When University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart decided to reach out to a former player to help with his search for a new coach, who better than the most famous Wildcats football player of recent times?
Tim Couch, the former All-America quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, played an instrumental role in the process of hiring Mark Stoops, helping vet candidates, sitting in on interviews, making suggestions.
"Certainly anything I can ever do to help this program, I'm willing to do it," said Couch on Sunday after the news conference introducing Mark Stoops as UK's new football coach. "My whole role in this whole deal was just to help talk about the schemes, the X's and O's with Mitch, how it would fit into this program with the guys we have and who we think we can get into this program."
But when it came down to talking specific candidates, Couch had one in mind.
"I really liked Mark from the get-go, I really did," Couch said. "I love his background in defense. I love his passion in wanting to be a head coach."
Couch did not know Stoops personally, but through his work for Fox Sports South, knew of Stoops.
"He has a great reputation around the country of being one of the best defensive minds in all of college football," Couch said. "I know one thing at Kentucky we've always struggled with is stopping people in this conference. (So) his name came to my mind initially when this job opened up. Mitch was thinking the same thing, as well."
And what impressed Couch when he did speak to Stoops?
"His plan. Every question we had for Mark, about what he wanted to do in recruiting, scheme-wise, everything like that. He had a tremendous plan for what he wanted to do. He's been waiting on this opportunity for a long time."
What does Couch like about Stoops' defenses?
"He's not a trick 'em guy," said the former quarterback. "I think you can complicate things as much as you want and try and trick guys, but what Mark has been successful at is getting guys on the same page and not having guys wonder about what their responsibilities are. They play fast and they play hard and they play physical for him.
"He brings a lot of energy to that position as well, which gets guys fired up."
Judging by the response at Sunday's news conference/pep rally at Nutter Field House, it appears the fan base is fired up.
"As a former player, it breaks your heart when you see games like the Vanderbilt game when no one is in the stadium," said Couch. "To walk in here and see the energy back in the program and the excitement back in the program, it's great for former players to see that."
John Clay: (859) 231-3226 Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com Twitter: @johnclayiv