CRAWFORD | After early recruiting momentum, Stoops had to show s - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | After early recruiting momentum, Stoops had to show scrambling ability

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Momentum is an elusive thing, in recruiting as in everything else. It wasn't all that long ago that Mark Stoops had just signed a contract extension, had a University of Kentucky football team that was 6-1 and was Tweeting “Yahtzee” every time a new recruit committed — which seemed pretty often last October.

He was on a gravy train with biscuit wheels. 

Mark it down as a lesson for anyone. One second you're yelling Yahtzee!, the next you're flinging the dice out the window and swearing they were loaded.

Actually, for Stoops' third Kentucky recruiting class, perspective is needed. He signed the No. 29 class in his first season in Lexington and Big Blue Nation was impressed. He signed the No. 17 class last year and it was elated.

On Wednesday, he signed the No. 35-ranked class in the nation, according to

There are two ways to look at it. You could say, it was the first time UK recruiting had stepped backwards in Stoops' tenure.

Or, you could note that it was the third-highest ranked class since Rivals began tracking those team rankings in 2002 and more highly ranked than any of his predecessors ever managed.

I believe the “victim of your own success” line might be applicable here.

It's a good class, not an eye-popping class of the kind he managed the past two years.

Add in a half-dozen decommitments in the past 10 days and a high-profile beat when Madison Southern running back Damien Harris picked Alabama instead of the Wildcats, and you can see why the mood might be subdued in Lexington.

Even as he couldn't really explain what happened, Stoops was upbeat about his third class on Wednesday.

“I think a lot has been written and a lot of people have followed it — we've gone through some ups and some downs, but overall, very pleased, very happy with this group,” Stoops said. “ . . . No, I haven't been around a lot (of situations) that you had that much change within a seven-day span or so.  I don't think we're alone.  I think it's a situation that probably needs to be addressed on a national level, but, again, I'm not concerned about the guys we did not get.  I'm very excited about the players we got.”

For Kentucky, at least for now, this is how it is. Some years you might punch into the fringe of better SEC programs on the recruiting front, but you're rarely going to crack the top. They have tradition on their side. They have geography on their side. It's like Mississippi State trying to match John Calipari recruiting at Kentucky. It's nice and they might pull one off now and then, but look at history.

Stoops is recruiting against history. Last season, he proved it can be done. This season, history got him just a bit. The key is to establish a higher level even in years where you don't win the big head-to-head battles, like Harris. And that Stoops did with this class.


In the end, at Kentucky, it's going to be about how you coach them. You can improve the stadium and build a new practice facility and give the coaching staff every advantage you can think of, but in the end, they're going to have to get guys and develop them.

This coming season we'll get a better idea of how well Stoops has done that.

“We're fishing in the right waters,” Stoops said. “I think we're going after the right guys.  So I think our staff has done a nice job of targeting and evaluating some very good players, and early on, sometimes when we go and target these guys and recruit them and sometimes get a commitment and a year later they blow up, I find -- I feel like the staff deserves some good credit for that because I feel like we're working extremely hard. . . .  I told you from day one that we're going to compete and we're going to battle with the very best teams in the country, and we're going to win some, and we're going to lose some.”

Stoops is fishing the right waters. The difficult thing is that in the SEC, you're fishing with the sharks.

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