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Getting to know Mark Stoops

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Mitch Barnhart got his man on Tuesday afternoon, as he named Mark Stoops Kentucky football's newest head coach.

"New beginnings always provide a sense of excitement," Barnhart said in a release announcing the news. "That's why today I'm excited for Mark Stoops and his family as they provide a new beginning for our football program, fans and players. I also want to thank FSU coach Jimbo Fisher for his help in the hiring process.

"Mark's passion has been evident in the way he coaches and in his love for the game of football. That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the Blue and White. Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark. He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career. That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky. We welcome Mark, Chantel, Will and Zack to the Big Blue Nation."

He is known as one of the brightest defensive minds in football and is a member of one of the best known coaching families in the game. As happy as fans are to welcome their coach, Stoops is even more excited to be the Big Blue Nation's newest member.

"I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky," Stoops said. "My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation.

"I want to thank President (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of."

Stoops, though, will have to wait a few days to set foot in the Bluegrass. He is currently the defensive coordinator for No. 13 Florida State and the Seminoles are playing in the ACC Championship game on Saturday against Georgia Tech. As such, his introductory press conference won't be held until later.

However, Cat Scratches will be doing its best to help you learn everything you can about Stoops as a person and a football coach, beginning with this post detailing his background:


Stoops was born on July 9, 1967 in Youngstown, Ohio as the son of Ron and Evelyn Stoops. His father was the defensive coordinator at Cardinal Mooney High School in Stoops' hometown, where he began his football career. Interestingly, Mark Stoops went to high school and played with both Bo and Carl Pelini. Bo is the head coach at Nebraska and Carl is his defensive coordinator.

He is one of six children and the youngest of four brothers who all coach football at the collegiate level. Bob is the head coach at Oklahoma, where he won a national championship in 2000. Mike is the defensive coordinator for the Sooners and the former head coach at Arizona, where Mark served as his defensive coordinator. The oldest of the Stoops brothers - Ron, Jr. - is an assistant at Youngstown State.

After high school, Stoops followed his brothers to Iowa, where he played for Hall of Famer Hayden Fry as a defensive back. He would then go on to a coaching career detailed below.

Stoops is married to his wife Chantel and has two sons, Will and Zack.

Coaching background

Stoops has been around football his entire life, but his first experience on the coaching side of things came as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He served two years under Fry, reaching a pair of bowl games including the 1990 Rose Bowl as Big Ten champion. He would then follow in his father's footsteps, spending four years as an assistant coach and athletics director at Nordonia Hills High School in Ohio before returning to the college ranks.

For the last 17 seasons, Stoops has been a defensive backs coach or defensive coordinator at the collegiate level, where he has been associated with numerous impressive building or rebuilding jobs. The first was at South Florida, where Jim Leavitt hired Stoops to be his defensive backs coach at South Florida in 1996 as the program prepared for its first varsity game the following year.

Stoops would then head west to Wyoming, where he was defensive backs coach from 1997-99. The Cowboys had a winning record each season. There, Stoops coached safety Brian Lee during his senior season when Lee led the NCAA in interceptions and becoming Wyoming's only First Team All American. In 1997, Wyoming ranked No. 6 nationally in pass defense.

He then spent a year as co-defensive coordinator at Houston before taking a job at Miami as defensive backs coach. The next three seasons, he coached in BCS bowls and two national championship games, winning a title in the 2001-02 season. Each year, his secondary was one of the strengths of the team. The Hurricanes led the nation in pass defense both 2002 and 2003 and pass efficiency defense in 2001.

In 2004, his brother Mike was named head coach at Arizona and Mark followed him as defensive coordinator to help turn around a program that had gone 4-18 the previous two seasons. Progress was slow as the Wildcats went 3-8 his first two seasons before winning 11 combined games in 2006-07. In 2008, Arizona reached a bowl game for the first time in a decade, going 8-5 and reaching the Las Vegas Bowl. A trip to the Holiday Bowl another 8-5 record awaited in 2009. That season, which would be his last at Arizona, the Wildcats ranked 25th nationally in total defense.

Before the 2010 season, Stoops was tasked with a different sort of rebuilding job at Florida State as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. The Seminoles gave up 30.0 points per game and 434.6 yards per game in 2009. Within one season, Florida State cut those per-game averages to 19.6 and 353.7. Under Stoops, the improvement would only continue the next two years, culminating in 2012. This season, the Seminoles are second nationally in total defense, yielding just 249.4 yards per game. Astoundingly, FSU has allowed just 3.8 yards per play and 13.9 first downs per game and opponents have converted just 27.3 percent of their third downs, second lowest in the nation.


With his background as a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, Stoops has a well-established reputation for zone defenses that excel in defending the pass and forcing turnovers. For a little more, here is Stoops' answer from his introductory press conference at Florida State when he was asked about his coaching philosophy.

"We're going to base out of a 4-3, 4-3 personnel. We'll be very multiple. I think the biggest change that you'll see is there will be a difference in some zone coverages. We'll be more multiple in the back end and we'll play some man and some zone. But we'll mix it up and just be much more multiple as far as our zone coverages are concerned. We'll attack, but an interesting point that I talk about is - and we don't worry a whole lot about stats or things - coming from the Pac-10 at Arizona, we led the conference in sacks and I wouldn't say we're an overly aggressive blitzing, out-of-control defense. I think we're very precise. We try to be very accurate in what we try to do and how we get it taught. But I think we get sacks and things like that from covering people and making the quarterback eat it a little bit as opposed to all-out blitzing and getting some pressure that way. So we want to cover people and be very sound and very precise in our run fits and we want to take our shots and get after the quarterback when we can and obviously we want to be very multiple in our coverages."

As for Stoops' offensive philosophy, it's not worthwhile to speculate until he announces his coaching staff.

Players coached

During his coaching career, Stoops has coached some remarkably talented players. Counting defensive backs at Miami and all defenders at Florida State and Arizona, Stoops has coached the following 20 players who went on to be drafted.

Florida State (defensive coordinator, 2010-12)

  • Patrick Robinson
  • Myron Rolle
  • Dekoda Watson
  • Markus White
  • Nigel Bradham
  • Mike Harris
Arizona (defensive coordinator, 2004-09)
  • Antoine Cason
  • Michael Johnson
  • Spencer Larsen
  • Wilfrey Fontenot
  • Lionel Dotson
Miami (defensive backs coach, 2001-03)    
  • Ed Reed
  • Antrel Rolle
  • Philip Buchanon
  • Brandon Meriweather
  • Sean Taylor
  • Mike Rumph
  • Kelly Jennings
  • Alfonso Marshall
  • James Lewis

Reading/viewing material

During the season, Florida State assistant coaches are not made available to the media. Because of that, there has been less written about Stoops than there otherwise would be, but here are a few links to satisfy your curiosity. Over the coming days, there are sure to be many more stories to pass along.

Stoops similar to Barnhart's other successful hires (John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader)
Stoops' defense right on schedule (Corey Clark, Tallahassee Democrat)
Blue-collar roots define Bob Stoops (provides insight into Stoops family) (Jake Trotter, The Oklahoman)
Video: Stoops' introductory press conference at FSU
Stoops' FSU bio
Video: Stoops talks 2012 season at FSU Media Day

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