After a couple of trying first few seasons, Mark Stoops seems to have altered Kentucky football’s direction for the better.
The 2016 season saw Kentucky finish with a 7-5 regular-season record that included a win against rival Louisville, which was led by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. It was the first time in the Stoops era that Kentucky went to a bowl game, but the Wildcats lost to Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl. UK did all this despite losing quarterback Drew Barker early in the season with a back injury.
Barker worked on a limited basis during spring practice, and there’s hope that he’ll be ready by the fall. Stephen Johnson, who filled in for Barker last season, also returns.
Besides bringing in another strong recruiting haul — the Wildcats had the No. 29 class in the country for 2017 — Stoops also returns running back Benny Snell, who ran for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman last season. With Boom Williams off to the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, Snell likely will have an even bigger role in the Kentucky offense.
Though Kentucky basketball fans never seem satisfied, Wildcats football fans approve of the job Stoops is doing. In the SEC Country approval rating poll last month, Stoops finished with a rating of 86.2. That bumps him into first place among SEC East coaches, and fourth overall.
Recruits are buying in as well. Using the 247Sports composite rankings, the Wildcats now have the No. 21 recruiting class in the country, placing them third among SEC teams.
Stoops earned $3.5 million last season.
Vote on Mark Stoops’ approval rating
The SEC Country approval rating poll is designed to give an indication of fan happiness over a period of time.
Our formula is based on the percentage of respondents that select each answer. We multiply that percentage by the following factors: 1 (strongly approve), 0.67 (approve), 0.33 (disapprove) and 0.0 (strongly disapprove). In other words, if 50 percent of respondents select “strongly approve” and 50 percent select “approve,” the formula would be (50 x 1) + (50 x 0.67) = 83.5% approval rating.