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Top six moments from Stoops' first six months

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As of Memorial Day, the Mark Stoops era is six months old.

The new Kentucky football coach is still waiting for his first game, but his first half-year has been quite eventful. Over that time, he and his staff have injected the program with energy and excited Wildcat fans both inside and outside the Bluegrass.

Today, we look back at the top six moments from Stoops' first six months on the job.

6. UK's Super Bowl ad

It had been more than two months since Stoops came on board. Fans were taking a break from following recruiting with Signing Day just days away to watch the Super Bowl. But just before the halftime show, viewers in Lexington were reminded of Kentucky football with this 30-second advertisement.


Those who didn't see it live quickly made their way online to see what all the buzz was about. In the three-plus months since it was posted, the Super Bowl ad - which features audio from Stoops' introductory press conference and Air Raid sirens - has accumulated more than 90,000 views.

Story: Stoops creates perfect moment for UK's Super Bowl ad

5. Za'Darius Smith, Steven Borden make for early recruiting splash

Stoops wasted no time signaling that Kentucky is going to be a player on the national recruiting scene.

On Dec. 19, UK announced the signing of a pair of highly touted junior-college prospects: Za'Darius Smith and Steven Borden. Smith - the nation's top-ranked strongside junior-college defensive end - and Borden - a tight end with good speed and ball skills - fit UK's new defensive and offensive schemes  perfectly.

Both enrolled in January and participated in spring practice. Smith, in particular, looks like a potential instant contributor. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder could form a potent pass-rushing duo with Bud Dupree.

Story: Early returns strong for Stoops as Smith, Borden sign

4. Neal Brown comes home

Giving fans yet another reason to get excited about the new coaching staff, former UK wide receiver Neal Brown signed on as offensive coordinator, bringing an evolved version of Hal Mumme's Air Raid back to Lexington. Brown - regarded as one of the top young offensive minds in the game - was a candidate for head coaching positions and offensive coordinator roles at other schools, but decided he wanted to return to his roots.

Within days of his introduction, two more former Wildcats joined Brown as offensive assistant coaches. SEC All-Freshman performer Chad Scott will coach running backs and All-SEC honoree John Schlarman will lead the offensive line.

The trio added familiar faces to the staff and bring important knowledge of the unique challenges of coaching at UK that has helped Stoops navigate his first months.

Story: Brown energized by return to UK

3. Stoops meets the Big Blue Nation


For five days after Stoops was named head coach, fans had to wait to meet him. As he prepared for Florida State's matchup with Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coach Conference Championship Game, UK staffers were busy planning Stoops' official welcome.

When he finally was able to fly to Lexington for the first time on Dec. 2, a hero's welcome awaited him.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart flew to Tallahassee, Fla., to pick up Stoops and his family. When they landed in Kentucky, Stoops was greeted by a crowd of well-wishers, but he hadn't seen anything yet.

At the Nutter Field House, hundreds of alumni, boosters, cheerleaders, dance team and band members and media gathered for an introduction that was more a celebration than a press conference. Flanked Barnhart and UK President Eli Capilouto, Stoops spelled out his vision for the UK program in a festive atmosphere.

2. Signing Day


On Signing Day, Stoops inked the highest-rated class in UK history - 29th - according to Rivals.com. He did it by following through on the recruiting mission he detailed when he has named coach.

UK protected its home territory, landing late commitments from in-state products Jason Hatcher and Ryan Timmons. Stoops established UK's presence in Ohio, securing pledges from Marcus McWilson, Jaleel Hytchye and Kyle Meadows. Finally, he plucked prospects from Florida, signing Jeff Badet, Javess Blue and Alex Montgomery, among others.

If this is what the new coaches can do in two months, it's incredible to think what they might do in a full year.

1. Record-setting spring game


Everyone had heard about the way fans were gobbling up tickets to the 2013 Blue/White Spring Game. It seemed a certainty that UK would set a school record for spring game attendance, but even the most optimistic experts could not have predicted the scene that evening in Commonwealth Stadium.

Fans came out early to tailgate, many of them taking advantage of a shuttle to and from Keeneland. When it was time for the Cat Walk, they lined up nine and 10 deep to cheer on the Wildcats as they walked into the stadium. Gates opened shortly after that and the stands were quickly full.

By the first quarter, an estimated 50,831 fans were in Commonwealth Stadium, shattering the previous school record for spring game attendance by more than 30,000. Just as impressively, the showing gave UK the sixth-largest attendance of any NCAA team that held a spring game.

They cheered as the Blue team held on for a 24-23 victory, watching as the likes of Jalen Whitlow, Smith and Dupree impressed and giving the Cats a taste of what the atmosphere at Commonwealth will be like on Saturdays this fall.

As great as those other five moments may have been, they pale in comparison to what happened on April 13.

Story: Stoops, Cats inspired by spring game support

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