1. A more relaxed Coach Stoops. Running a rebuilding SEC football program is stressful. When players’ aren’t making silly mistakes, referees are always there to make you angry. For the sake of his health, we need less of the above, and more moments like the one below.
2. Keep it close to home. Mark Stoops vowed in his opening press conference to keep the best of the best in the state home. Not only is he keeping the best home, but he has also gone home to Ohio for elite talent. In the 2014 class, five of the eight players from Ohio are 4-stars, and if Matt Elam picks the Cats this weekend Stoops will have the #1 and #2 players in the state. Stoops is on the right path so far for next year with three of Kentucky’s top four high school players hot on his radar, QB Elijah Sindelar, and LBs Emmit Smith and Eli Brown. The recruiting pipeline has been built and it will pay dividends during the 2014 recruiting season.
3. Win in the SEC. It has been 765 days since Matt Roark’s streak-ending win for the Cats over the Vols – the last time UK won an SEC football game. The Cats came close to sneaking out a couple on the road this year, with a successful onside kick overturned in Starkville and Jordan Matthews’ play in Nashville keeping the Cats from getting that elusive victory. Probably the biggest draw to Kentucky for Stoops’ high-caliber recruits is playing in the SEC; 2014 is the time to win in the SEC.
4. Find a Quarterback.
Spring Practice 2014 is going to be an interesting one. In Stoops’ first season a starter was not solidified until the 5th game, only for Jalen Whitlow to go down with an injury the following game. It’s difficult to get excited for an uncertain offense and it’s the coaches’ job in the Spring and Summer workouts to solidify a starter. The greatest question is who that might be. They could go with the proven athlete ( Whitlow), the veteran (Max Smith), the redshirts (Pat Towles and Reese Phillips), or with the future of Kentucky football (Drew Barker). The only certainty at Quarterback is that Mark Stoops is not going to tolerate another season of uncertainty at his offense’s most critical position.
5. End 2014 on a high. One of the most underrated difficulties of the Kentucky football coaching job is keeping fans interested at the end of the football season as basketball season begins. With New Commonwealth opening in a highly anticipated 2015 football season, it’s even more important to keep the fan base hyped about football in November of 2014. Next year’s schedule should keep things interesting enough, ending the season with the Vols and the Dirty Birds from Loserville. The possibilities are in place for momentum to shift around the program, all it takes is a strong finish against your two biggest rivals.