There are two FBS football conferences within the Southeastern footprint of the United States. One is known as the SEC and plays elite-level football every Saturday. The other is the Sun Belt and is slept on nationally every year.
Despite having to play some games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for program exposure, the Sun Belt has built a solid brand and it has led to Power Five programs across college football to take a closer look at the coaching talent in the Fun Belt. Louisville’s Scott Satterfield, West Virginia’s Neal Brown, and Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz were all recent hires who won big in the Sun Belt. Louisiana’s Billy Napier and Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell should be getting prominent gigs soon. This is a slept-on football conference.
Mark Stoops and Kentucky have recognized this. To fill roles on his defensive staff, both Stoops and defensive coordinator Brad White have dipped into the Sun Belt for recent hires.
The inside linebackers coach is entering year three in Lexington after spending one year at Ole Miss in 2018. Before that, Sumrall spent three seasons working for Brown at Troy from 2015-17 serving as the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator. The Alabama native has some ties to the Deep South and that has led to some major recruiting wins.
Sumrall was the lead recruiter in the blue-chip recruiting wins of Josaih Hayes, Christian Lewis, and Trevin Wallace. The Kentucky alum has since been promoted to the co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky as he has become one of the most valuable members of the coaching staff. Sumrall cut his teeth in the Sun Belt and is now one of the fastest risers in the coaching industry.
Another Kentucky alum, Stewart had a long career in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for 13 seasons playing for both the Montreal Alouettes and the Calgary Stampeders. Stewart won three Grey Cups and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2004 before starting his coaching career a decade later.
As part of the 75th, we want your opinion to elect the best player per decade. Today the 2000s between (other choices accepted ?):
– Anthony Calvillo
– Ben Cahoon
– Scott Flory
– Anwar Stewart pic.twitter.com/BIY8gP6Exh
— Alouettes de Montréal (@MTLAlouettes) May 27, 2021
The Panama City, Fla., native returned to Lexington in 2017 serving as a defensive assistant for two seasons while finishing his degree in social work. From there, Drinkwitz would hire Stewart to coach the defensive line at Appalachian State in 2019. After one year in Boone, N.C., Stewart returned to his alma mater.
The alum is now back for year two on-campus coaching a very talented defensive line. However, Stewart has begun to flash some recruiting chops in Metro Atlanta. The assistant landed a big-time commitment in cornerback Andre Stewart for the class of 2022 while he has Kentucky in the running for five-star Mykel Williams.
The most recent staff addition, Collins comes to Lexington after four seasons coaching the secondary at Georgia State. During his time in the Sun Belt, Collins competed against both Sumrall and Stewart. The Western Carolina alum has been a fast riser through the coaching ranks and added recruiting coordinator duties to his resume while in Atlanta.
“Going through the hiring process for this job I talked to several candidates but each time I talked to Chris I came away more and more impressed with him,” Stoops said “He brings great energy and enthusiasm to the staff on the field and as a recruiter. We are very excited to have him on board.”
The young coach doesn’t have any Power Five experience and that separates him from the previous two Sun Belt hires, but Collins has a proven recruiting track record. Kentucky is hopeful that can translate on the recruiting trail for some more wins on national signing day.