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By Alex Forkner | @AlexFork3
Through years past, the first Wednesday in February would bypass the Bluegrass without much fanfare surrounding the phenomenon that is National Signing Day.
While college football fans (especially around the SEC) watched talented teenagers around the country seal their futures with the stroke of a pen to a National Letter of Intent, the folks in Lexington were most likely looking ahead to the next basketball conference foe.
But that was B.S. (Before Stoops).
Now, you see ESPN’s bottom line announced the commitment of players to UK. Now, UK’s recruiting haul is a topic on ESPN College Gameday. Now, Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel leads a story about powerhouse recruiting in the SEC with, of all schools, UK.
In just a little over two months on the job, Stoops transformed a middling, 60ish ranked recruiting class into one bordering on Top 25 in the nation, as Rivals has the batch of newest Cats ranked 28th with a few more potential signees on the horizon.
So what’s Stoops’ secret to getting such a quality class in such a short time? Back alley dealings? Hypnosis?
Actually, it was as simple as compiling a top-notch staff that knows how to recruit.
“It was a group effort. The staff — that’s a big part of it is the staff coming into this,” Stoops said. “The first year it’s important when you hire guys that they have some connections, so that’s a big part of it, guys with relationships that they have had either with players or with coaches.”
As for those unprecedented rankings and all that attention, Stoops hopes it piques the interest of future recruits.
“I think if anything it says to the 2014 class that these guys are serious, they know what they’re doing and they’re going to make a great commitment to recruiting and gives you some credibility,” he said. “Let’s not kid ourselves, you want to be higher than not be higher, right?”
That is the conventional wisdom: The higher ranked the class, the more likely the on-field success. But four-star players aren’t guarantees, and even this class will take time to make its impact felt. That’s why it’s important to make this class, or a better one, a yearly occurrence, which Stoops is confident of.
“We feel like we have great momentum, but, yeah, we’ve been on the phone this morning talking to the top prospects in the ’14 class, and we have been evaluating the ’14 class for a week or so, which actually puts us behind, but we had to put so much time and energy and concentration into this class,” Stoops said.
Already behind, but expect Stoops and his staff to make up ground quickly. After all, if a Top-30 class is possible in two months, think of what they can do in 12.
Stoops took the reins at a rough spot in the road for the UK football program and has already impressed the masses. But in a conference where being Top-30 lands you 13th out of 14 schools, bigger challenges await, and Stoops is ready to face them.
“I always felt like UK — a lot of people asked me about why here, and why did you jump on this opportunity, and why did you seek this opportunity? I just felt there was great potential here,” Stoops said. “I felt there was a sleeping giant here, that we can do great things and we will do great things.”