Kirk Herbstreit had a look into the future in November 2012 when he brought up Mark Stoops’ name as a candidate for the Kentucky job after Joker Phillips was fired.
The ESPN analyst told our own Kyle Tucker, then at The Courier-Journal, this more than three weeks before Stoops was hired: “Mark Stoops is a name that to me is going to create some attention when this season is over because of the success he’s had and his pedigree and where he’s from. He’s a go-getter and a guy that I think has a lot to offer.”
You can read the full transcript of that conversation.
I asked Herbstreit on Wednesday what he saw back then in Stoops and what he thinks of the Wildcats heading into the 2016 season:
On why he thought Stoops would be a good fit in Lexington: “Going back to five years ago, I just saw a very talented, experienced coordinator. I think getting away from his brother Mike who was at Arizona, (Mark) was the defensive coordinator, and kind of getting out on his own and ending up at Florida State and having a great deal of success. I knew what kind of leader he was and what kind of recruiter he could be. I just thought if he finally got the opportunity to be his own guy he would have a chance to do pretty well.”
On his expectations for UK this season: “As we know, trying to get Kentucky to compete and be a consistent winner in the SEC East is very challenging. They’ve made some strides, but I know that fanbase would love to get to a bowl game and love to be more competitive in the SEC. If you look at the team, I think the change at quarterback with Drew Barker taking over will help them. I think they’ve really turned the ball over too much and they just seemed to be a little out of sorts offensively. So you have a new scheme, a new quarterback with Drew Barker, they’re loaded in the backfield with (Jojo) Kemp and (Boom) Williams. There’s a lot I think to be excited about offensively as I said with the new attack. And you know this is a young defense. They’re not quite there as far as where they need to be on the defensive line. They’re going to have to be kind of creative and aggressive.”
On UK’s most important game of the season: “I look at their schedule and if there’s a game that’s going to decide if they go to a bowl game or not, I hate to say it’s the opener, but I think it is. If they beat Southern Miss I think that schedule all of a sudden looks a lot more attainable, and a bowl becomes more attainable than if they were to lose that game and go to The Swamp in Week 2. I think they need to get off to a good start and hope for the best, but I think you’ll see improvement this year for sure.”
The Cats open the season at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at home against Southern Miss.