Why Kentucky is Suddenly Making a Big Push with its Football Program

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Why Kentucky is Suddenly Making a Big Push with its Football Program
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

Kentucky recruiting well is nothing new.

After all John Calipari routinely signs top classes filled with players who exploit the NBA's one-and-done rule, leaving a quick but lasting mark on the football program.

Wait, what? Kentucky is in the top 10 in the 247Sports.com composite for the class of 2014 in football too?

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

FOOTBALL?

As Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops—and brother of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops—would say, "hello!"

The program currently ranks seventh in the current composite index and has been on fire lately. Six of the Wildcats' 15 commitments in the class have come in the month of June. 

Before we get into the specifics, you did read that correctly. Mark Stoops has received commitments from six prospects in 12 days.

Stew on that for a moment.

The group of recent commitments is headlined by 6'3", 220-pound defensive end Denzel Ware.

Denzel Ware high school highlights

The 4-star prospect from Crestview, Fla., re-committed to the Wildcats over offers from several big-time schools, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Georgia and others. The nation's 91st-ranked player was initially a Seminole commitment but flipped to Kentucky when Stoops took the helm before taking a step back to evaluate.

Safety Darius West also made the pledge to join Big Blue Nation this month. The 6'0", 195-pounder from Lima, Ohio is a 4-star prospect who chose the Wildcats over a plethora of major offers—including Notre Dame and Louisville.

Darius West high school highlights

Eight of Kentucky's commitments in the class of 2014 hail from the state of Ohio, which has been a primary focus for Stoops' staff. Those efforts in Ohio have paid off due in large part to tight ends coach Vince Marrow, who's listed as the primary recruiter for all eight of those players. 

See a pattern?

Kentucky is playing with the big boys on the recruiting trail. That doesn't always translate to success on the gridiron, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

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Not only is it recruiting well—it's pouring the appropriate amount of resources into the football program to be competitive.

The athletics department is budgeting $12,587,627 into the football program this season, a 33 percent increase from last year according to Kentucky.com. That number includes an increase of $2.4 million in the budget for salaries for the football staff. For perspective, the coaching staff earned a total of $5,642,909 last season according to the USA Today coaching database. 

That's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough to compete just yet.

According to Forbes, LSU spent $59 million over a three-year span between 2009-11, for an average of $19.6 million per year. Arkansas' was $24.5 million in 2011 and Auburn's was $39.5 million, according to USA Today.

This comes on the heels of major renovation projects to Commonwealth Stadium including a room specifically dedicated to recruiting.

Kentucky is recruiting with the big boys and clearly making an effort from a resources standpoint to eat at the big boy table. 

It takes time to build a program, and everything Kentucky has done since Stoops took the job in December 2012 indicates that he intends to make Kentucky more than just a basketball school.

Can he do it? We shall see. But so far, so good.

 

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