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February 8, 2013

On The Rebound: Are we still talking football?

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It’s an exciting time to be a Kentucky fan. Make that a Kentucky football fan.

At a time of year when we usually daydream only about how high the basketball team will be seeded in the NCAA tournament, the football team has worked its way into the conversation.

There were numerous posts on social media about the UK football commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. The recruiting efforts of the new Kentucky boss have at times taken up as much media time as our beloved basketball team.

The buzz started with the hire of Mark Stoops as a replacement for Joker Phillips. It was the right move to fire Joker and the right move to hire Stoops. Would we be hearing this optimism if Joker still coached the Wildcats?

The next great move came with Stoops hiring Neal Brown as offensive coordinator. Our memory flashed back to the Air Raid sirens at Commonwealth Stadium.

Stoops seems to be making all the right decisions. It is reminiscent of the commotion when John Calipari took over the basketball program. Everything he did built momentum and right now Stoops is riding a rocket.

One of Stoops best decisions was to waste no time recruiting Franklin County star Ryan Timmons. Timmons reminds me of Randall Cobb with one advantage. Cobb played for Alcoa High School in Tennessee, while Timmons is home-grown talent. He might not the best recruit the Wildcats added, but he might be the most important. That will take time to judge since Stoops first recruiting class has been ranked No. 28 nationally by Rivals. That could make it the highest rated class in school history, although Stoops had just eight weeks on the job.

It’s interesting that none of the Joker Phillips recruits that did not sign with Kentucky switched to a higher-caliber team. They ended up signing with schools like East Carolina and Middle Tennessee State. All Stoops did was pull some players away from some of the top schools in the country. Timmons also had offers from Ohio State and Florida. USC and Louisville wanted defensive end Jason Hatcher. Texas and Auburn were after defensive end Zadarius Smith.

When Stoops took the Kentucky job he referred to the Wildcats as a “sleeping giant.” It may have been a bit of hyperbole on Stoops’ part. Or maybe he was serious. Stoops might not be able to wake the giant, but he has been able to wake the fans.



mhoward@sentinel-echo.com

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