COACH STOOPS: Excited to have everybody here. Great day for us. To wrap up this 2014 class, you know, just a great day. We feel like we closed just like we started, just very strong.
We signed players from ten different states. Really feel good about what we did in Kentucky. I said that a year ago. I said that in my opening press conference about how important it was to recruit this state. So to sign the top four guys in the state this year was very important to us.
Big defensive class, 15 guys, 6 D linemen. Offensively, 13 guys with 4 O linemen. Obviously, that was important. So the seven guys that are here are off to a good start. Very excited about this group.
Q. Re: Lloyd Tubman
COACH STOOPS: Very, very important. We liked Lloyd a lot. Recruited him for a full year. Again, I think he's one of the top players in the state, a great football player. And he's a great student and a fine young man. So very important for us to get Lloyd.
Q. [ No microphone ].
COACH STOOPS: That's a great point, and I think it's fair to say that I thought about that as well. And I just felt like this first year if you go back to last year I'm not counting my first six weeks. I was scrambling, putting together last year's class. From signing day last year to today, I thought it was absolutely critical to have a great year.
And, obviously, we talked about the season. You know we need to improve there and play better, and we expect to do that. But with recruiting, I thought this was going to lay the foundation to turn this program, and it was a very critical year, and I felt like we really had to hit the pavement and recruit extremely hard. Could not be more proud of this staff and the way they went about their business.
It was a complete team effort. These guys are very unselfish. They work extremely hard. The reason one of the reasons why we had this success is because people come in and get to know us and know this staff, and these guys put in the time. It's not work to them. It's building relationships.
Believe me, it's not always easy. They may get phone calls at midnight. They may get phone calls at trying to have dinner with their families, put their kids down. It's a lot of time involved, and these guys were very unselfish and did a very good job. And we did a great job of team recruiting. When a player or a prospect or a family was on campus, the people felt comfortable.
Q. You made a statement in Ohio. Can you talk about that?
COACH STOOPS: I didn't set out to make a statement with that. Again, I told you that we're going to recruit at a high level and recruit the best players we can. I think it's very important when Mitch and I talked right from the very beginning, that was one of the things he and I discussed was recruiting within a six hour radius of this school.
There's a lot of people you can get to in a day's drive from here. And with me being from Ohio, that was easy. With Coach (Vince) Marrow and myself being from Ohio, with just the proximity with southern Ohio being so easy access, you can get to an awful lot of people in Ohio with a short drive.
Q. Are you happy with the success you had there?
COACH STOOPS: Very. Very pleased. There's a lot of good football players in Ohio, and the coach there's very good coaching and very tough kids. So we anticipate them coming in and giving us that element that we need to continue to build on.
Q. [ No microphone ].
COACH STOOPS: You know what, I'm really that's just the sound bite for me to say what it says. I'm really not worried about that. I'm worried about doing a great job recruiting at a high level, competing with anybody on the field or off. And that's the way we're going to go about our business.
So I don't do it just to have that one sound bite to say that we're here or anything like that. I mean, we're just going about our business.
Q. You've taken a "why not" approach. When I talked to the guys earlier today, they said they thought, Why not? Why not us? Is that sort of the slogan for this group?
COACH STOOPS: I didn't come up with that slogan. I thought our marketing people did a great job with that, but I agree with it. Why not? What the heck? Let's go. So that's kind of the approach we've had since we've been here. We're not here to play seconds to anybody. We're here to compete at a high level in a great conference, and there's a lot of challenges to that.
So we understand that. We take it very seriously, and we go to work every day to get better.
Q. Mark, do you feel like you've significantly upgraded your offense with this class?
COACH STOOPS: I do. I felt like again, I like to always start with the lines because it's so critical, and those guys need some time to develop, you know, sometimes. Some guys are ready to go right away.
But in general, when you're recruiting ten guys on the O line and D line, some of those guys are going to need a year or two to develop. So I think it's very critical to always have numbers in your front.
But offensively with the playmakers we signed, we desperately needed them, as you know. Let's start with the quarterback with Drew Barker. He's an incredible player, he's from this state, and his leadership is off the chart. So he has all the intangibles to make a difference.
