Former UK All-American Tim Couch says toughness should be football's first priority
Former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch believes the biggest priority for new coach Mark Stoops should be putting more toughness back into the UK football program. Couch also said he's willing to help Stoops in any way possible. (Victoria Graff / December 4, 2012)
“I am not taking a shot at the former staff or anything like that. I just think that this program over the last few years has gotten away from being a physical football team,” said Couch, now a college football analyst for FOX Sports. “I really believe that and that is one thing that really sold me on Mark is his defensive background and his ability to come and put toughness back into this program.
“I think putting guys in the right schemes ... and there is a lot of transition going on not only with a new staff but with new schemes offensively and defensively ... but I think putting toughness back in this program is priority number one in my opinion.”
Couch believes Stoops’ defense does that, too.
“What I like about Mark’s defensive system is that he is not a trick ‘em guy. He is a guy that he going to line up and play football. He’s going to play the 4-3, play the zone defenses. He will be aggressive just like he was at Florida State,” Couch said. “I love that because it allows the players to go play fast.
“You can complicate things as much as you want and try to trick guys, but what Mark has been successful at is being a coach with guys on the same page and not wondering about what their responsibilities are. They play fast, they play hard and they play physical for him. He brings a lot of energy to that position which gets guys fired up.”
Stoops, who has never been a head coach, said during his press conference Sunday that he would “lean” on Couch for advice. Couch was part of the search process with UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and talked to Stoops several times before he was hired.
“I think he just means he wants to use me as a resource here. I care a great deal about this program,” Couch said. “I have been a Kentucky kid. I have cared about this program since I was a little boy and that was the reason I chose to come play ball here and turned down a lot of other schools because I care about this program. I still feel the same way and in any direction or way if he wants me to help this program going forward whether it be talking to the team, being around the team more or anything like that, I’ll do it. Getting the alumni back together, making it stronger, I am willing to help in any way.”
Couch said it was depressing to see attendance dwindle the way it did last season when UK finished 2-10 and had less than 20,000 fans at the final two games.
“As a former player it breaks your heart when you see games like the Vanderbilt game when no one is in the stadium. I know what these players go through. I was on team in (19)96 my freshman year where I think we won two games (UK won four). I know what it is like to go through that, but I know what these players put themselves through just to take the field,” Couch said. “When there is no fan support it is a tough deal for the players. To walk in here today (for the press conference) and seen the energy and excitement back in the program is great to see as a former player.”
Numerous former players were at Sunday’s event introducing Stoops and Couch says the feedback he has had on the hire has all been positive.
“That Stoops name is a big name in college football. All the guys I have talked to, all my former teammates, are excited,” Couch said. “The biggest thing I have told them when they ask me what sold me on Mark is his want to be here. I went into this thing thinking we might have to sell some of these guys. This is a 2-10 program playing in the toughest conference in America and we may have to sell them a little bit. It was the exact opposite. These guys want to be here and see the potential of this university, especially Mark. He has a plan of how he is going to get it done and it was really impressive.
“Mitch had it narrowed down to a few guys. Once I came in, we just got on board with the guys Mitch had it narrowed down to. I was part of the interview process with those guys and had a chance to talk to them and listen to their schemes and relay to Mitch how I thought that would fit and the changes that we needed. I really liked Mark from the get-go, I really did. When Mitch asked me a couple of names that I liked, Mark certainly was one of the names that I liked. I love his background for defense, his passion for wanting to be a head coach and he comes from a family of coaching and he’s excited.”