Mark Stoops has, without question, brought in a higher level of talent to UK since he took the job in 2013. It is quite obvious on the field. But as of yet, the wins have not come in plenty, just 7 in 2 years. Not doubt the mess that Joker Phillips left behind plays the biggest role in that 7-17 start to the Stoops tenure and this year would seem to setup to bring the Cats back to a bowl. But often times fans will assume that increased recruiting efforts automatically equals wins. Unfortunately in the SEC, that isn’t always the case. The issue is that you don’t recruit against your previous classes. You recruit against your conference mates in the same year. So just because UK jumps from 58th to 35th nationally in recruiting does not mean they will win more games. It might mean they are more competitive, but wins are not a guarantee.
Take a look at just how much UK’s overall recruiting ranking is compared to where they were in the SEC recruiting rankings:
2012: 63rd nationally (14th in SEC)
2013: 29th nationally (13th in SEC)
2014: 17th nationally (9th in SEC)
2015: 35th nationally (13th in SEC)
**2016: 10th nationally (4th in SEC)
Joker Phillips last full class was one of the worst in modern UK history. It was by far the worst class in the SEC. And Kentucky is now just funneling through that class as the senior class of the program. Doesn’t mean that some good players did not come from that class, but overall, that class was a disaster for the program. Mark Stoops immediately changed that. His first 3 class all ranked in the Top 35 in the country, including what had to be one of the best classes on paper in 2014, a Top 20 class. But despite that, the 2014 group STILL only ranked 9th in the conference. So while it definitely was a better group (on paper) than other UK classes, it still ranked in the bottom half of the league. THAT is going to be Mark Stoops biggest struggle. How do you keep your own morale and the fans morale if you bring in better talent than ever but still struggle in the league because your league mates are just that dominant on the recruiting trail?
Which brings us to the Class of 2016. It is still WAAAAAAAYYYYYY early, but rivals.com ranks UK class 10th nationally and 4th in the SEC at this point. Obviously, some of the larger powers like Alabama and Auburn will likely pass the Cats. But here is my question: CAN UK GET A HIGHER CONFERENCE RANK THAN WE’VE SEEN FOR THE CLASS OF 2016? That would mean UK would have to garner a class that ranks 8th or better in the league. Can this be done? And for the fans, if this is done, does your expectation continue to increase of where this program can go?