UK football notebook: Stoops says ability to evaluate talent critical for all programs

February 2, 2013 

Just because a recruiting analyst puts a slew of celestial bodies next to a player's name doesn't mean he's going to be a program-changer.

Just because a coach gets a few of those four-star players doesn't mean his program is headed for a big-time bowl or a Southeastern Conference title in a year or two.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops discussed recruiting philosophy and the importance of talent assessment in a recent interview with the Herald-Leader.

And with national signing day just a few short days away, I thought I'd offer up what he had to say about the importance of being a good evaluator of talent at a place like Kentucky, where the margin for error has been so slim in the past.

So does being at UK make it extra important to be able to assess talent?

"That's a big part of it," he said. "It is and always will be."

But, it's not just a Kentucky thing, the former defensive coordinator at Florida State said.

"People have the notion that at Florida State things were easy, and it's never easy no matter where you're at. It's just different battles," he said. "Whether you're there or here, you have to evaluate all of it the right way."

Stoops noted how social media has changed recruiting and how fans follow it, which has been both a blessing and a curse.

"Everyone gets very excited about it because everyone can follow it right now," he said. "But sometimes there's been some guys that I've watched here that I love and we may even not get them. All of a sudden, they blow up and different things, but I'd have been very happy if no one recruited them. So that's a big part of it."

Even with the late start on recruiting, Stoops and his staff have been able to land some big-name recruits with four stars next to them.

At least six different known Cats commitments have received a four-star rating from one of the major national recruiting services.

(Note: One of those four-star players, defensive end Alvonte Bell, was a Joker Phillips commitment.)

For comparison's sake, UK had just six four-star recruits in the three classes under Phillips, according to ratings from Rivals, Scout and ESPN.

For more information on ratings and backgrounds of the Cats' commitments so far, see their player pages at http://ukrecruiting.bloginky.com/football/.

Also, we will have special stories on potential breakout players from this class as well as capsules and other news and notes all day Wednesday.

Refresh early (starting at 8 a.m.) and often.

Meet Cats' recruiting guru

There is one behind-the-scenes person that Stoops credited with keeping Kentucky's coaches in line when recruiting chaos overwhelms. That man is UK's first full-time recruiting coordinator, Dan Berezowitz.

Stoops knew Berezowitz at Arizona, where he worked for six seasons, including the final four as the school's recruiting coordinator.

"He does a tremendous job in-house of getting all that film and getting it evaluated, getting it to the proper channels and organizing the recruiting weekends," Stoops told the Herald-Leader.

For instance, it was Berezowitz who organized and put together the mid-January weekend in which UK had 16 recruits on campus, including their well-documented visit to Rupp Arena.

"We had 16 guys on campus and handling the logistics of all of it is a big job," Stoops said. "He's done a tremendous job and I have a lot of faith in Dan."

Berezowitz played at Wisconsin-Whitewater for his father, Coach Bob Berezowitz. He also worked for Mack Brown at both North Carolina and Texas.

When Berezowitz left Arizona, he landed in Minnesota in 2007, where he helped the Gophers bring in the 14th-best recruiting class in the country in 2008, according to one service.

While at Minnesota, Berezowitz was suspended for two weeks after a self-reported secondary violation involving Seantrel Henderson, a star offensive tackle the school was recruiting. (Henderson ultimately chose Southern Cal.)

The violation, first reported by ESPN in May 2010, involved Henderson watching a "personalized video and Power Point presentation on an unofficial visit" and that the lineman also was shown cardboard cutouts of grade school children wearing Minnesota jerseys during the visit.

Both Berezowitz and then-head coach Tim Brewster were issued letters of admonishment as well. Berezowitz was recruiting coordinator for four seasons at Minnesota.

After that Gophers staff was fired in 2010 amid a 1-6 season, there were several published reports that Berezowitz had been hired as recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma by Stoops' brother, but Sooners spokesman Pete Moris said via email that wasn't the case.

"There were various media reports that he was going to be hired here, but to my knowledge it never came to fruition," Moris said.

Kentucky hasn't announced the hiring or released any biographical information on Berezowitz or any other support staff. That information usually comes out as part of the fall media guide.

Since leaving Minnesota, reports have shown Berezowitz working as a recruiting analyst or consultant for various outlets until he was hired at UK on Dec. 14, making $135,000, according to the school's salary database.

Enhancing football?

Between watching it snow and combing through the contracts of current and former coaches all week, I'm now seeing white permanently.

Those contract differences will be another item for another notebook, but one of the most interesting things I learned was that while Stoops' new deal with UK didn't contain any promises that the school was going to renovate the football facilities, Phillips' contract did.

Of course the irony in that is that since Stoops has been hired, Kentucky has announced a $110 million renovation to start in the fall (pending various bureaucratic approvals) that will update the Nutter Training Facility as well as Commonwealth Stadium.

In Phillips' contract, there was a clause under "Additional Obligations of the University" that said in a vague way that UK must "enhance" the football program.

"For the benefit of enhancing and promoting the University Football Program, the University agrees to undertake and provide additional improvements to the Football Program in an effort to increase the overall success of the Football Program," it read.

Kentucky did make plenty of upgrades in the Phillips era, including $8 million scoreboards as well as other cosmetic bells and whistles.

In several interviews after it became clear that UK's new renovation plans were going to go through, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart was asked if he had to promise the moon to get Stoops on board. The AD assured that he did not.

"There wasn't anything like that," Barnhart said. "(Stoops) was great. He said, 'I'm going to come and we're going to get this thing done, and if we have some other things to work with, that's terrific.'"

There was no contractual agreement either. It was just Barnhart saying UK was doing everything it could to get it done in the near future.

"I was able to say, 'These are the dreams,'" Barnhart said last month. "Did he come on the promise that there would be (renovations)? No."

Assistant deal details

One of the more interesting details to come out of the assistant coaching contracts was the significant bump in pay from one season to the next for defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley.

His deal with UK has him making $125,000 through June 30, 2014, then his salary doubles to $250,000 starting the next day through the end of his contract in the summer of 2015.

At least one reason for the significant bump might come from Tennessee, of all places, which is still contractually obligated to pay Ansley, who held the same position with the Vols last season, $200,000 through Feb. 28, 2014.

■ Another thing that got a significant bump was the number of contract pages for this new crop of assistant coaches compared to the former ones.

Most assistant coaches under Phillips had two-page deals, compared to seven pages for the new ones.

Some of the more interesting additions include the new assistants agreeing to be available for media and other public appearances for promotion purposes.

There is a new clause discussing summer football camps and the proper channels assistant coaches must go through to conduct a camp.

UK's assistants also agreed to not personally (or through an agent) seek, accept or negotiate for other employment without talking to Stoops or Barnhart first.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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