Mitch Barnhart explains what separated Mark Stoops from others

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday December 02, 2012

Posted by: Chris Vannini on December 2, 2012

Mitch Barnhart knows Kentucky's defense needs a major fix.

That's why he felt Mark Stoops was the perfect fit. After leading one of the top defenses in the nation at Florida State, Stoops' next task is a Wildcats defense that hard trouble getting off the field.

Barnhart stated that he wants a better third-down defense. Kentucky was ranked No. 123 out of 124 teams in that stat, as opponents converted 52 percent of third downs. Who was No. 1 in the nation? Florida State.

"We want to be better with third-down efficiency and getting our offense back on the field with a chance to score points," Barnhart said. "That was a focus or us. Clearly, all the core values we've got at our place, the character, the integrity and the educational piece are all pieces of that. That isn't going to change. Those are the foundational principles in which we function. But at the end of the day, I wanted us to be better defensively, so we didn't have to be so perfect on offense. That was really, really important to us.

"That was where I started. Having done all that, we funneled through a bunch of names and I had some folks on my staff that helped me do that over a few weeks leading up. You've got to be prepared in this thing. I didn't want to have to get to that day when we had to change, but when we did, we had to be ready."

Barnhart said Stoops was the only coach who was offered the job. Former UK quarterback Tim Couch was a big part of the search, and Barnhart said the two shared the same beliefs in the search.

"We had some of the same thoughts defensively," Barnhart said. "We've got to be a little more tough and more disciplined in what we do."

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Chris Vannini is the lead writer for and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to

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