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2014 Previews: Kentucky Wildcats

2014 Previews: Kentucky Wildcats

Mark Stoops’ first year in Lexington did not go smoothly. The decision to force the Wildcats into a no-huddle offense proved to be a bad move, and the defense couldn’t dig Stoops out of his miscalculation. Fortunately, Stoops has put the Wildcats on a better track recruiting-wise, but he’s still having to populate several positions that went unattended under Joker Phillips’ regime.

Mark Stoops is facing the same task that literally every Kentucky coach has faced since Paul “Bear” Bryant left for Texas A&M long ago: rebuilding.

Were it not for Bryant’s success at Kentucky, one could argue that the current UK staff is actually building, not rebuilding. Kentucky hasn’t been a legitimate threat in the SEC since that time. There were some isolated bright spots over the years – Hal Mumme’s early seasons, Jerry Claiborne’s 9-3 campaign in 1984, the fundamentally sound and overachieving teams of Rich Brooks – but for the most part, Kentucky has played the role of Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters of Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

Time will tell if Stoops is the coach to finally buck this trend. His initial season started poorly with a loss to the Sun Belt’s Western Kentucky, itself a team in transition under a new head coach. But Kentucky has been competitive in its last three games against better teams – Louisville, Florida and South Carolina. All, however, have ended in losses.

Alabama doesn’t come into this game at 100-percent strength. The Crimson Tide is without its starting center and strong safety, and other key players have been nicked up or otherwise ineffective. But Alabama would have to completely overlook this game to be in any danger.

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2013 Fall Previews: Kentucky Wildcats

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2013 Fall Previews: Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky is breaking in a new head coach in 2013, Mark Stoops. The high-energy Stoops has never been a head coach before, but if he gets early results on the field like he has in recruiting, he’ll endear himself to the Wildcat faithful quickly. Kentucky has almost no offensive talent at the moment, and the defense has problems the further away from the line of scrimmage one moves. This won’t be a quick turnaround in Lexington, but Stoops has to start somewhere.

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