Kentucky isn't known as a football school, but if new head coach Mark Stoops has his way, that will change in the near future.
The momentum generated from a surge late in the recruiting season that saw the Wildcats land three Rivals.com 4-star prospects—defensive back Marcus McWilson, defensive end Jason Hatcher and defensive end Za'Darius Smith—has translated into the spring.
According to Kentucky.com, more than 23,000 tickets to the Wildcats' spring game have already been reserved by Big Blue Nation. The university is selling tickets to its spring game, which is scheduled for April 13, for the first time ever.
It's a stark contrast to last season's spring game, which drew a paltry 4,500 fans, according to ESPN.com. That number may be a generous estimate judging from some of the pictures (h/t: CollegiateStadiums.com).
Spring game attendance isn't as big of a deal as it is sometimes made out to be, but the fact that more than 23,000 fans have already committed to the Kentucky spring game—more than five times the announced attendance of last year's game—is mind-boggling.
Is Kentucky going to transform itself into a football powerhouse under Stoops?
Considering the neighborhood Kentucky plays in, it's going to be hard for the Wildcats to contend with big-money schools like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee on an annual basis.
However, he has done a lot of good in his first three months on the job.
Aside from closing strong on the recruiting trail and getting fans excited for football again, he hired a fantastic offensive coordinator in Neal Brown to implement the air raid offense in the Bluegrass State.
That's exactly what Kentucky needed to do—establish a new identity for itself that it can own.
The Wildcats are probably going to be outmatched in the talent department more times than not in the SEC, but it now can give opposing coaches something different to look at on game week, which gives the Wildcats a puncher's chance.
Brown previewed what the offense is going to look like in mid-December:
The base plays that you (saw) on Saturday afternoons when coach (Hal) Mumme was here, those plays are the same. Those base plays are really the same plays you are seeing at West Virginia being highly successful, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State is using those same plays, Oklahoma is using those base plays. Those base plays really haven’t changed since 1997 when coach Mumme brought those to big-time college football. Now, what we have done is we have made a concerted effort to run the football. We are playing at a faster pace and we dress those plays up with motions and different formations. Those are the things the fans are going to notice.
While most of the SEC will focus on the new head coaches at Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee this spring; don't forget about the Mark Stoops regime at Kentucky.
His program has the biggest hill to climb, and the route that he takes to climb it should be very interesting to watch.
Don't be surprised if Stoops is able to lead the Cats back to bowl games on a regular basis, which was where former head coach Rich Brooks had the program before he retired in January 2010.
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