Stoops’ recruiting has put UK on pace with SEC’s elite

By Alex Forkner | @AlexFork3

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Before new head coach Mark Stoops took control of the program, Captain Hook could’ve demonstrated the number of four-star recruits UK football had lured to Lexington between 2010-2012.

Going by Rivals’ rankings, three four-star players committed to play for the Cats during that time period, also known as the Joker Phillips era.

In Stoops’ first few months on the job, he managed to equal that number in one class, inking Jason Hatcher, Za’Darius Smith and Marcus McWilson, all rated four stars by Rivals. In the 2014 class, the first where Stoops and company will have the entire recruiting cycle to work the trail, four four-star players have pledged to UK.

Four. As in, more than three past years combined. With months left to go until National Signing Day in February.

Minds are further blown upon learning that UK is currently No. 5 in Rivals’ team rankings for 2014, just ahead of Michigan and just behind Notre Dame.

Let’s be real here: If I told you that UK had the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation, your first reaction would be, “Man, Coach Cal is slipping.” Then I’d say, “No, in football.” Then you’d accuse me of lying and I’d have to pull up the website and you’d say there must be an error and we’d call and ask if the site was on the fritz and they’d say no and then you’d go into shock.

Right now, UK has the No. 3 class in the SEC, ahead of Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn — all those teams that have won National Championships in the last decade, while routinely putting beatdowns on the Cats.

Granted, those big boys have plenty of time to catch up. A lot of highly-rated players wait until late in the process to pick a school. When those five-stars start making decisions, the balance may shift back towards normalcy a bit.

But who knows? Stoops and hotshot recruiters Vince Marrow, Chad Scott and Neal Brown just may be involved with some of those upper-echelon guys. I mean, would anything surprise you at this point?

If you’re a UK football fan, now is a time for uninhibited optimism. Never mind the schedule the Cats face this season — probably the nation’s toughest. Never mind that UK will probably need a couple more classes like this to sustain any chance of competing in the SEC. Those are worries for the future.

For now, just enjoy stargazing.