With a solid signing day behind him, Mark Stoops is on the right track to turning around Kentucky.
By STEVE EUBANKS FS South
A new coach always injects optimism into a program. It's the nature of the beast, like buying a new car or a new house: you only see the good things. But that enthusiasm is exponentially greater in Lexington, because Mark Stoops is exponentially more exciting and excitable than any coach Kentucky has had in some time.
With a solid signing day under his belt (including four JUCO commitments) the Wildcats are fired up and ready to turn the corner. If energy and a positive outlook will get the job done, Stoops is already well on his way.
2012 Record: 2-10 (0-8 SEC)
Spring Schedule: The Blue-White game will held on April 13 in Commonwealth Stadium at 7:00 p.m. Showing a new-media savvy that his predecessor never had, Stoops announced the game on Twitter and wrote, "Let's fill CWS for the first of many times in 2013."
Last Year: Two in-state losses in the first three weeks set the negative tone early in 2012. After falling to Louisville 34-14, the Cats suffered an embarrassing overtime loss to the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. From there it was a program in freefall. The only two wins were Kent State and Samford. Even Tennessee, which was also in the throes of a miserable year, beat the Wildcats 37-17.
The Biggest Hole to Fill: Rebuilding always starts at the foundation. Coach Stoops' first priority will be to shore up both lines of scrimmage. And while the holes are plentiful, one player who will be especially missed is offensive guard Larry Warford, possibly the third-best guard in this year's NFL draft and an experienced lineman the Wildcats would love to have back.
One to Watch: Every position is open, and every practice will have an edge, according to Stoops, who will be the key figure to watch as spring practice unfolds. He has promise a far more fast-paced look than Wildcat fans are accustomed to seeing, and he expects a lot of physical practices between now and the opening game of the 2013 season. "I just feel like the fastball tempo will help you develop your players at a faster rate," Stoops told the Courier-Journal. "The goal is to set a faster pace."