Running back with Mikel (Horton) and Boom (Williams), they're a great blend. Mikel is so physical. I loved everything about him the minute I saw him, on tape, and then we saw him in person. He's the type of guy that's more impressive with his pads on, and he was quite impressive with his camp, just his agility, catching the ball, how light on his feet he was. So we love him.
And Boom is a guy that changes the scoreboard. And Coach (Jimbo) Fisher used to use that phrase a lot with offensive guys, and I agree with him. I think that's the type of guy that can make people miss, that can put some points on the board.
And I don't want to short the wideouts because I thought we hit a home run with the wide receivers, and we desperately needed them. We got great size. We got guys that are shifty and just competitors. So I love the wideouts as well and the tight end.
Q. Coach, as far as Matt Elam, what do you believe he can be for your program?
COACH STOOPS: He's very important. Matt was very important for a lot of reasons. I think just his talent, if you want to look at him on the field. He has great size. It's very rare, to find somebody that's 6'5" plus, 6'5 1/2", whatever Matt's weighing right now. But he can he's so athletic and so agile, and he's very explosive. So he's a difference maker on the field.
I said it earlier, that there's make no mistake about it. It's important because he's from our state and he's a great player. I think it's important to know that we can go head to head and win some recruiting battles against the best teams in the country.
I think it's important to lay the foundation for future recruits of Kentucky to say why not come to Kentucky and build this program?
Q. What was your level of confidence prior to him making his commitment?
COACH STOOPS: I felt good about it, but you never you never really know. Until you get his commitment verbally and you get it in public, you never know. He and I have had some great discussions over this past year. I've really enjoyed getting to know him and his family.
And that's the other point when talking about Matt. He has the ability to make other players better, and any great player, you've heard that talked about a lot. But any great player, they affect other people, and Matt has that ability to affect other people, to make them I think on the field, wanting to play better, maybe to play beside him, but he does a lot of good things. It's been a joy getting to recruit him, and he's going to have a real positive effect on our program.
Q. You didn't recruit any linebackers in last year's class and you sort of lamented that. This year you sort of made up for it. Is that a position where guys can play right away? You obviously need them.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we do need some. I think we continue to work with the guys we have on campus, and we need to bring in some new talent that can help us. It definitely was an area of need.
Q. Mark, what's your assessment of Adrian Middleton? Secondly, you haven't been here that long, but it's pretty unusual for the state of Kentucky to kick off the number of defensive linemen.
COACH STOOPS: We loved Adrian from the start. We had Adrian, saw him in person last summer, and we just liked the way he played. He had great size. He's a guy that kind of goes under the radar because he's kind of quiet but just goes about his business.
Again, comes from a great family, very good student, and just a hard worker. He's a guy that could play D end or eventually play D tackle. So he's very versatile.
Q. How do you explain the attitude of high school recruits now, their receptiveness to your program?
COACH STOOPS: It has to do with a lot of things. I think it's easier in some ways because of all the social media that you have. These players understand what we're doing. I'll tell you, we're working right now for 2015, and the 2015 recruits know what's going on with 2014. That has an effect.
Again, it's all this information they get very quickly. I think our people do a great job here with the marketing. I think our people in my office, whether it's Dan Berezowitz in recruiting, in the material and the information he gets out, whether it's through the website, Twitter, or just the mailings, he's very creative and works extremely hard.
And I think it has a lot to do with the commitment from our administration. I've said that time and time again, but it's the truth. To build a program, you've got to have support from the top down. We have that support starting with our president, and that's obvious with all the building and construction that's going on on campus. It's evident with our athletic director in Mitch Barnhart, and the commitment that he's given myself and this staff and these football players to be successful with the renovations of our stadium and with the new football facility.
Q. Who would have thought a year ago that it was possible to have a higher recruiting class than Oklahoma, Texas, USC?
COACH STOOPS: If I'm honest, we maybe had a little bit better success than I thought this quick. I knew we'd recruit good players. Where it was rated and all that and the publicity, I like it, and it helps our program and all that, but, again, that's not what I'm out for. I'm out to get great players to help build this program day in and day out.
Q. Who was your turning point in this whole process? When did you really start to see things kind of snowball in recruiting?
