The New Kids on the Block: Mark Stoops, Head Football Coach for the Kentucky Wildcats

USA Today Sports

This the fourth and final installment of a series of brief articles about the new head football coaches in the SEC. This week’s edition brings us the new coach for the Kentucky Wildcats: Mark Stoops.

"Whoever said nothing is impossible obviously hasn't tried nailing Jell-O to a tree."

- John Candy

BACKGROUND

The Stoops brothers (Bob, then Mike, then Mark) wore the #41 jersey in the defensive secondary for Hayden Fry's Iowa Hawkeyes for eleven consecutive football seasons - Mark from 1986-1988. He was a graduate assistant at Iowa from 1989-1991 (INTERESTING NOTE: fellow New Kid Bret Bielema played on the defensive line at Iowa from 1989-1992), before leaving to become the defensive backs coach (and athletic director) at Nordonia High School in Ohio from 1992-1995. Jim Leavitt hired him to coach defensive backs at South Florida in 1996, and Coach Stoops the Youngest then coached defensive backs at Wyoming from 1997-1999. Stoops followed head coach Dana Dimel to Houston, where he was co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2000. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Stoops

He was then the DBs coach at Miami from 2001-2003. Over those three seasons, Miami went: (2001) 12-0 and won the National Championship; (2002) 12-1, losing to Ohio State (somewhat controversially, I might add) in double overtime in the National Championship Game; and (2003) 11-2, including a win over FSU in the Orange Bowl.

From 2004-2009, Mark was his brother Mike's defensive coordinator at Arizona. [All advanced stats come from www.footballoutsiders.com, which doesn't list S&P+ stats prior to 2005, or FEI rankings prior to 2007.] His 2005 squad was the #57 defense in the S&P+, and they moved up to #38 in 2006. In 2007, the Wildcat defense dropped back to #48 in the S&P+ and #31 in the FEI, finishing #38 in the defensive F+. In 2008, they came in defensively at #30 in the S&P+, #41 in the FEI, and #33 in the F+. In his final season at Arizona, his unit ranked #31 in the S&P+, #25 in the FEI, and #32 in the F+.

2010

[2013 will be Mark Stoops's first year as a head coach, so I'm going to break out his three seasons as a defensive coordinator at FSU, due to increased recency and relevance.]

First year head coach Jimbo Fisher hired Mark Stoops to be his defensive coordinator in Tallahassee for the 2010 season. The new crew would improve on Bobby Bowden's 7-6 (4-4) 2009 season by going 10-4 (6-2) and winding up ranked #16 in the Coaches Poll and #17 in the AP, including convincing wins over rivals Miami (45-17) and Florida (31-7), and a 26-17 win over South Carolina (the team that beat us by two touchdowns) in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. Their losses included Oklahoma, NC State, UNC, and Virginia Tech in the ACCCG. (Interesting Fact: the 2010 FSU Seminoles won more SEC games - 2 - than Ole Miss or Vandy, and as many as Kentucky.)

The 2010 Seminoles defense finished the year ranked #30 in the S&P+, #37 in the FEI, and #37 in the combined F+ rankings. They allowed 19.6 points per game, 3.41 yards per carry, 6.60 yards per pass attempt, and 4.93 yards per play overall. http://www.cfbstats.com/2010/team/234/index.html

2011

Coach (Mark) Stoops helped Jimbo follow this up with a 9-4 (5-3) season, finishing ranked #23 in both the Coaches and AP, including losses to Wake Forest and Virginia, more wins over Miami and Florida, and a four-point victory over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. (Interesting Fact: the 2011 Seminoles won more SEC games - 1 - than Ole Miss, and as many as Tennessee.)

In 2011, Stoops led the FSU defense to final rankings of #4 in the S&P+, #10 in the FEI, and #3 in the F+ combined rankings, behind Alabama and LSU. They allowed 15.1 points per game (#4 in the country), 2.35 yards per carry (#1 in the country), 6.23 yards per pass attempt (#13 in the country), and 4.16 yards per play overall (#3 in the country). (All raw stats from www.cfbstats.com.)

2012

In 2012, FSU improved to 12-2 (7-1), winning the ACC and finishing the season #8 in the Coaches and #10 in the AP, with losses to NC State and Florida, and wins over Clemson and Miami in the regular season, Georgia Tech in the ACCCG, and Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. (Interesting Fact: in 2012, FSU won as many SEC games - 0 - as Kentucky and the Auburnite, combined. Aren't stats fun?)

The 2012 'Nole defense wound up ranked #3 in the S&P+, #9 in the FEI, and #5 in the combined F+. They allowed 14.7 points per game (#6 in the country), 2.74 yards per carry (#4 in the country), 5.00 yards per pass attempt (#1 in the country), and 3.85 yards per play overall (#1 in the country).

2013

Coach Mark Stoops now takes over for the Kentucky Wildcats, whose only wins were over Kent State and Samford - NOT Stanford - and who constituted Tennessee's sole SEC victory in 2012, as well as half of Mizzou's and Arkansas'. They get an opportunity for revenge against the WKU Hilltoppers, to go along with Miami (OH), Louisville and Alabama State as their non-conference slate, and Alabama and Mississippi State as their non-divisional games.

In 2012, Kentucky wound up ranked #98 in the S&P+, #111 in the FEI, and #112 in the combined F+ rankings overall.

ANALYSIS

So much of happiness in life is managing expectations.

He'll have Neal Brown at OC, who led Texas Tech's offense from 2010-2012, passing 59% of the time in 2010, 61% in 2011, and 60% in 2012 (from www.cfbstats.com), and former FSU defensive ends coach D. J. Eliot (can't be a good sign when your DC doesn't have a wikipedia page yet) at DC, with whom he is already presumably familiar from their time together at FSU.

Considering the gangrenous toe that was Wildcats football in 2012, I would define "success" in 2013 as a return to merely bad. If they can beat WKU (even if close), Miami (OH), and Alabama State in their non-conference schedule, and take 2/4+ of Mississippi State, Mizzou, Vandy and Tennessee (how much fun is it to include them in the category of "winnable" games for this Kentucky team?) then I will call 2013 a successful first year for Coach (Mark) Stoops. Kind of like with the Architect from The Matrix, I am curious to see what levels of survival Kentucky is willing to accept, but apparently a 35% winning percentage wasn't it.

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