John Clay: Ex-Cats see super salesmen, fresh vigor in Stoops & Co.

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 22, 2013 

The former players, they can feel it, too — the buzz, the excitement, the enthusiasm surrounding Kentucky football at the moment.

Several of those former players were in town this weekend helping former UK player and current Denver Broncos assistant director of pro personnel Anthony "Champ" Kelly with his CHAMP Camp at Henry Clay High School.

After Friday's session, the talk was about new UK coach Mark Stoops, the program's No. 1 recruiting ranking by Rivals, and all the good stuff going on over at Commonwealth Stadium.

"I'm just excited to have a coaching staff that is not afraid to recruit, that's not afraid to go into certain areas," said Dougie Allen, the former Dunbar High School product who played wide receiver in Hal Mumme's offenses.

"UK has a lot of things to offer. To have a coaching staff that believes in that and is willing to go out and push it and sell it, it feels really good."

Former UK coach Guy Morriss said he visited a day of spring practice and was impressed by what he saw.

"I know Bobby a lot more than I know Mark," said Morriss, who spent five seasons at Baylor going up against Mark's brother Bob at Oklahoma. "But I think he's going to get it done."

Why?

"I like his staff," Morriss said. "They've got lots of energy and that's what it takes today, the younger coaches. They're really upbeat about it."

It also feels good for the former players and coaches to see former teammates on the current staff like offensive coordinator Neal Brown, running backs coach Chad Scott and offensive line coach John Schlarman.

"Neal has done a great job wherever he's been," said Mark Perry, a former backup quarterback and grad assistant at UK who is now the head coach at Central Hardin High School. "We've always wanted to see the guys that are here, Neal, John, and just what Coach Mumme's offense and what Neal is doing and the developments he's made in it.

"Then you put a great defensive mind, one of the best in the country like Coach Stoops," Perry continued. "With those two combinations together and then you add some of the recruitment guys with Coach (Vince) Marrow and really the entire staff. They're going after the top kids in the country."

Morriss coached Schlarman, who then served as a grad assistant under Morriss.

"He was a technician all the way," Morriss said. "He was a leader. He was the one who kept that bunch together. I knew he was destined to be a good coach. I watched him while I was here during spring training and he is an excellent coach.

"There isn't a miscue that goes by that he doesn't correct them on. That's what these kids, this generation of kids, needs. You just can't let them slip. He's a good guy. He doesn't fuss at 'em and cuss at 'em and kick 'em. He's a teacher. He's going to have a bright future."

There's another piece of the puzzle, as well, of course.

"I think the administration has done a great job of recognizing that they needed to do some things to be competitive in the SEC," Champ Kelly said.

"Mitch Barnhart has done a great job of giving them what they need to be successful," Morris said. "That's a big piece of the puzzle. The reason why people are in the Top 20 year after year after year is because they are spending money to make it happen for the coach."

There's no reason it can't happen at UK.

"You hear people talk about how Kentucky can't do this and they can't do that because it's Kentucky," Allen said. "But we're just like any other school. It's just a matter of getting the right kids and I think they're really selling it really well right now."

"It is, it's the perfect storm happening," Perry said. "The guys I talk to, the alumni, they couldn't be more excited right now about Kentucky football."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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