First three weeks a 'tremendous whirlwind' for Kentucky's Stoops

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2012 

Sometimes a baby brother has to touch the stove himself to know it's hot.

So no matter how many times his football coaching brothers warned new Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops that head coaching was difficult, he wasn't fully prepared.

Brother Bob is the head coach at Oklahoma, Mike, a former head coach at Arizona.

"They said, 'The first couple days your head will be spinning and you'll sit there and ask yourself what in the world you've done to yourself,' " Mark Stoops said.

"It definitely has been overwhelming at times. I don't think there's any way around that for anybody, whether you've been a head coach or not."

In the 18 days since he was introduced as UK head coach, Stoops has barely had time to breathe, let alone sleep, eat or talk to his wife and children.

That last part has drawn some ire at home.

"My wife has gotten a little bit mad at me from time to time because for the last two and a half weeks I haven't even had much time to talk on the phone and check in on the boys," he said.

Mark Stoops has been a busy man in December.

"It has been a tremendous whirlwind," he said. "It's been a hectic two and a half weeks. The first two weeks were a complete blur; this week I've been able to settle down a little bit."

In that 18-day span, Stoops has hired defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, offensive coordinator Neal Brown and almost completed his coaching staff.

Stoops has assessed players already on the roster, contacted Kentucky's current class of commitments, shown around some recruits and flown around to see others.

On Wednesday, he talked about all of that and the other thing he has managed to do in 18 days: to pick up one of the nation's top defensive ends in junior college transfer Za'Darius Smith, who signed with the Cats on Wednesday morning.

The 45-year-old head coach, who spent 26 minutes with reporters, was asked if he'd had any of those "Wow, I'm in charge" moments since arriving at Kentucky.

He smiled widely. "Yeah, I'd better not go into it," he said.

"We were joking with some of the staff. I have had one (such moment). I caught myself. I said, 'Wait a minute, I am the boss.' "

The former defensive coordinator at Florida State has had to deal with his share of "I am the boss" moments in a short time at Kentucky, including having to work to grab up Eliot, who worked under him at Florida State, and Brown, who had several job opportunities after a lot of success as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

"Had to fend off some people," Stoops said. "Both of those guys, a lot of our coaches were getting an awful lot of attention.

"It got a little nerve-wracking, both with him and Coach Eliot. Those guys put me through a little bit."

One of the most difficult things for Stoops since he arrived on campus was assessing the current players and committed recruits and addressing UK's biggest needs before the start of the recruiting dead period.

He credited the Cats' graduate assistants, whom he plans to keep on staff, with the assist on that one.

"It was challenging," Stoops said. "Coaches that were here — the graduate assistants that were here — broke down film and got anything. It could've been practice, could've been scrimmages, could've been games and they made cut-ups of each particular person and each position, so then we went through as a staff and got a little feel for what we have and what we need."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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