Kentucky coach Mark Stoops feels good about Wildcats heading into summer

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops likes how his football team is positioned heading into his fourth season on the sidelines in Lexington.

Speaking Wednesday on the SEC coaches' spring teleconference, Stoops said he's been "very pleased" with the Wildcats' offseason.

"I felt like, with the winter program, it felt like our players worked extremely hard," he said. "We needed to. I felt like we got bigger, stronger, and went through more fourth-quarter program tha we had in the past. I felt like our team was much more fit through the winter, and that carried into spring. We had a very good spring, very productive."

Stoops enters a key season with the Cats, who are 12-24 since he arrived in Lexington, but have been building a stronger roster through impressive recruiting. Many fans view the 2016 season as the original "schedule" for returning to bowl eligibility. UK just narrowly missed postseason play in each of the last two seasons, going 5-7.

UK also welcomed four new assistant coaches this spring, highlighted by offensive coordinator Eddie Gran as well as quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, receivers coach Lamar Thomas and defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale. All four were a big hit this spring with their players, leading to a hefty dose of optimism.

"I’m very pleased with where we’re headed, in particular offensively, with the coaching staff changes," Stoops said. "I felt very good with coach Eddie Gran and the expectation of our offense and the direction that we’re headed. Again, I just felt like it was more consistent, more productive, as it should be as we head into the fourth year of trying to build this program."

The staff's attention now turns making sure their current players stay on the right path, physically and academically, as well as continuing to hit the recruiting trail hard. Stoops noted that the staff changes should not result in a major change in recruiting philosophy.

"Our footprint will not change much," he said. "With the guys that I hired, I think that was intentional... I know recruiting success that guys have in certain areas. We need to continue to do that. We need to continue to do great in the state of Kentucky, we need to continue to do very well in Ohio, and we need to expand and continue to get those difference-makers and quality players throughout the south.”

Stoops indicated that UK will likely start holding "satellite camps" this summer after the NCAA recently ruled that schools will once again be allowed to conduct them off campus. He said the Cats won't "overdo it," but could run some camps in Florida, Ohio and Georgia.

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