COACH STOOPS: I think with Drew (Barker). I think with Drew I felt like that was a big part of it because of the quarterback and the way he was a natural leader and he wanted to recruit other players. We joked about that, and I saw articles and people joking about him being the unofficial recruiting coordinator, but that was all on him. I mean, we don't direct him to do that. We're not allowed to direct him to do that, nor would I do it.
He just has that ability to be a leader, and he wanted other great players around him. You know, I said that a year ago as well. Players want to be around other great players.
Q. Can you describe kind of like how that effect was, what the effect was on the recruiting process?
COACH STOOPS: I think first the effect was that he was in state and one of the top players in the state. I thought that was important. I thought it was very important to beat quality schools on him and to know that Drew can play just about anywhere in the country. I don't know where he had scholarships to but an awful lot of them, and the fact that we beat some really good teams for him gives you that credibility and starts that snowball effect a little bit to have that. You know, that caught the eye of some other recruits.
Q. Did it seem like the guys that we talked to early, not just Drew, but the other guys, they had that personality about them. Is that one of the things, especially when you're selling faith as much as anything right now, Hey, we're going to get it done, that you need that kind of personality on your team?
COACH STOOPS: You do. They've been very solid that way. They've got to have a this group is very confident in their ability, but you know what and I know they have some fun with the media, which is great. They have the personality, and it's good. It's good for everybody. I want them to be themselves. But as a group, they're also very humble, and I think humility is very important to have that within your program.
I've read a lot of quotes from these guys that caught my eye that they know and understand that this is just the beginning of a lot of work. We've got some good players that's going to help this program, but we've got to go to work now and keep on building and put another great class together and do all the work, whether it be right now in winter if they're here, or the guys that are going to show up in the summer. I think they're very special that way.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Denzel Ware, what you think he can do.
COACH STOOPS: Ware, Denzel, we've known him for some time, recruited him a lot of years. He came to our camp when we were at Florida State years ago, two, three years ago at least, and he was one of the best players in the camp then. We obviously fell in love with him, started recruiting him.
Coach (D.J.) Eliot had a great relationship with Denzel, but he's very versatile. He's extremely explosive. He will play people ask me all the time what we'll do with him. He'll put his hand in the dirt, and he'll learn how to play defensive end, but he's also versatile enough to stand up and play some of the things in the three four and be able to move around and be creative because he has a lot of ability.
I had an opportunity to watch him play basketball a couple weeks ago, and surprisingly, he had a lot of talent. He was good. He knows how to play basketball. It's not just athletic ability out there. He kind of surprised me a little bit. But you did see his athletic ability, his burst, and how strong and how quick he jumps and just all those things. Very talented.
With Kendall (Randolph), another guy that I've known forever. I've known Kendall since he was a freshman at Tallahassee Lincoln. It was a school right down the road from us during my time at Florida State, and that was one of my schools. He's come over to camps, and I've just known him for some time.
We've had a great relationship, and I told him he was just meant to play for me. I didn't know the school, but he was meant to play for me and to play with this team.
He's very excited. He's a great player, very versatile. He was one of those guys that, regardless of whether you were shooting for X amount of DBs or wideouts or whatever it might be, he's just the type of quality person and player that you have to have on your team if you can get him.
Q. The secondary. Clearly you targeted a bunch of defensive players. How do you feel?
COACH STOOPS: I feel very good as a group. What you'll hear me talk about as a group, and I can say that about every one of them, is versatile. I like that in the secondary. I like guys that can play corner, nickel, dime, safety. We do a lot of things, and there's a lot of packages involved in today's football. And that's what I love about this group.
In general, I think they're tough, hard nosed guys, versatile, and explosive.
Q. Coach, as far as redshirting, does anyone stand out in terms of
COACH STOOPS: I never know. You never know. You don't want to put any limitation on anybody, and sometimes you're counting on a guy, maybe he's not ready to go. So just never can tell with who's going to come in and contribute. I anticipate there will be some.
Jarrett LaRubbio is recovering from a knee surgery right now. He's one that, if he was healthy, he'd probably be ready to come in and help, but he may need a redshirt just because of the injury.
Q. Speaking of injuries, what about Darius (West)?
COACH STOOPS: Darius should be fine. He had an injury, and it didn't quite heal up the way it needed to. He went back in and had his surgery, and everything should be fine. He just needs time to heal. We need him to be ready. He's a guy that I'd be shocked if he didn't come in and have an immediate impact. Darius is very, very explosive guy.
