“A new time, a new day, a new age,” Mark Stoops ready to balance the old with the new in year nine


Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops shakes hands with fans at Cat Walk before the Governor’s Cup game against Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 45-13. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Day two of SEC Media Days saw Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops hit the podium and address the media ahead of his ninth go-round at the helm for the Wildcats.

“It is really good to be back,” Stoops said. “Last year having Media Days taken away, you learn to appreciate things.

Stoops is now second in tenure among SEC coaches, behind only Nick Saban at Alabama. Stoops knows that while a job down south is not always a guarantee, it’s a blessing, nonetheless:

“I think grateful. You really don’t think about it until you start preparing these statements for something of that nature,” Stoops said.

The SEC has become known for chewing up and spitting out coaches at a rapid pace. Eight of the 14 schools in the conference have a head coach who is in their first or second year on the job.

“You feel very blessed to be here, number one,” Stoops said. “You really don’t take time to think about that, you think about what you need to do to keep your spot.”

I want to put my head down at Kentucky and continue to work so I’m here next year. But also, I really want to continue to grow this program.

Building the program has been a phrase that Stoops has uttered ever since he took over as head coach of the Wildcats in 2013. He knows that while UK is yet to reach the goals he’s set for himself and the program, they are well on their way:

“I said it when I got to Kentucky that we were going to recruit, we were going to develop, we were going to compete, and I wanted to take this program to national prominence, and people laughed at me. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way. I’m going to continue to work. I feel good about where we’re at,” Stoops explained.

“I think we have a very good team, and we have some things in place, and we’re constantly learning, constantly growing, and we’re getting better.”

A surefire way to improve the growth of a program is to plug-in holes left by former players with talent and experience, and that’s just what coach Stoops did in the transfer portal this off-season.

“I feel like we were very successful this year at plugging in some spots to help build this team,” said Stoops.

One of those players Stoops nabbed is Dare Rosenthal, an offensive tackle who transferred to Lexington from LSU this off-season. Rosenthal, a 6-7 senior from Ferriday, Louisiana drew high praise from both his former coach Ed Orgeron and his new skipper in Stoops.

“Adding Dare greatly helps our football team,” Stoops said. “As I mentioned, he has SEC experience. He played at one of the premier programs in our league, very talented, and I’m excited to have him. We’ve had good offensive linemen. We’re going to continue to build on that, and he’s been a great addition.”

Rosenthal will be just one piece to what could be a new-look Wildcat offense this season.

Former offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was relieved from his duties after spending a half-decade at Kentucky under Stoops. In to replace Gran is Liam Coen, who was formerly the assistant QB coach with the Los Angeles Rams.

“It took me some time to clearly look at what I wanted our team to look like and what I felt like we can do. So I spent quite a bit of time researching people and systems and ultimately came down to Liam,” Stoops said when asked about choosing Coen.

“I have full confidence and trust in him, and that is part of his system, part of the offense to be able to play action pass and get the ball down the field.”

As far as who will be the quarterback airing the ball down the field for Coen and company, that seems to still be up in the air for Stoops:

There’s a lot of things that go into that decision, bottom line is who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win the most games,” Stoops explained. “It’s nice to have options.”

Options will be a plethora for Stoops this season, as he looks to take UK to new heights in his ninth go-round in the Commonwealth.