Their Connections to Stoops
Hood’s no stranger to the Stoops name. The northern Ohio native started a personal relationship with Stoops at an unfortunate time. They first talked on the phone following the Richmond bar fight between UK and EKU players. The relationship got even more personal when one of Hood’s players tragically passed away just before their game against UK.
Hood paused, too choked up to talk at first. “He was great with how he handled all that. Had his picture up on the scoreboard at the game.”
LeBlanc had a previous relationship with Stoops, thanks to his mentor Pete Jenkins. “Just the Stoops name itself, when you talk about defensive football, the Stoops name comes up.”
Coaching Philosophy and Experience
“I wouldn’t say I’m quite the players coach, and I’m not quite the grumpy coach either,” LeBlanc laughed. “I’m a coach that enjoys coaching.” The young coach preached intensity and commitment to consistently performing at a high level throughout his time at the podium.
Hood shares a 3/4 defensive background that’s similar to Coach House. He went into greater detail about each different special teams unit. To save you from death by boredom, to simply sum it up, Hood wants to be aggressive because it’s the easiest and best time to play aggressively.
Most importantly, Hood discussed ways to improve the punt team, Kentucky’s worst special teams unit in 2016. It starts with good blocking up front. “Just relax and know that first and foremost…it starts with protection.” The word around the facility is that McKinniss was been booming punts in practice, music to Hood’s ears.
“All of that means zero if you don’t have the players to execute…it’s all about talent. This coaching thing is highly overrated.”
Where They Will Recruit
LeBlanc will set up shop in Georgia, particularly in the northern part of the state. Hood will recruit Tennessee, emphasizing the triangle between Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga. Schlarman will split up the state of Kentucky; Hood will have the eastern half of the state while Schlarman will maintain contacts in the west. Hood will recruit in the Charlotte area as well.
Early Impressions from Film
LeBlanc has spent a lot of time in the film room and he believes he’s learned what was wrong with last year’s defensive line. “We found some answers to our problems that we’re going to get corrected this spring.”
The most impressive player so far has been Adrian Middleton, a guy LeBlanc believes will be a leader. “Hopefully he can rub off on the young guys in the room,” LeBlanc said.
Hood has focused less on specific players, although Ware and Allen’s talent at outside linebacker is unbelievable. Instead, Hood has focused more on the techniques and terminology used by Stoops and House and how they fit into the defense as a whole.
What the Additions Mean
Mark Stoops has added two personalities that will play important roles in the locker room. Hood has coaching experience at a variety of levels, including the role of head coach. His personal approach can reach players on a different level. LeBlanc is a young, fiery, motivated coach who’s on the biggest stage of his young career. With a young group to coach, he believes he came to Kentucky at the perfect time.
Most importantly, the defensive staff has obtained unprecedented knowledge in the coaching room, giving Kentucky a tactical advantage we’re not accustomed to seeing in the bluegrass.
“There’s so much coaching knowledge in our room right now,” LeBlanc said. “Of course with Matt House being the new defensive coordinator. Coach Stoops has years and years of experience. Then Coach Hood who has been coaching defense and has year of experience as a head coach, I’m just enjoying it. I’m the young guy. I’m soaking it all in and I think it’s a great environment for our coaching staff right now.”