Clinkscale's Patience Rewarded with Role on Stoops' Staff

The second Mark Stoops was hired, Kentucky caught Steve Clinkscale’s eye.

Then about to make the move from Illinois to Cincinnati, Clinkscale saw success in the program’s future. 

"From afar, when Coach Stoops took over, there was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be a football school,” Clinkscale said.

Naturally, Clinkscale wanted to be a part of UK’s ascendance. And as an energetic, passionate and eager young coach, his instinct was to pursue the opportunity. His wife, Jasena, preached patience.

“When Coach Stoops first got the job here, I really wanted to come and really wanted to chase him, hunt him down,” Clinkscale said. “And she said, 'It'll happen, baby. It'll happen.' ”

Clinkscale heeded his wife’s advice, and after three successful seasons at Cincinnati his decision paid off. On Tuesday, Stoops named him defensive backs coach, the successor to Derrick Ansley.

“I am very impressed with Coach Clinkscale’s knowledge and the way he handles himself with players,” Stoops said in a release announcing the hire. “He is well-seasoned in terms of experience. Coaches I greatly respect – Coach (Eddie) Gran and Coach (Darin) Hinshaw – who worked with him in Cincinnati speak very highly of him.”

Stoops consulted first-year offensive coaches Gran and Hinshaw during the interview process, but more importantly trusted his own background as a defensive backs coach. 

“As you know, that’s my expertise and so I’ll take recommendations from people, obviously, and there was great interest in this job and some great candidates, some guys with NFL experience and just all different types,” Stoops said on Thursday. “But obviously I know very specifically what I’m looking for with that hire and just thought he was a great fit for us.”

Leaving Cincinnati, however, was not an easy decision for Clinkscale. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator before last season, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity he had waited so long for.

“Being a defensive coordinator at Cincinnati was a great opportunity as well, given to me by Tommy Tuberville, but Coach Stoops and I are so like-minded,” Clinkscale said. “We share a very similar background from where we’re born and raised, from how we’ve kind of come up in the coaching ranks to just having a great experience with the defensive backs and just wanting to continue to work for somebody that’s like-minded, somebody that I feel can continue to make me a better coach and a better person.”

As Clinkscale referenced, he and Stoops both hail from Youngstown, Ohio. Though Clinkscale was close with tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow prior to the interview process, he and Stoops only knew of each other.

“The first thing you think of in Youngstown, Ohio about the Stoops family is tradition, toughness, winning,” Clinkscale said. “That’s the same thing that we were brought up in.”

Clinkscale and Stoops also have a history with defensive backs in common, another attractive part of the job.

“I always like to work with people that I think I can learn from and maybe just get better,” Clinkscale said. “I always want to get better. I never felt like as a player I played my best game, and I never feel like as a coach that I’ve coached my best game. I think I always can get better, every game, every week, every year and every practice.”

Clinkscale will now look to continue his own personal improvement coaching a unit that has the potential to be one of UK’s strengths. By the end of the season, the Wildcats were playing four freshmen – Chris Westry, Derrick Baity, Darius West and Marcus Walker – in the secondary, giving early experience to a rangy, talented group.

“I like to teach, and I think that’s what he was looking for: someone that wants to teach, be detail-oriented and help the young men grow and develop,” Clinkscale said. “This is a young group. Four of the starters are freshmen. Want to give those guys opportunities to continue to develop, and they’re willing to learn and get better.”

Clinkscale has preexisting relationships with a number of his defensive backs having recruiting them in high school and already has noticed the group is a close-knit family. With that taken care of, Clinkscale will work to make sure his unit plays with a good balance between intensity and fundamental soundness.

“You can’t play defense without emotion,” Clinkscale said. “You can’t coach it without emotion. You have to have a little emotion, have to have some enthusiasm and understand the game as well. But I want to be fundamentally sound, I want us to have great effort running to the ball and, like I always say, I want them to be violent and physical.”

With that approach, Clinkscale believes his group can be the linchpin of Kentucky’s defense.

“They want to continue to learn and get better, and they want to be the best defensive back unit in the country,” Clinkscale said. “That’s what I’m here for.”