LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mark Stoops is back where he feels comfortable.
The Kentucky coach, now in his fourth year, took a “much more involved” role on defense after the Wildcats gave up 45 points to Florida in Week 2. That decision took him back to his roots as a defensive coach, he said on his SEC Teleconference Wednesday.
“I think certainly I feel more comfortable with being a defensive play caller now, that I assumed this year,” Stoops said. “That was certainly not the case four years ago. There’s just so many things that need to be done to build a program, and we’re continuing to build this program in many ways.”
Kentucky’s defensive improvement has been apparent. The Wildcats have held their opponents to 10, 34 and 13 points in their last three games compared to 44, 45 and 42 points in their first three.
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said the partnership with Stoops is similar to what the two were doing when Stoops was defensive coordinator at Florida State.
“Now, he’s had to relieve some head coaching responsibilities but he, going into his fourth year, there’s not as much strain on him,” Eliot said last Wednesday. “You know? So he’s been able to come in there and work with us on defense more.”
Stoops said Kentucky is getting back to a level playing field with the rest of the conference, “from being six feet underground like we were,” Stoops said.
Now he’s able to go back to focus on his area of expertise.
“I certainly feel like I have the ability to be a defensive play caller because with that you have to spend so much time with the fine details of being involved in calling a defense and coordinating a defense,” Stoops said. “I think that area alone is something I’m much more comfortable in now than I was year one.”