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Kentucky Hires Mark Stoops as Head Football Coach

The reports were true: UK's new head coach is Mark Stoops.

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

It's official: Mark Stoops is the new head football coach at Kentucky. Per the school's release on the hire:

Mark Stoops, who oversaw dramatic improvements as defensive coordinator at Florida State and Arizona, and has turned FSU into one of the nation's top defenses, has been named head football coach at the University of Kentucky, UK director of athletics Mitch Barnhart announced Tuesday. ...

"I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky," Stoops said. "My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation."

Stoops reportedly "blew away" Kentucky's leadership with a plan that includes winning the SEC there. UK has only one outright SEC title, won in 1950 by Bear Bryant, and it shared the 1976 title with Georgia after Mississippi State forfeited its win over the Wildcats.

Press releases tend to overstate things in order to get fans energized about the new coach, but UK isn't overselling the turnaround that Stoops engineered at FSU. The defense was a disaster in 2009, the last year of the Bobby Bowden era when the game had simply passed Mickey Andrews by. Stoops's arrival in 2010 brought immediate improvement, and he continued to improve the defense each year. Here is how the defense changed over time against ACC competition:

Category 2009 2010 2011 2012
Pts. Allowed/G 34.8 20.9 17.8 15.5
Yds/Rush Allowed 5.61 3.60 2.45 2.32
Yds/Att Allowed 8.5 6.7 6.7 5.4
Pass Eff. Allowed 150.56 117.68 127.76 105.88
Yards/Play Allowed 6.78 5.1 4.55 3.97
Sacks/Game 1.13 3.44 3.25 2.38

Stoops fits the kind of recruiting profile that Kentucky needs in a head coach. He, like all the Stoops brothers, is a native of Ohio. That's the most talent-rich of the states that border Kentucky. He also has extensive ties to the state of Florida, having coached at both FSU and Miami. If he is able to get some gems from the stuff that the big guys leave behind in those states, then UK will be on sound footing.

I'll be honest, Mark Stoops is a better candidate than I thought Kentucky would be able to get. He's got a tall task ahead of him as all Kentucky head football coaches do, and of course, his choice of offensive coordinator will be important. However, it's hard to imagine anyone in Lexington complaining about this hire. Stoops is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football right now, and now he is all Kentucky's.