HOOVER | It is understandable that Nick Saban or Mark Richt might have to deal with high expectations. But Mark Stoops, taking over a Kentucky team that did not win an SEC game last year, said Wednesday that he is dealing with the same thing.
"I am not sure of all the dynamics that went into play last year," said Stoops, who replaces the fired Joker Phillips. "From what I have seen in the first 15 days of spring practice, we have to improve. Everyone understands that, but it is our job to do that. It is not my style to temper expectations. I am glad that the fans are excited. We had 50,000 people at our spring game. I am glad that the fans are expecting big things, because we certainly are.
"Everything has been positive. The people are starving to have a good football program and I think that carries over to recruiting."
On the field, UK will try to run a hurry-up offense, although there are no clear-cut leaders in a three-way quarterback race between Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Prattville native Jalen Whitlow.
"We're not at any decision yet," Stoops said. "We just have to continue to work through that process. If somebody steps up and takes the reins, we will name them the starter. If not, we will continue to work through it."
In the meantime, the defensive-minded Stoops says he, too, will have to get used to a fast-tempo offense.
"I hired (offensive coordinator) Neal Brown to run this offense and I have to have faith in him, but there will be an adjustment period," Stoops said. "I thought it gave us the best chance to win at Kentucky. I like the roots of it at Kentucky, going back to Hal Mumme. I thought that it would give us the best chance to move the football."
The Wildcats will get early in-state tests against Louisville, expected to be a pre-season Top 10 team, and Western Kentucky, now coached by former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
"I am not hiding the fact that the Western Kentucky game is very important for us," Stoops said.
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Deal ends 08.31.13