Matt Jones first reported that Kentucky is set to announce that it has hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as its new head coach.
OFFICIAL: KSR can confirm Mark Stoops will be named Kentucky football coach this afternoon
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 27, 2012
Stoops replaces Joker Phillips, who was fired earlier this month. Phillips finished out his third season with the Wildcats at 2-10, and leaves the program 13-24 overall.
Stoops has spent the last three seasons at Florida State, guiding defenses that ranked 20th, seventh and fourth in points allowed. He joined Jimbo Fisher’s staff before the 2010 season and after a successful stint in the same role, working under his brother Mike at the University of Arizona. The impact of his departure was felt almost immediately at UA, where in just two seasons the Wildcats became one of the most porous defenses in college football.
His work with defensive backs is second-to-none. Stoops helped develop All-American cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Trevin Wade at Arizona, and almost too many Seminoles to name. With cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety LaMarcus Joyner, this season’s Seminole defense ranks No. 6 against the pass.
Kentucky is an interesting choice for Stoops. Speculation that Auburn would him an irresistible offer to replace Ted Roof as defensive coordinator last winter ran rampant; might that have turned into an offer to replace fired head coach Gene Chizik?
Kentucky is a notoriously difficult place to sustain success. Rich Brooks’ run was among the best in program history, and even then peaked at eight wins. UK is a similar destination to Arizona in that both are renowned basketball schools, with little football tradition. Mike Stoops made Arizona respectable in his eight seasons there, but last traction quickly after Mark’s exit.
Stoops’ success will likely be contingent on tapping the recruiting pipeline into Florida. His time with the Seminoles should help in that regard, similar to how new in-commonwealth rival Charlie Strong has attracted Sunshine State talent to Louisville — another traditional basketball school.