Will Muschamp believes Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, he of a long line of Stoops brothers in the coaching business, is a very good defensive football coach. That’s why it’s so strange to Muschamp, and to a lot of people, that the Wildcats are playing such terrible defense three games into the season.
Kentucky, which will host the Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., is 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the SEC this season because of a defense that is allowing an SEC-worst 528 yards per game.
“I can only speak from my experience, obviously if you continue to do the same things, you’re going to get the same results,” Muschamp said. “You need to change something, whether it be personnel or scheme. I don’t have (Kentucky’s) answers, but that’s always what I’ve looked at, No. 1 at myself, and No. 2 what we can do as coaches, and No. 3 if it’s not working from that standpoint, maybe it is personnel.”
Stoops, the youngest brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, is looking at everything. He made that clear Wednesday night, when he made a special visit to reporters just to point out that his defense was going to “look like the same bunch of crap” without some major changes from the players.
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The Wildcats are giving up 6.14 yards per play, which is 107th in the nation. Kentucky gave up 44 points in a loss to a Southern Miss team that lost to Troy last week, and New Mexico State scored 42 points against the Wildcats, 20 more than it managed against UTEP.
Stoops voiced his displeasure directly to his team following Wednesday’s practice, according to media members in Lexington, Ky.
“Yeah I got after them a little bit. I’m not pleased,” he said. “I’m just, you know, it’s frustrating. We try to teach, try to coach, try to educate, and sometimes all that don’t work. The truth is the truth. If we’re so fragile we can’t handle the truth, we’re not going to win many games. I told them the truth.”
Stoops will be “heavily involved” in the defensive game plan this week along with his defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, Stoops said.
“We all know (this season’s performance) is not acceptable defense,” Stoops said. “Not under my watch. I know what good defense looks like and we'll work hard to get it fixed.”
Stoops came to Kentucky in 2013 after three years as defensive coordinator at Florida State. Muschamp’s relationship with the Stoops family dates back to the early 2000s, when Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at LSU.
“When I was at LSU, Nick (Saban) brought Mike Stoops in before he took the head job at Arizona, he spent two days with us,” Muschamp said. “I went to Norman, Okla., for a return trip the next year. Great respect for the entire family, got great respect for Mark and he’s a good friend.”
All three Stoops brothers built their names as defensive coordinators, dating back to Bob’s time as Florida’s top defensive coach under Steve Spurrier.
“Those guys do a great job and over the test of time have played good defense, been able to adjust and adapt to what people do,” Muschamp said.
Mark Stoops and Muschamp have some “scheme similarities,” Muschamp said, and Mark Stoops added he has seen familiar things when he looks at the tape of South Carolina’s defense this year.
“You see what they’re doing defensively is the same with what Will’s always done,” Stoops said. “It’s just less right now. He just looks like he builds more each week but you see the core of what they are defensively.”
Stoops just wishes he recognized his own defense right now.
Who: South Carolina (2-1) vs. Kentucky (1-2)
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Commonwealth Stadium; Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network.
Radio: 107.5 FM
Line: Kentucky by 2 1/2
Four of the top 10 coaches on the hot seat entering Week 4 are from the SEC, according to foxsports.com:
1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
2. Les Miles, LSU
3. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
4. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
5. Paul Haynes, Kent State
6. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
7. Clay Helton, Southern Cal
8. Steve Addazio, Boston College
9. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
10. Chuck Martin, Miami of Ohio