Looking At The Kentucky Football Coaching Changes
Every season there are seemingly more and more changes to the coaching staffs around the country. This year Mark Stoops added a couple to his staff while losing one. The two additions look very strong and should help the Wildcats in their quest for a third straight bowl. With that in mind let’s go in depth Looking At The Kentucky Football Coaching Changes.
A Surprising Coaching Departure
Many in the Big Blue Nation were surprised when Lamar Thomas‘ contract was not renewed by Stoops for 2018. In February of 2016 when Thomas was hired away from rival Louisville it was considered a huge get for the Wildcats.
After starring for Miami in college and playing eight seasons in the NFL, Thomas had the reputation as a great recruiter. He was credited for bringing Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson to Louisville. However he wasn’t nearly as successful in his time in Lexington. In fact during his two years at Kentucky Thomas was not credited as the lead recruiter for any player signed by the Cats.
For many Thomas’ time at Kentucky boiled down to one play which drew a lot of criticism. Whether that criticism is warranted is debatable. In the season finale against Louisville Jackson and Jordan Jones got into it after a play. As the players went back to their respective huddles Thomas shook hands with Jackson. This angered Jones to the point of shoving Thomas and a brief verbal exchange.
Interesting exchange between Jordan Jones and Lamar Thomas after the first half scuffle: pic.twitter.com/qMPE3yksFv
— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) November 25, 2017
As it stands right now Thomas has not landed a new coaching position.
“A Perfect Fit For Kentucky”
On January 26th Stoops named Michael Smith as the new receivers coach. Smith comes to Kentucky after five years on Bret Bielema’s staff at Arkansas. Smith had a stellar college career at Kansas State finishing second in Big Eight history with 179 receptions. In addition his 2,457 receiving yards ranks third all-time in the Big Eight.
Smith began his coaching life learning under one of the greats in Kansas State’s Bill Synder. Furthermore Smith and Stoops coached together previously under Mark’s brother Mike at Arizona. From 2004-2009 the younger Stoops was defensive coordinator while Smith coached the running backs and inside receivers from 2007-2008.
Known as a strong recruiter the Wildcats hope Smith can help them break into Louisiana and Texas, two places Kentucky has never recruited before. Of the 14 players signed by Arkansas from Louisiana Smith was the lead recruiter on all of them. As a result of Smith’s connections Kentucky hosted several players from the Bayou state during their recent junior day.
Pat Jenkins, who covers Arkansas sports speaks glowingly of coach Smith. “He is a perfect fit for Kentucky” Jenkins says. “The university and the Big Blue Nation are going to love him. He has an incredible attention to detail and players are going to be prepared.” He goes onto say “if players drop passes or don’t block they won’t play.” For a group which has been plagued by drops over the years that has to be seen as a good thing for Cat fans.
The Kentucky receiving corps loses five players from 2017 including Garrett Johnson, Charles Walker and Blake Bone. However they do have Dorian Baker returning from injury and strong group of sophomores and freshmen.
A New Assistant On Defense
As we continue Looking At The Kentucky Football Coaching Changes it’s time to focus on defense. With the new NCAA rules allowing for a 10th assistant Stoops said he wanted to hire someone on that side of the ball. In the days following the end of the 2017 season speculation centered on Ed Reed, whom Stoops tried to hire two years ago but ultimately took a job with the Buffalo Bills.
On February 1st the school announced the hire of Brad White for the 10th assistant job. White comes to Lexington after six years as a linebackers coach for the Indianapolis Colts. He will be in charge of the outside linebackers, the same job he had with the Colts.
A graduate of Wake Forest White was a starting linebacker from 2002-2004. He played under Kentucky’s special teams coordinator Dean Hood who at the time was defensive coordinator for the Demon Deacons.
The hire of White allows Hood to move from coaching the outside linebackers to the secondary where he will assist Steve Clinkscale. While arguably Kentucky’s most talented group that unit struggled in 2017. The Cats finished 102nd in the nation last season giving up 252 yards per game through the air.
As a result of Hood moving back to his natural coaching position and the surprising return of Mike Edwards the secondary should be much improved in 2018.
Thanks for Looking At The Kentucky Football Coaching Changes with us here at Last Word On College Football. Spring practice is just around the corner and that will be the focus of the next post.