It’s not too often that a head coach hires someone to his full-time staff that he didn’t have a prior relationship with, but Brad White made it hard for Mark Stoops to keep looking for someone to fill the newly allowed 10th assistant coaching spot.
“He really impressed me quite a bit,” the Kentucky coach said of his recent outside linebackers hire. “I knew halfway through that interview that I wanted to wrap it up. … He had some other opportunities and I wanted to lock him up.”
Stoops already had done his homework on White, a former assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts, talking to friends who were part of the Colts organization about the former Wake Forest standout.
White also had coached Bjoern Werner, who played for Stoops at Florida State. “Bjoern raved about Brad as well,” UK’s head coach said Wednesday while discussing the Cats’ final four signees of the 2018 class and other team topics.
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Stoops called White “a technician,” who can help outside linebackers with NFL aspirations like Josh Allen and Denzil Ware continue to grow their games and “take them to another level.
“I really feel very excited because you’ve heard me talk for years about the nuances of coaching that position, of coaching outside linebacker because there’s a lot on their plate,” Stoops continued. “We need them to be elite pass rushers; we need them to be run stoppers, but they also have to play in space and have drops and they have a lot on their plate. So a guy with that kind of experience makes a lot of sense to me.”
Allen, who explored his NFL Draft options and decided to return for his senior season, was fourth on the team in tackles last year with 65, including a team-best 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks with an interception and four quarterback hurries.
Ware, who missed the Music City Bowl for an undisclosed violation of team rules, had 47 tackles, including nine for loss and 6.5 sacks in 12 games. The senior is “participating in everything at this point in time,” Stoops said of Ware’s status going forward.
The Cats also return freshman Josh Paschal and others at those outside linebacker spots.
“As I started talking to those guys, they were excited about having the opportunity for someone like this to come in,” Stoops said of White.
The new hire also freed up Stoops to move Dean Hood back to his more natural coaching position with the defensive backs. Hood will work with current secondary coach Steve Clinkscale on that position group and continue to focus on special teams.
Getting into new territory
In Stoops’ first season, there was some talk of extending the Cats’ recruiting map into Louisiana where then-special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto had connections, but it didn’t pan out.
It looks likely that the Cats are branching out into that territory soon with the addition of new wide receivers coach Michael Smith, who has had a lot of success in his home state while recruiting at places like Arkansas and Kansas State.
“Definitely going to let him explore that, yes,” Stoops said of the move south. “At this point, we let Coach (Clinkscale) expand a little bit to Detroit and it’s paid some dividends and we’ll let him expand a bit into Louisiana, yes.”
Opening a new pipeline for future UK players is always good, recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow said.
“It’s gonna be huge,” Marrow said. “I think if we can get two to three guys out of there, that’s gonna be a bonus. If you can get four, that’s really gonna be a bonus. I think he’s gonna do a great job there. I really do.”
The Cats’ new outside linebackers coach will be recruiting primarily in New Jersey, Marrow said of Brad White.
“He’s from Rhode Island, so he’s gonna do spot recruiting up there,” Marrow said. “We still want to stay in a six-hour radius, but also do some spot recruiting.”
Learning to be leaders
There are more than 17 players returning with starting experience for Kentucky next season, but at a key position, quarterback, there’s going to be a new voice after two years of strong leadership from Stephen Johnson.
The Cats’ head coach said he’s seen both sophomore Gunnar Hoak and transfer Terry Wilson making strides as leaders during the offseason.
“Stephen set a great example for Gunnar,” Stoops said. “Obviously, Terry wasn’t here. You can also tell that Terry has his own way of going about doing things. He has a very positive charisma about him, as well. I really don’t worry about it with either guy.
“I think both players have taken the role of doing some leadership right now as far as getting the guys assembled, throwing, doing some things on their own. I feel very good about that.”