Q. Mark, wondering how many of these kids may be able to help you this year? [ No microphone ].
COACH STOOPS: The simple answer is they will help. In what capacity and how much and all that, I don't know. And you know and I know that's the tricky question when you're trying to put when you're trying to tally up the wins and losses.
And you know enough about me that I'm never going to put myself in a position to make a prediction on wins and losses and all that, but they will help us. When that reflects and how many wins, I'm not sure.
Q. re: Drew Barker
COACH STOOPS: I fully expect Drew to come in and compete right now. He better his butt better be working and throwing right now as we speak. No, I don't think I'm not afraid to play Drew if he's ready to go. So we'll see. He'll have a fair shake, and I'm counting on him getting out there and competing.
Q. Earlier you talked about some of his influences on the other guys in the class. And you also said he was talking to Avery Williamson about things he needed to learn. Does he have some of that potential?
COACH STOOPS: He does, just a solid kid. Just very good football player, carries himself the right way, great family. Very important to him. So he's definitely a guy that could have a positive effect on some other players.
Q. T.V. Williams talked about, as far as his weight plan. Is that something that how concerned are you about him being able to get up to the kind of weight you'd like to see? What would you like to see him at?
COACH STOOPS: He definitely needs to gain some weight, he knows that. He needs to get in that weight room and eat properly and all that. That's why we have talented people, working with him there. He needs to get stronger and gain some weight. So we'll see.
Again, he's one of those guys that you know, he's one of those guys that can make a difference if you give him two, three, four touches a game sometimes. He can make a difference. So we'll see where that goes.
Q. What would you like to see him at weight wise?
COACH STOOPS: I'm not sure. I let our strength and conditioning people, let Erik (Korem) handle that, but he has some guidelines of good weight that he wants to put on guys.
Q. With the new facility, how much were you able to sort of use that as potentially coming or will be coming soon?
COACH STOOPS: Not a lot. We told them that we had plans to try to get this done, but it wasn't like we had some rendering and we're showing it to them and all that because we weren't sure.
I think they understood that this place was committed.
Q. How does that change the game for you moving forward with that facility?
COACH STOOPS: I think it helps an awful lot. I think putting together such a good class this year and now having that and having shovels in the ground and seeing things happen hopefully will help us in the future here.
Q. [ No microphone ]. One of the reasons he came here is honesty. Do you know exactly what that means? Other staffs are dishonest? What exactly is he saying?
COACH STOOPS: I would never say that. You know, it's really important to me as the head coach and we have a great staff, first of all, but we are who we are. People ask me all the time, what's the pitch? We just go about our business and go to work every day, and we are who we are. We don't try to be anything else.
We don't talk bad about other programs. We talk about the good things we're doing here. We get very specific with them. It's not just lip service. It's not just being their buddies and giving them some silver tongued speech. We go in great detail with the plans that we have, offensively, defensively, special teams, how we're going to develop them, how we plan to use them.
I think it's a credit to our staff with how many times they got these guys on campus to build that bond with one another and with the staff.
Q. Mark, along those lines, some of the guys during the practice said that it helped them that you guys kind of braced them for you guys not having success on the field this year. Was that a conscious thing that you guys discussed, how to approach that?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think we it was something that we had to let them know, that we knew we maybe didn't have a team that was going to go out there and win ten games. Again, I think the message is very clear. We're getting better every day. We're going to compete against anybody on the field or off, and we're just going about our business. We want you to be a part of it.
They bought in, and these guys aren't afraid either.
Q. Re; Change of technology, no longer using fax machine
COACH STOOPS: I may say fax all day, but we didn't use the fax today either. We were using the computer. For us, it's kind of the paper comes out of the same printer, so it's just like a fax machine to me. So I don't care. As long as it comes out of that printer and they give us the okay, I was good with it.
Q. What is it about this class that you guys were able to keep things together?
COACH STOOPS: Very unique. This is one of the most unique recruiting experiences I've ever been a part of. This group was so solid for so long. Just like I said in the opening statement, we finished strong, just like we started, with very few hiccups in between. We had our battles, but that's fun. That's what we're here for, to compete every day, and we compete in recruiting.
