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Mark Stoops’ Player Development

PIC BY San Diego Union Tribune

PIC BY San Diego Union Tribune

PIC BY San Diego Union Tribune

An unfounded and irresponsible criticism of Mark Stoops has been a deficiency in player development. While profitable for message board fodder and social media click bait, questioning Stoops’ player development scores as the most ridiculous in a long line of irresponsible denigrations.

In this post, we are going to outline three offensive and defensive players that were not shiny star prospects coming out of high school but have developed into upper-level, SEC performers.

Let’s dig in:



Guard Logan Stenberg

— 6’6, 320-pound redshirt freshman from Madison, Alabama’s James Clemens High School. Had a dominant performance in Alabama-Mississippi all-star game as a high school senior. Stenberg was credited for 34 pancake blocks in his final season at James Clemens.

— Played in all 12 regular season games rotating with Nick Haynes at Guard. Has proven to be a mauler with rapidly improving technique

— Redshirted as a freshman

— Has the potential, size, skill, and demeanor to develop into an NFL player

— I made the comment on National Signing Day that the Logan Stenberg for 5-star RB Damien Harris trade would eventually be a win for Mark Stoops. Most, as usual, thought I was crazy. However, identifying and signing high-level line-of-scrimmage players proves to be a challenge for all college football programs. Reality states that rosters are built from the inside-out. I’ll take a physical, offensive or defensive lineman over a running back any day of the week and twice on Saturdays.

— Chose UK over: Kentucky was Logan Stenberg’s only Power 5 offer.

Offensive Tackle Cole Mosier

— 6’6, 335-pounds junior. Former in-state, walk-on from Walton-Verona High School

— Mosier secured the starting left tackle position in fall camp but later missed time due to an injury. He has safeguarded Stephen Johnson’s blindside since becoming healthy. Mosier was governing in UK’s win over Louisville as the Wildcat offensive line surrendered zero QB sacks to the nation’s #7 ranked defense. It also racked up 581 total yards.

— Played in 12 games as a freshman with 2 starts vs. Florida and Ohio

— Sophomore season: played in 11 games, 1 start vs. EKU

— Redshirted as a freshman

— Chose UK over: No Power 5 offers, walked on at Kentucky

Offensive Guard Nick Haynes

— 6’3, 315-pound junior from Niceville, Florida

— John Schlarman’s top non-Toth technician and best athlete. Haynes will become the leader of the offensive line once Jon Toth departs for the NFL.

— Started all 12 regular season games in 2016. Pro Football Focus, or PFF, listed Haynes as the nation’s top graded guard for his performance in UK’s 35-21 win at Missouri. PFF also had Haynes as the highest graded Wildcat in its win over the 11th ranked Louisville Cardinals.

— Sophomore season: 5 starts, played in 11 games

— Chose UK over: Kentucky was Nick Haynes’ only Power 5 scholarship offer.


Haynes/Stenberg/Mosier and offensive line mates helped Kentucky smash offensive records:

  • Finished as the SEC’s 3rd leading rushing team with 2895 yards.
  • Broke a program record by averaging 5.5 yards per rush.
  • Only Power 5 team to have 2, 1,000 yard rushers in Boom Williams and Benny Snell.
  • RB Benny Snell became the 1st UK freshman to rush for over 1,000 yards as Snell ran for 1057 in 2016.



OLB Josh Allen

— 2-star prospect from Montclair, New Jersey where he led the state in QB sacks with 22. Moved from Alabama where he was an all-state receiver as a junior.

— Was not offered by the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers. Thus, evaluators skipped over the SEC’s future leader in Forced Fumbles. Not a smart move.

— Was forced into action as a 6’5, 205-pound linebacker due to Jason Hatcher’s depth chart inconsistencies and tribulations. Played in 12 games as a reserve OLB and on special teams. Registered 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and .5 QB sack.

