Editor's note: Bryant. Vaught. Jordan. Dooley. Neyland. These are just a handful of the coaches (among many others) who have come to define the Southeastern Conference due to their dynamic personalities and remarkable success on the field. But who are the top coaches roaming the sidelines of SEC schools today? Ryan Black gives his take, counting down from 14-1. The series continues with the coach coming in at No. 13.
13. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Record: 2-10, 0-8 SEC (Last season was first year as a head coach)
National championships: 0 as head coach (coached defensive backs at Miami when Hurricanes won BCS title in 2001)
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SEC championships: 0
SEC division titles: 0
It was a rough introduction to the Southeastern Conference for Mark Stoops last season.
The fact success is second nature to him must have made it all the more difficult to reconcile. It was the first time Stoops had ever been a head coach; in 19 years as an assistant at the college level (including one at South Florida as the Bulls' program was getting off the ground), he had only been associated with a losing record four times. But 2013 was the nadir. Kentucky's 2-10 showing was the worst mark for a Stoops-coached team. Previously, he been an assistant with three different teams that posted 3-8 records (Houston in 2000; Arizona in 2004 and 2005).
To pinpoint exactly what went wrong last year is pretty easy: The Wildcats were terrible in pretty much every aspect of the game, be it offense, defense or special teams.
Just take a look at this bulleted list. (The number in parentheses denotes its ranking among the 14 teams in the SEC.)
- Total offense: 341.3 ypg (13)
- Scoring offense: 20.5 ppg (13)
- Rushing offense: 147.9 ypg (12)
- Passing offense: 193.4 ypg (10)
- Total defense: 427.2 ypg (13)
- Scoring defense: 31.2 ppg (13)
- Rushing defense: 197.3 ypg (12)
- Passing defense: 229.8 ypg (10)
- Punting: 36.7 net yards per attempt (13)
But it gets worse. Kentucky also was last in the league in sacks allowed, first downs and third-down conversion rate. The only areas one could say the Wildcats "excelled" were in field goals (12-for-14), penalties and red zone defense, categories were they ranked among the top five in the league.
At least there appears to be hope on the horizon. Stoops' first recruiting class was the best Kentucky has had in more than a decade, as Rivals pegged it at 17th in the country, Scout put it at 22nd and 247Sports ranked it 23rd. The SEC has a way of taking its toll on the psyche, though; despite how highly the 2014 class ranked nationally, it still ranked ninth (Rivals and Scout) and 10th (247Sports) among SEC schools.
Kentucky's 2015 haul to this point is considered among the top 26 classes in the nation by those three major recruiting services. Yet again, though, it trails most of the other schools in the SEC.
Given Stoops' defensive prowess, one has to think that unit will make some gains this season. Offensively, however, a starting quarterback still needs to be identified and its receiving corps is quite raw. Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is that four starters return on the offensive line, and with another season to gel, should be much improved in 2014.
Even so, Stoops' second season could be every bit as rough as his first.
Eclipsing last season's win total and pulling itself out of the Eastern Division basement (vaulting past a rebuilding Vanderbilt, maybe?) should be the overriding goal of 2014 for Stoops and his team, and in doing so, continuing to build momentum for the future.