This group has been so solid. Again, I think it's a testament to the staff. We get them here. We got to know their families. With me going on the road and I don't even know exactly how many living rooms I was in, but we got a very high percentage of guys that we brought in here for an official visit, and what we signed was an unusually high percentage. I want to say right in the area of 36 official visits and signed 28.
I mean, so and then just to have one decommitment for this entire year with this type of a signing class was very, very unusual. So when I go into all these homes, and usually you're in there trying to close and sell and all those things, but most of the time these guys were ready to go. It was really just a celebration.
So it was nice to get in there with this staff and to go into these prospects' homes and visit with their family. I'm telling you, normally, it's about an hour, hour and a half in there. I'm in there for three hours, three and a half hours, just hanging out with these families spending time, and that was a lot of fun because you could see why the prospects are who they are, because they have great families.
Q. What was sort of the magic number of guys that you felt like were on the fence that you had to pull back in?
COACH STOOPS: I felt I was keeping my eye on a couple guys down the stretch here. But, again, that's just how we go about our business. We don't take anything for granted. We recruited every bit as hard last night and today as we did last year or the day after signing day or the whole year.
We recruited from start to finish extremely hard, don't take anything for granted, and go about our business the right way.
Q. [ No microphone ].
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I was all excited earlier seeing what we were doing and everything, and somebody told me where we finished in the conference, and I said what? So that's hey, that's where we live, and that's why we're excited to be in this conference.
I know Mitch embraces that challenge all the time, and we do as well. We enjoy competing in this conference. It's very difficult, but it's also a lot of fun. We just want to keep on fighting.
Q. When you get Matt Elam into the type of shape you want him to be in, what do you envision him being? Is he going to be more of a play making defensive line or more of a guy that attracts the attention of the offensive line to help let others make plays?
COACH STOOPS: No. I think that's what's very unique about Matt is he is a play maker. He's not just a big body in there taking up space. He is extremely athletic. I'll tell you, when Neal and I went and watched him play, watching him stretch I was amazed because he could sit down and he was so athletic and so limber. He could sit Indian style as he was stretching and just his flexibility amazed me.
And then you watch him play, and he's so explosive, and he finishes plays so well. He knows Matt knows he needs to get in shape, and Matt's working on that right now. And I believe it's important for Matt to get in shape, and I believe one of the reasons why we signed Matt is because, again, he looked at what we've done in the past.
He's got Coach (Jimmy) Brumbaugh to work with, who's a disciple of the legendary Pete Jenkins, who we believe in D line techniques. D.J. Eliot was the D line coach at Florida State, and I was the defensive coordinator. Now he's got the head coach, the defensive coordinator, and his position coach all speaking the same language on D line technique.
I think that was a big part of it and something we don't take for granted. We show him exactly the drills we're going to do, how we're going to train him, and how we're going to help him achieve all of his goals.
Q. When you talk about specifics with each individual player, here's what we want to do with you, here's the plan we have for you, not just this is the offense we run.
COACH STOOPS: Right. We like to show them in great details the techniques that we use and how we train them and how it applies to football. That's why it's important to get them on campus and get them around and have them watch a practice if they can, get to camps so they can see us coach them and see the techniques that we use and just our general approach to coaching and all those things.
So we do try to be very specific with them. It's not just you know, we build relationships and personal relationships, but it's also we try to go in great detail. Really, that's how we try to go about our business with everything in our program.
Q. Mark, can you just talk about the effect Vince Marrow has.
COACH STOOPS: Vince has done a great job, everybody knows that, and he has a great ability to connect with these recruits and their families. I will say that is a credit to the whole staff. With being from Ohio and myself I helped Vince out there too. But being from Ohio and having our whole staff actively recruited every one of those guys.
So I do give Vince credit. That's why he got the promotion that he deserved, but it was a staff. It was a group effort. He does a great job. I said that a year ago. I say it again. He's a joy to go into a home with. He's got that sewed down. You know, it's just fun to go in there.
I will say, again, don't look at just numbers. Look at some of the things this staff did, and it really amazes me. Coach Eliot pulling in Lloyd Tubman at the 12th hour.
Neal Brown and John Schlarman everybody was talking about different guys and their obstacles with recruiting that day when the ice storm hit. They were in Alabama, and I'll let him tell you the story. I think they were in the car for four or five hours and went three miles, and they parked their car and walked the last mile to the school, and then they got locked down in the school for the night. So they slept in the school.