— Fast forward to 2016; now 6’6, 240-pounds, Allen finished the regular season ranked 1st in the SEC with 4 forced fumbles, 10th in QB sacks with 7, registered 55 total tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss.

— With 2 more seasons to add size and strength; Allen will depart Lexington at 6’6, 265-pounds before departing for an NFL career.

— Chose UK over: Monmouth and Buffalo. Kentucky was Josh Allen’s only Power 5 scholarship offer.

Photo by the

Photo by the

DT Adrian Middleton

— 6’3, 303-pound sophomore. Played in 4 games as a freshman; finished season with 8 tackles

— Developed into starting defensive tackle after Regie Meant’s sudden departure from the program. Started 10 regular season games in 2016.

— Played his best game as a Wildcat on the season’s biggest stage with 6 tackles and 1 tackle for loss in UK’s Governor’s Cup victory.

— Finished 2016 as the Wildcat’s statistical defensive linemen leader with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1 QB sack.

— Middleton was a vital in-state signee in the Class of 2014; however, he was not one of the heralded, must-gets as depicted by recruiting services. He was also the first player in the three-year history of his high school to sign a scholarship with a Division I university.


Nose Tackle Naquez Pringle

— 6’3, 320-pound junior, Itawamba Community College.

— Pringle’s improvement is a classic case study of Jimmy Brumbaugh’s ability to develop defensive linemen.

— I did not project Pringle as a fall contributor based on spring practice performance; however, weight loss, conditioning, and positional development catapulted Pringle into a high-level contributor as well as an eventual starter for Mark Stoops.

— Pringle played in 11 games, starting 5 in 2016 as he totaled 33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1 QB sack.

— Chose UK over: Kentucky was Naquez Pringle’s only Power 5 scholarship offer coming out of junior college.


All that glitters may not always develop into gold. As shown above, player development is as much about grit and attitude as it is physical traits and star rankings. I’d argue that shiny trophies are won and lost on the line-of-scrimmage.

For those familiar with the military, I’ll provide this analogy: Officers are like 4-5 star recruits. Sure, they look pretty in uniform and are popular for social gathering invitations but at times are not keen on putting in work. 2-3 star players that develop into upper-level starters are like NCOs, or Non-Commissioned Officers. NCOs are the backbone of all military organizations and are reliable when the tough gets going.

As we enter “Silly Season,” or the period of time leading up to National Signing Day, remember this: don’t infatuate on stars to the point that you ignore building blocks. Prospect identification and player development are equally as important as recruiting.

It’s not personal, it’s personnel.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

14 Comments for Mark Stoops’ Player Development

  1. Luether
    4:39 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    and then we have Matt Elam…

    • rickwhitetx
      4:53 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

      I think you are proving Freddie’s point.

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:38 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

      Don’t listen to Luether. He’s a troll, and still mad about the weekend. 😉

    • UK Big Board Update
      2:16 pm December 1, 2016 Permalink

      Oh…. and then Louisville has James Quick…. jus’ sayin’.

  2. kentuckyrld
    4:59 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Either bad coaching or poor player development caused a couple of losses that should not have occurred this season. Which one of those two is the answer? Or, could it be both.

    • J-Dub421
      5:33 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

      Player development takes time, and UK is a team with only 11 seniors. We went 7-5 this season and just beat 11th ranked Louisville. Try developing your crappy attitude into a more positive one.

  3. The Duder
    5:33 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Where a player goes to school or how many stars he was given has NOTHING to do with player development. If you were arguing that Mark Stoops can identify talent that was overlooked by other colleges then great article. However two of your examples(Stenberg and Pringle) are 2nd/1st year players in the system meaning they came in with a level of talent capable of competing.

    What about the wide receivers? What about all of the players who have come in and faded away? What about the QBs? This is the first year we have had a QB get better as the season went on and it was because of Gran and Hinshaw, Stoops first good hires. The defense was literally a joke until Stoops himself stepped in and until this season with new coaches the offense was flat lined.

