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Notebook: Good news aplenty for Stoops, UK football

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Mark Stoops was busy Saturday with several recruits on campus, including taking in a game at Rupp Arena.(Chet White, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops was busy Saturday with several recruits on campus, including taking in a game at Rupp Arena.(Chet White, UK Athletics)
He hasn't coached a single practice or game as head coach at Kentucky, but Mark Stoops is a busy man.. And the good news is there is plenty of good news to go around for him and his football program as the hype and excitement around UK football continues to mount.

Saturday afternoon, Stoops had an opportunity to talk to the media about everything going on in the football world, ranging from the recent announcement of improvements to Commonwealth Stadium to the recruiting trail. Here is a rundown of Saturday's topics of conversation...

Improvements coming to Commonwealth Stadium


This past Thursday, the Kentucky football program got some very exciting news when Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky legislators announced support for the University of Kentucky to begin several new projects on the UK campus. The plan included a $110-million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium and improvements to the Nutter Training Facility.

"It's exciting," said Stoops. "It is going to have a great impact on our program. It is an exciting time for all of the Big Blue Nation. It's an exciting time for the fans, for the students and for our players. It shows the commitment that we have here to the football program and to the fans. It is going to be an exciting time."

When it comes down to brass tacks, the most important aspect of the news is that it will give Kentucky a chance to compete with some of the other elite programs in the Southeastern  Conference in terms of bringing in top talent. The only chance Stoops has of restoring the winning tradition of Kentucky football is if he is able to attract good football players to commit to his plan and his vision.

"I just think anything you do, it's for the players," said Stoops. "Much is placed on the emphasis on recruiting but that's what helps you, is the players being comfortable and the players having a great facility.

"As you know, in all of our sports, our athletes are here and with us a great deal of time. We spend a great deal of time in our complex (Nutter) so I think it's most important for our players to feel comfortable, to have them in a comfortable environment, with their locker room and just a facility where they can spend some time and feel good."

The facilities were a topic of conversation between Stoops and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart during the hiring process. Though it was not his primary concern, Stoops and Barnhart talked about the vision for this program to get an idea of the direction and commitment he would receive if he took the position.

"We are serious about football and the administration is serious about football," Stoops said. "It is a tremendous commitment by a lot of people to make it happen. I think it will have a great impact."

Final coaching staff slots filled

Stoops hit the ground running when he was named head coach back on Dec. 2. He put much of his coaching staff together at warp speed, but there were two final spots open for a few weeks as Stoops looked for the best fits for his staff.

On Saturday, Derrick Ansley and Tommy Mainord were announced as the final two coaches to help round out Stoops' staff. Ansley was tabbed as cornerbacks coach after a one-year stint with Tennessee. The former Troy defensive back also spent time as a graduate assistant with Alabama.

Stoops could not say enough good things about Ansley on Saturday after meeting with him multiple times. Each time Stoops came away impressed and felt that he good bring something new and special to the table.

"The addition of Derrick, coach of our cornerbacks, was a great addition," said Stoops. "I felt like he was a guy that could bring something new to myself and (defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot) and brings something new to the defensive package. So, very impressed with him, both in technique and in scheme."

On the other side of the ball, Mainord will be in charge of the wide receivers, an important position for the Wildcats in the future. Stoops has been preaching the importance of finding playmakers at the wide receiver position in his first month of the job, and Mainord will be key in that development. His familiarity with offensive coordinator Neal Brown at Texas Tech made the hire a "no-brainer."

Stoops and the coordinators obviously had a plan as to what type of people they wanted to fill those positions, but at the end of the day, they wanted the very best people available to join them on their staff. While the staff is relatively young, age wasn't particularly a factor. It was all about finding the perfect fit.

"Best people. It really is," said Stoops. "I said, I think in the last presser, it was important for me to find hungry people, whatever age they were. I think you have to find that blend with experience and some young, up-and-coming guys that have a little attitude about them and that are excited to be here and ready to work the way we are going to work."

Stoops finds early success in recruiting

Brand new head coaches face a tough road ahead of them when it comes to recruiting. Not only do they have the challenge of meeting and identifying new players on the landscape, but they have to quickly play catch-up and build relationships on the go. Stoops and staff have done a bang-up job in their limited time in Lexington.

Early on, they identified some of the top junior-college talent in the nation and got two early signees. But Saturday afternoon was their biggest recruiting day yet as they had several prospective Wildcats in Lexington, including taking in a game at Rupp Arena. Early on, it seems the response from recruits has been very positive.

"Things are going well," said Stoops. "We have a big group here today. It's been a great response, and I have been very excited about the way recruiting is going and I feel very good about putting this class together."

One place where the coaches are very comfortable and confident in with regards to recruiting is the state of Ohio. Stoops, an Ohio native, sees the Buckeye State as a recruiting hotbed and place Kentucky must tap in to in order to get the program moving in the right direction. They've hit that area hard already, and they will continue to while also paying attention to the other surrounding states and the state of Kentucky.

"I think it's very important for us to get into Ohio, as you know, obviously Southern Ohio being very, very close," said Stoops. "With my ties to Northeastern Ohio, and really all through Ohio, it's going to be very important to us. There's tremendous football being played in Ohio and so we want to treat that as home base.

"We're going to work Ohio hard along with Kentucky and really anything within a close proximity to UK."

Stoops wants to do things the right way

Not every player is a perfect fit at his respective program. Stoops determined that was the case for two young men - Marcus Caffey and Jonathan Reed - who violated team rules earlier this week and they were dismissed from the team. That part of the job is never easy, but Stoops wanted to send the message that under him things would be done the right way.

"We're going to do things right," said Stoops. "We're going to give every player the right opportunity and be fair to each and every player on our team."

Stoops emphasized Saturday that his program is for and about the players, and they he wanted to give them the chance to correct their mistakes and do right, but if they don't meet the high standards of the program, they will need to find another place to go to school and play football.

"I'll treat those players like I would expect one of my sons to be treated," said Stoops. "We'll be very fair with them but there will be some guidelines and if they don't meet, them they won't be here."

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