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Monday, February 3, 2014
Stoops provides hope on recruiting trail

By Chris Low

After 16 straight SEC losses, Kentucky needed something to get excited about in football.

Mark Stoops, who just finished his first season as the Wildcats’ coach, has delivered with what’s shaping up to be the program’s highest-ranked signing class in history.

Mark Stoops
As signing day approaches, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is making an impact on the recruiting trail.
With Wednesday’s national signing day fast approaching, Kentucky is currently ranked 20th in ESPN’s class rankings, which would be the Wildcats’ first-ever top 25 finish.

The big get last week was four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam of Elizabethtown, Ky. Kentucky was able to beat Alabama for the 6-5, 350-pound Elam, which is always a telltale sign that a program is headed in the right direction.

When you’re beating the top teams in your league on the recruiting trail for marquee prospects, that’s the quickest way to start beating them on the field. It’s also significant that Stoops was able to keep one of the top prospects in the state of Kentucky at home. That has been a priority.

Three of the top four in-state prospects in the 2014 class have opted for the Wildcats. The other two were ESPN 300 quarterback Drew Barker of Hebron, and three-star defensive tackle Adrian Middleton of Bowling Green.

Stoops also has cashed in on his Ohio roots and done very well in that state. Nine of Kentucky’s 28 commitments in this class are from Ohio, a state traditionally laden with talent. Ohio State and Michigan can’t take them all.

Kentucky has eight four-star prospects committed in this class. In Stoops’ first class a year ago, he reeled in six four-star prospects. That’s 14 in two years. For perspective, in the three previous classes combined, the Wildcats signed a total of four four-star prospects.

Stoops knows what a talented roster looks like. He came to Kentucky from Florida State.

Upgrading the talent level is the only way Kentucky is going to make a move in the SEC, and based on these last two classes Stoops and his staff have put together, there’s hope on the horizon.