipeline that was left vacant after the Rich Brooks era. In 2019 he signed six from the state, three of which were linebackers. The 2019 class has more players from Georgia than any other state.
An ideal hire needs a significant tie to a talented pool of recruits in the south. Brad White does not check that box. However, White does have ties to areas throughout the northeast, areas typically dominated by the team UK just beat in the Citrus Bowl, Penn State. White’s efforts in the northeast have yet to yield any results, but he’s off to a decent start. With a top three draft pick from the area to boast, Josh Allen, White convinced a pair of four-star skill players, Blake Corum and Curtis Jacobs, from the northeast to visit for Junior Day.
5. There’s Still a Vacancy
If Stoops were to promote Brad White to defensive coordinator, there’s still room to hire one more assistant coach. White could also coach outside linebackers, inside linebackers or both. What Stoops must emphasize is recruiting.
It’s the hardest part of the job and part of the reason why House left for the NFL. It’s why Ed Reed likely won’t come out of retirement to coach. It’s also why Jon Sumrall would be a great fit. The former Wildcat letterman and current Ole Miss linebackers coach has extensive ties in the Deep South that would mitigate the loss of House in Georgia.
In an extensive interview with KSR, Stoops did not enlighten us with insight as to who exactly will be the next defensive coordinator. All he could say is that he will take his sweet time finding the right man. Brad White appears to be the frontrunner, but don’t count out his brother Mike, or somebody we’ve never heard of before.
After seeing how the Matt House hire turned out, I’m confident that whoever Stoops picks will be the right choice.
By Nick Roush on ©February 12th, 2019 @ 12:21pm
Is Lexington big enough for the Stoops brothers? We may soon find out.
Mark Stoops appeared in the second hour of this morning’s Kentucky Sports Radio. After discussing Matt House’s departure at length, Matt Jones asked Stoops if he would potentially hire his brother, Mike. Stoops said he’s considering all options, and that “absolutely” includes his brother.
“If you go back to the last time I had a coordinating job open with D.J. (Eliot) leaving, I looked at hiring from outside the program and looked at promoting within. I ultimately decided to give Matt (House) the job and it worked out pretty well. Now I have to look at it the same way.”
Mike Stoops served as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator for the last seven seasons. Before his time at Oklahoma, Mike Stoops was Arizona’s head coach, where Mark spent six years working for his older brother. Two weeks ago Mike Stoops took a job as a quality control analyst for Nick Saban at Alabama.
“When we lose players through graduation, normal attrition, grad transfer or for whatever reason, you better be darn sure we’re trying to replace them with better players,” said Stoops. “When coaches leave, we’re trying to replace him with better coaches.”