LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Mark Stoops was barely back from running ESPN's "car wash" gauntlet of interviews Tuesday night than he was required for a morning appearance at the annual Governor's Cup Luncheon and press conference. Never mind that the actual Governor's Cup game won't be until Sept. 14.
Such is the life of a first-year head coach, learning the requirements of the job, and weighing what you can do -- and can't do -- for the many who are requesting your time.
Stoops said he's ready to finally start focusing on football when players report to camp.
"Coach (Charlie) Strong and I were just talking, and I know we're both looking forward to just getting in there with our coaches and teams and coaching football," Stoops said.
But before that, there are interviews and lunches and invitations and a full calendar. Not to mention recruiting and planning sessions with the staff.
"You appreciate all the people that support you in all corners of the state and in all communities, and you want to get out and you want to get back to them and just give them some exposure to yourself and your program. But there is a balance," Stoops said. "I've been a defensive coordinator for a long time. Yeah, I'm getting anxious to get in that room and be in there for long periods of time and to help this team win some games. I think there is an adjustment there. I think there is a time when you have to say no, and I hope people understand that. Because it's time to put your kids, put your program, put your players in the best position to be successful."
In some ways, once he does that, Stoops will be facing his toughest challenge. Everything else, it would seem, has come around as well as he might've planned it -- or even better. Recruiting is rolling. Enthusiasm around the program is at an all-time high, if attendance at the spring game is any indication. Facilities improvements are on the way. UK on Tuesday announced the architectural firm that will handle renovations on Commonwealth Stadium. The plans are still in the early stages, but there's movement.
On the football field, however, Stoops is a year away from major recruiting victories to show up, and may be a couple of years away from them actually translating into real victories.
Still, he says he's happy with the group he's got.
"What I like about the team really most is their attitude, their eagerness to learn," Stoops said. "They've been working exceptionally hard this summer. They were very eager in the spring. It was mass confusion at times trying to teach them the new defense, the new offense, the new system. So with 15 practices, it's really hard to get a gauge for where they're at. So we'll see the work they did on their own this summer. Obviously our strength and conditioning coaches are allowed to be there and training them, and from what I'm hearing great things are happening on that front. But the players need to get out and throw and learn the defense more and the offense and all that. So we'll see how much they've progressed through the summer."
In the meantime, Stoops said, the main priority will be to keep the momentum going. That means focusing on the opener against Western Kentucky in Nashville, and continuing to pile up victories on the recruiting front.
He said that he had a plan coming in for how he'd recruit to UK, but acknowledged that the results have been better than even he imagined.
"I knew what we were going to do and what our plan was, and I knew we had a very aggressive staff that were going to beat the pavement recruiting," Stoops said. "I felt very good about the product and recruiting to Kentucky. When we talked about the job, there were no guarantees. I said we'll win with the facilities we have. We'll recruit with the facilities we have. If it happens, if the changes happen, then great. But we were ready to meet that challenge right from the start. But, to some extent I'm pleasantly surprised."
Stoops will be back in Louisville for a pep rally on Friday, and his schedule will remain pretty full until practice begins. The hype for UK has been impressive, and Stoops is happy to help fan the flames. But soon, he'll turn his attention back toward the field.
"There's obligations involved there with being a head coach and I understand that," he said. "With that being said, yeah, you do feel like at some point you're really ready to get in there and get coaching your guys. We have so much to do, I'll be anxious to get coaching that team."
Saturday, August 30 2014 3:51 PM EDT2014-08-30 19:51:46 GMT
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Tuesday, August 26 2014 10:16 PM EDT2014-08-27 02:16:12 GMT
Teddy Bridgewater says thank you to U of L students in an ad in its student paper. Eric Crawford photo.
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