High expectations are set for Stoops

By Matt Overing | Football Beat Writer

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Mark Stoops has yet to coach a game as UK’s head football coach, but that has not discouraged high expectations for his first season.

Junior accounting major Cody Henson said he believes the Cats can make it to a bowl game this year.

“We have a chance to win six games this year,” Henson said.

Most UK students have not see the Cats make it to a bowl game in their time as a college student. UK’s last bowl bid was in 2010.

Biology freshman Maggie Haffler doesn’t think UK will make a bowl this year.

“We have the same players as last year,” Haffler said. “So I’m not expecting as much as others.”

Two of those returning players, Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow, are the top two candidates for the starting quarterback position. Students are split on which quarterback will get the nod on Saturday against Western Kentucky University.

“I think Whitlow will get the start against WKU,” political science junior Nate Dillon said. “After that, I’m not sure.”

Henson thought the opposite.

“I’d say Max Smith will be the starting quarterback, but I don’t think he’ll be the starter all year,” Henson said.

UK head coach Mark Stoops said that the team has no real game plan for which quarterback will receive the most playing time on Saturday.

“We’re not going to set anything in stone,” Stoops said in regards to the quarterback situation.

One major change some students are expecting is that the Cats will be competitive in SEC play.

“I do expect to be in a lot of close games — games that we weren’t in last year,” Dillon said. “I think size on the defensive line will be this team’s greatest strength, and it will keep us in games.”

Henson said that UK will have limited improvement in 2013.

“I don’T think UK will ever reach the top tier of the SEC,” Henson said. “We may have some nice seven or eight win seasons, but we will never be on par with Florida or Alabama.”

Some fear that Stoops may not be a very permanent fixture in UK Athletics.

“I’m sadly under the impression that Stoops will leave after a few strong years here,” Henson said.

Dillon disagrees.

“Stoops came at the right time. He’s young, and I think he will be here a while,” Dillon said.

Freshman psychology major Jon Wells thinks the hype surrounding Stoops’ first year is great for the university and the football program.

“I’m expecting the football team to be much better under Coach Stoops,” Wells said. “Just the hype about how they have improved makes me excited to watch them my freshman year, and I am hopeful that the football team can reach the prestige that the basketball team has.”

Dillon sees the time before basketball season as an opportunity for the football team.

“I don’t think attendance will drop for the football team if they win games,” Dillon said. “If we have four or five wins late in the year, there will be tons of excitement about the possibility of beating Tennessee and making a bowl.”

Henson thinks season ticket sales, up from last year, indicate that football fans will remain in their seats late in the year.

“The hype shouldn’t fade for the football team this year when basketball begins,” Henson said. “I think UK will be in a lot of close football games late in the year.”