Mark Story: The mountain Mark Stoops still has to climb

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 30, 2014 

SEC Media Days Football

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said he wouldn't "put a number" on success but seemed confident of improvement. The media voted UK to finish last in its division.

BUTCH DILL — AP

Quick hitters from the Vin Scully non-retirement party:

21. Mark Stoops' recruiting. Since he became Kentucky head football coach, Stoops has signed or presently has commitments from 17 players who recruiting service Rivals.com ranks as four-star prospects.

20. Glass half full. From 2002 (the first year of the Rivals recruiting data base) through 2012, Kentucky signed only 14 total prospects ranked as four stars.

19. Even less than it appears. Three of those four-star prospects signed in the pre-Stoops period — Demetrius Goode (2006), D.J. Stafford (2007) and Alex Smith (2010) — never played a down of football at UK. A fourth, quarterback Ryan Mossakowski (2009), transferred without ever throwing a pass in a game.

18. Glass half empty. Although Stoops has taken Kentucky football recruiting to new heights, even an improved UK faces a daunting challenge compared with the recruiting of other SEC schools.

17. 52. The number of four-star or higher prospects who have signed or are presently committed to Alabama in the past three recruiting classes.

16. Nine. The number of SEC schools that have signed or presently have commitments from more prospects rated as four stars (or higher) by Rivals than the 17 Stoops has gotten so far for UK.

15. Eight. The number of SEC schools — Alabama (52), LSU (39), Texas A&M (39), Auburn (37), Georgia (36), Florida (32), Tennessee (31) and South Carolina (30) — that have signed or presently have commitments from at least 30 prospects rated four stars or higher by Rivals in the past three recruiting classes.

14. Bobby Petrino's recruiting. Louisville has not signed nor gained a commitment so far from a single recruit ranked four star or higher by Rivals since it rehired Petrino.

13. Star system disclaimer. Recruiting stars are not always destiny. From 2009 to 2013, Missouri never had a recruiting class ranked in the top 20 in the country by Rivals yet the Tigers went 12-2 last season and won the SEC East.

12. Western Kentucky's challenge. Louisville sportswriter Eric Crawford once wrote that Bobby Petrino's system does not work without Petrino calling the plays.

11. Louisville. Petrino left his first stint as U of L head coach after leading the Cardinals to a 12-1 record in 2006. The following year, U of L slipped to 6-6.

10. Arkansas. The Razorbacks went 11-2 in 2011 but went 4-8 in 2012 after Petrino was fired in the pre-season for off-the-field reasons.

9. Jeff Brohm. A year ago, Petrino coached WKU to an 8-4 mark. With Bobby P. now back in The Ville, it will be interesting to see whether his protégé, new Western head man Brohm, can overcome "Bobby Petrino Departure Syndrome."

8. Shot at a big boy. WKU does not get a chance at a third straight win over Kentucky in 2014 but will visit Big Ten foe Illinois on Sept. 6.

7. Greg Couch. The former Leslie County and Eastern Kentucky quarterback was my winner last week for most intriguing photo posted on Facebook. Couch had a shot of himself on the golf course with reigning Masters' champion Bubba Watson.

6. From 2013. Couch said he had a chance last year to participate in a special corporate outing at Idlewood Golf Course in Orlando in which Watson played at least a few holes with all participants.

5. The Bubba scouting report. "A nice guy, really nice," Couch said of the golf star. "For me, the best thing was, when he was with our group, I hit the ball pretty good."

4. Darrin Horn. The ex-Western Kentucky and South Carolina men's basketball coach and his brother Greg are now the hosts of a new sports talk show, 5 to 6 p.m. weeknights on Lexington radio station WLRT AM-1250.

3. 40-0. If last summer's predictions of a perfect Kentucky men's basketball season had not imploded, there would be a ton of (unrealistic) chatter this summer projecting perfection for 2014-15's far more experienced Wildcats.

2. Vin Scully. The venerable play-by-play announcer, 86, told the world Tuesday night he plans to return in 2015 for a 66th year calling Dodgers games.

1. Standing the test of time. When Scully joined the Dodgers radio crew in 1950, Harry Truman was the U.S. president and Connie Mack was an active big-league manager.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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