Jen Smith on UK Football

Stoops to recruits: We were closer this year than last year

UK head coach Mark Stoops congratulates QB Drew Barker after scoring on a one yard run during the 1st quarter of the Kentucky-Louisville football game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY on Saturday, November 28, 2015.
UK head coach Mark Stoops congratulates QB Drew Barker after scoring on a one yard run during the 1st quarter of the Kentucky-Louisville football game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY on Saturday, November 28, 2015. Herald-Leader

If you’re a school recruiting against Kentucky, it’s easy to point to the Cats’ declines in two straight seasons.

In 2014, it was the six straight losses to end the season. And this year, UK won just one of its final seven games, including a second-half collapse against Louisville that cost the Cats a bowl trip. Again.

“That’s going to be an easy sound bite for everybody to hit me on for the next year, but until we change it that’s what you’re going to hear,” Mark Stoops admitted on Tuesday in a sit-down interview to talk about the season and the future.

So what exactly does the Kentucky head coach tell parents and recruits when asked about the season-ending slides?

“That we’re getting stronger mentally and physically to be able to handle that,” he said. “We were closer this year than we were last year.”

Many players think they’re the one that can help Kentucky get over the edge. He believes that’s the case.

“You could say a couple plays either way,” Stoops said. “Now, we didn’t make them – I get it. I’m not making excuses, but I’m just saying you’re a play or two away from winning the Vandy game. Right? We played a poor second half against Louisville. We’re closer. You’ve got to get better and better.”

So far it hasn’t been something that has hurt UK’s recruiting for 2016, the coach said.

“Fantastic,” he said of the whirlwind recruiting that started the day after the Louisville game and ended in a weekend with 15 official visitors having dinner on the patio at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night. “It’s been fantastic. Good.”

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