Stoops Has Plan to Address Special Teams Vacancy

On the heels of a competitive scrimmage, Kentucky has built on Saturday with two more good days, including Tuesday’s ninth practice of the spring.

“The guys have been consistent, good meetings yesterday, Monday morning,” Mark Stoops said. “Came out this morning and had another good, enthusiastic practice. We’re getting more consistent, just what I’ve been preaching and looking for all spring.”

With 11 days before the Wildcats put a bow on the spring at the Blue-White Spring Game on April 16, Stoops is asking his team to sustain that momentum. There’s plenty of work ahead.

“There’s a lot of things we need to clean up, in particular fundamentally defensively,” Stoops said. “We have some young guys in certain spots that we’ve really got to continue to improve and have a great end of spring practices here to fundamentally get to where we need to go.”

The Cats had a curveball thrown at them Monday as they pursue that improvement, with outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Andy Buh leaving his post to become Maryland’s defensive coordinator. Buh heads to Maryland to work for Stoops’ fellow Youngstown, Ohio native D.J. Durkin after one full season in Lexington.

“It’s a tough loss, but I really wish him the best,” Stoops said. “He’s going to work for a friend of his, and I’m close with (Maryland head coach) DJ Durkin as well. So, we wish him and his family the very best. He had a great opportunity to go be a defensive coordinator. That’s what he ultimately wanted to be.”

That leaves UK to temporarily reshuffle its staff for the remainder of spring. Fortunately, Stoops hired a former special teams coordinator at Kansas and Youngstown State to be a quality control assistant this offseason.

“Bad timing, but we’ll be fine,” Stoops said. “We’ll manage it. Will elevate Coach Matsakis, Louie Matsakis for the rest of spring to handle the special teams in particular. Coach (D.J.) Eliot will oversee the outside and inside backers. We’ll get through these last remaining practices and then I’ll have time to go look for somebody.”