    At no point in this did you show me the “development” of a player. Player development is because of coaching and it’s not a surprise or secret that the players who got better this year (QB, RB, WR and DEF) were because of new coaches (Or in the defense’s case a head coach)who actually could coach. This was Stoops biggest downfall so far, his staff. He would be wise to accelerate this team forward by hiring a DC that could coach and upgrading a few other position coaches.

    • J-Dub421
      5:38 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

      You’re ignoring the fact that we’ve had 3 different OC’s in 4 years. Stoops wanted Gran last year, but Gran wasn’t ready to leave Cincinnati yet, so he got stuck with what was available – Shannon Dawson. Once Stoops got the guy he wanted in the first place – Gran, everything improved. This was Stoops 4th season at UK and we’ve gotten progressively better every year. Development doesn’t happen overnight.

    • The Duder
      11:39 am December 1, 2016 Permalink

      J-Dub – This is the first year we have gotten any better since Stoops players started coming in. I understand the OC but what about the running backs coaches? What about the receivers coaches? Those are two positions where we didn’t improve until this year. In one year they got tremendously better. They have specific coaches who are supposed to do just that, make them better. Player development doesn’t take time it takes ability by the coaches. Look at Vanderbilt and Penn St. James Franklin who is a tremendous football coach was able to get players to play well above their star rankings in a very short amount of time. Look at Mike McIntyre at Colorado. They were WAY worse off than UK and in the same amount of time as Stoops they are playing for the PAC 12 championship. That is coaching. That is player development. I’m not saying we should be playing for the SEC championship, I’m saying until this year when we upgraded some of our coaches, we were never developing players. Our Offense is finally on the right track with good hires last year. I am firmly convinced that DJ Elliot is in WAY over his head and Stoops had to bail him out by essentially becoming the DC this year. He needs to get over his friendship and realize that in order for UK to go to the next level he needs real coaches who know what they are doing.

  4. apocalypse
    5:53 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Pretty solid writing Mr. Maggard and I agree to a point. I understand the cupboard was pretty bare when Coach came in and it takes time to recruit talent and to develop talent. UK was in no position to RS anyone the first year and now we have enough depth to do so. That is HUGE for the OL/DL men unless they are just stud players.
    The questions I have are laid out by “The Duder” and are pretty spot on.

  5. Tej
    6:00 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    I agree with J-Dub. Gran and Hinshaw made a big difference this year They were a great choice by Coach Stoops. . Also, after Barker was injured, they “developed” Stephen Johnson pretty quickly. They took advantage of a really good offensive line and put out a great running game. The defense is better than early in the year, Thank God. Some credit has to go to coaching and developing players like Jones, Edwards, Westry, etc., be it by Stoops or by Elliot. Most of our recruits are 3-star guys. The top teams in the SEC start with mostly 4-stars. Although, we’ve learned that the number of stars doesn’t mean everything. Posters picking on Elam are unfair. Here was a kid who was highly rated and chose U.K. over Ala. hopefully, he becomes the player we thought he’d be. We don’t know what his problems are. So, ripping him at every turn serves no purpose.

    • WeareBBN
      7:11 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

      His problem is the fridge, can’t leave it alone. Also heard his work ethic is not great, maybe spending too much time at the fridge. So far he has been a total waste and until he cares enough to change things things will be said.

  6. FatSparxxx
    8:02 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Haha check out Boogie cleaning the floors

  7. BlueDiz
    8:05 pm November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Excellent article, as usual. Like J-Dub, I can’t understand why people want to grumble and scoff at everything. I believe their negativity is not limited to UK sports.
    This was an exemplary year for coaching under-fire. Player development under duress is not uncommon, but it is so sweet to see how this team has improved day by day. I appreciate your knowledge of the value of line play. It is the foundation of any team. This was a great read and I look forward to reading about our other players on the team. It is obviously hard for many of us to realize how young these guys are compared to the SEC talent they face each week. There are so many great stories to be told on this team.