Chad Scott going to and he would never tell me this. I go to the home visits and just the connection that he has with the family, and seeing him and them talking about how Chad was in their classes, going to class with them from morning all the way through, just sitting in classes. I think they asked him to get up and do some literature or something, and he said that would be a violation. I can't do that. You know Chad doesn't want to talk to anybody.
But just the connection that they all have. Tommy Mainord going in and pulling guys out of the D.C. area and South Carolina, beating quality schools there. I could go on and on. Coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto, all of them. I don't want to slight any of them. I just think all of them did an excellent job.
You don't sign a class like this in the situation we're in without everybody doing their part. And Dan Berezowitz behind the scenes. Dan doesn't like any credit. He doesn't want to hear it. He's a guy that, when I worked at Arizona, he was our recruiting coordinator. He had five kids under the age of 5, and every day after a long day, I'd see him dragging a dolly to his car with four boxes of recruiting material. And after his kids went to bed, he'd be working on that all night.
So those are the kind of guys that help this thing go.
Q. Just finished this class, but these days recruiting is a year round thing. Where are you with that?
COACH STOOPS: We're off and running.
Q. Can you talk about just maybe a couple of priorities for 2015 class?
COACH STOOPS: Good football players. It will be a lot the same, I think. We could always use a home run running back. Know where I can find one? And we're always going to continue to build on O line and D line.
And we're just going to continue to recruit quality players and guys that are good leaders. But we're going to need help in a lot of positions again. We'll have a pretty good sized class again next year. I don't know if it will be this big, but it will be a good group.
Q. re: injury situation for spring
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Max (Smith) is going to be banged up. I don't think he'll get to compete at all this spring. So that's going to hurt us and hurt Max, but other than that, guys are getting healthy.
TraVaughn (Paschal) is getting a procedure done that will probably keep him out of spring as well. But overall the group is doing extremely well. We're very excited about their attitude, their work ethic. I think we're doing some very good things in the off season trying to continue to promote and develop leadership, and the guys just really have a good attitude.
They're really going about their business the right way in the weight room. Coaches are back off the road. We're allowed to start meeting with them and having our winter conditioning program go. So good things are happening.
Q. Can you talk about position changes?
COACH STOOPS: Let me save that for later. I really haven't thought much about that, to be honest with you.
Q. Re; replacing the fax machine
COACH STOOPS: You're stuck on that fax deal, huh?
Q. So how do you get it?
COACH STOOPS: Where's Brez? I don't know. They faxed his e mail on a computer, and then he just prints it off. But, again, to me it's the same printer as the fax machine was. So it comes off the same way. But we get it through the e mail first, and then we print it off and all that.
As we're getting those faxes in and everything you hear me. I'll probably talk about that for years, fax. But as we're getting the documents in, it's just sometimes they may forget to date it here or put the time in right and all those things. So we've got to make sure it's all done properly before we release it.
Q. You say Tubman is sort of a Jason Hatcher type role?
COACH STOOPS: Lloyd, I think, is a guy that's very versatile. We plan on keeping him where he's at. He's a defensive end. He's going to learn to play with his hand down. He is versatile enough to stand up. But he's going to be a very, very big guy very quick. He's 6'4 1/2" now, and he's going to put on weight, and he's got a great frame. Very excited about Lloyd.
Q. What can you expect from Mike Edwards?
COACH STOOPS: Mike is another guy we just loved from the very beginning. Very good player. Watched him practice in basketball, very explosive, very quick. Mike plays very nasty. He'll come up and strike you. Just a very versatile guy that I really like.
Q. [ No microphone ].
COACH STOOPS: Again, just wrapping up and saying just appreciate a lot of people's efforts. From the hotels we stay at here with our recruits and the service they give us to the people that feed us our meals in the restaurants, the staff, our administration, so many people behind the scenes, it's a fun day because we kind of put a wrap on a lot of hard work, but then it gives us that excitement to build for next year and where we're headed.
But just want to reiterate how much I appreciate this coaching staff. To this point, we've been able to keep everybody in place. I hope to do that. They're very talented group with a great work ethic, but they've done a great job and appreciate all of you. Thank you.