I’ll take Grumpy Stoops over Swaggy Stoops any day of the week (Dr. Michael Huang Photo).
(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – I’m not sure I recognized the Mark Stoops that was allegedly spotted on campus last week. I’m talking about the University of Kentucky Football coach that was all smiles when asked about his resemblance to Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose in a picture circulating over the internet.
“I actually can’t deny it,” Stoops said, when asked about the resemblance. “I can jam it out a little bit. That’s a side gig.”
Shortly afterwards, Stoops jumped onto the podium kicking off UK Football Media Day and got all us media types excited. He announced to the world that his team had “by far the best day one practice we’ve ever had.”
The UK head man, entering his tenth year, then shifted into humanitarian mode on Friday by joining forces with Father Jim Sichko in the eastern Kentucky flood relief efforts.
“Without a doubt, these are really good young men,” Stoops said, in describing his team’s heart. “We’re far from perfect. None of us are. But these guys are a joy to coach and they’re really good kids and there’re a bunch of them [helping out].”
SAY WHAT? The guy sounds exactly like a famous local basketball coach known for his sharp wit, compassionate heart, and swaggy demeanor.
But this is Mark Stoops, not John Calipari, coaching this football team. We in the BBN aren’t used to such abject positivity—much less braggadocio—from the pigskin side of the ball. We want the nose-to-the-grindstone, roll-up-your-sleeves, and get-back-to-work mentality that got Stoops and the program competing with the big boys in the SEC. No need for bulletin board material messing with our mojo.
As fall practice begins, we don’t want Swaggy Stoops. We want Grumpy Stoops!
Fear not. During a well-attended UK Fan Day, Stoops was all smiles during the public portion of the family-friendly event. Immediately afterwards, however, reporters got to see the good old Mark Stoops we’ve come to know and love.
“No personnel questions today,” Stoops said to begin the session. “I’ve got nothing to hide. Nobody’s injured. Nothing major. I just don’t want to answer every little thing. We’re a little thin. Got a couple guys sick, a couple guys very minor. In a couple of days, we’ll be fine. We’re thin in a few positions, but nothing to tell you or I would.”
After setting the tone, Stoops moved immediately into the type of guarded talk we’re all much more familiar with.
“Still a lot of work to be done,” he continued. “We’ve got a lot of things to get better at and prepped…There are certain question marks on this team. We gotta work hard. Get those answers fixed. We got some deficiencies we’ve got to get tightened up.”
When asked about the excitement in his voice and demeanor regarding this current team that we heard coming out of his mouth this past week, Stoops went into denial mode.
“Fan Day today, I gotta talk to you all, I gotta be all happy,” he jokingly said. “I’ll get back there [with the players] and be a grump. We got a lot of work to do. I’m confident in the staff and players, but we got a lot of work to do.”
From what I saw in the open practice, I would wholeheartedly agree. There are so many moving parts to the puzzle, but the defense looked like it was a little ahead of the offense. Stoops said that wasn’t a concern, but now’s the time I like to put on my worry hat with so many practices still on the schedule.
Here are the big question marks the team needs to settle prior to September 3
Will the talented, but inexperienced, wide receivers be able to shoulder the void left by Wan’Dale Robinson?
Along similar lines, can the offense latch onto and grasp Rich Scangarello’s complex NFL schemes?
Who in the secondary will step up and make those critical one-on-one plays?
With the transition among both players and coaches, can the O-line maintain the continuity of the vaunted Big Blue Wall?
What is Chris Rodriguez’s status moving forward?
How well can the team protect Will Levis?
Can Will Levis protect himself?
As Stoops said, much work remains in the month of August. That’s why we pay Grumpy Stoops all the big bucks.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669