Kentucky announced in a press release Tuesday that it had hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to replace Joker Phillips.
In an SEC where defense has been the crux of many of the conference's national championships, Kentucky couldn't have made a better match.
During Stoops' three seasons at Florida State, the Seminoles defense excelled. Florida State ranks No. 2 nationally in total defense this season and No. 7 in scoring defense allowing 15.08 points per game. In 2011, the Seminoles were No. 6 in total defense and No. 4 in scoring defense. Even during his first season with the program, FSU allowed just 17.83 points per game.
"Mark's passion has been evident in the way he coaches and in his love for the game of football," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the Blue and White. Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark. He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career. That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky."
Stoops' biggest challenge will be bringing in a staff that can finally make Kentucky competitive in all facets with the rest of the league. Rumor has it Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown is ready to assume the same position with the Wildcats. Brown played on the same team with Kentucky great Tim Couch, who was part of the coaching search committee.
Even though this will be Stoops' first head coaching job, the risk seems minimal, especially since Stoops has two brothers who have been in the head-coaching ranks — Bob is at Oklahoma, and Mike was the head coach at Arizona and is now in Oklahoma with Bob.
Kentucky has tentatively scheduled a Sunday press conference to make the move official.
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