Entering his ninth season at Kentucky, Mark Stoops is now considered a top 15 coach in college football. Pro Football Focus’ Seth Galina ranked the 20 best coaches in the sport and Stoops came in at No. 14. Galina’s rankings differ slightly from other lists in that he places a bigger emphasis on which coaches give their teams the most opportunities to win games and defy expectations rather than wins, losses, and rankings; in that regard, Stoops is flying high.
“The Stoops era of Kentucky football is a case study in not giving up too soon on a coach when you are not a national power,” Galina writes. “Kentucky has been a hard team to win with, but Stoops has seemingly transformed them from bottom-feeders to a mid-table team with a chance to upset the apple cart and win the East every once in a while. Their rushing efficiency stands out for a program like this — they’re 14th in the Power Five in EPA per rush over the last three seasons, a mightily impressive figure.”
As you might expect, the SEC just means more when it comes to lists like this. Stoops is one of five SEC coaches in PFF’s top 20. Nick Saban, predictably, is No. 1, followed by Kirby Smart (Georgia) at No. 3, Dan Mullen (Florida) at No. 5, and Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) at No. 13. That said, Stoops being fifth best in the SEC is one notch higher than CBS Sports’ rankings earlier this week, which had him sixth behind Ed Orgeron of LSU. During a conversation with Stoops on this morning’s KSR, guest host Vince Marrow brought up those rankings, which his boss said are proof the Cats are moving in the right direction.
“We’re making strides. We need to make another big jump here. We’re getting there and I think all of us feel pretty good about where the program is. Not content by any stretch of the imagination but I think confident in the direction that we’re going. Love our staff and where we’re headed. Just gotta get a few more difference makers to push us over the top but we’re getting closer and closer and I like the way we’re going about it.”
Check out the complete list below, along with Stoops’ comments from KSR.