EKU’s Wells gushes over former boss

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 15, 2023

By Larry Vaught

Contributing writer

Eastern Kentucky coach Walt Wells was lavish in his praise of Kentucky coach Mark Stoops last week even before the Colonels lost 28-17 to UK.

Email newsletter signup

“He’s one of the best guys ever to work for. He respects your opinion, your family time,” Wells said. “He is going to let you know that is how it is going to be done. Most people want direction.”

Wells has been coaching in Kentucky since he joined Eastern Kentucky coach Roy Kidd’s staff in 1997 from 2002. He also spent 10 years at Western Kentucky, came back to Eastern in 2015 before going to UK for the 2018-19 seasons. He’s been head coach at Eastern the last four years.

Wells also coached at the University of South Florida and New Mexico State and has a huge appreciation for what Stoops has done at UK to make the Cats a consistent winner and bowl team.

“It is a different SEC than when coach (Paul ‘Bear’) Bryant was working at Kentucky and he has done the best job of anybody at Kentucky in the football department bar none,” Wells said.

“He has done a phenomenal job and continues to do so. Ten wins in two different years (2018 and 2021) is pretty phenomenal. Ten wins is hard to get. I just really respect him. I know I sound like his agent but just look at what Kentucky is doing.

“He has to deal with NIL, transfer portal and maybe the greatest coach of all time in Nick (Saban) and other great coaches in the SEC. No disrespect to Kentucky but it was known as a football school until Mark Stoops got there.”

Stoops now has a school-record 68 wins, including 48 home victories. Kentucky has gone 56-33 after Stoops started his UK tenure winning only 12 of his first 38 games.

Stoops impressed by Wallace

Kentucky coach Mark Stops believes he has a group of strong leaders but is especially proud of the way junior linebacker Trevin Wallace has become one of those leaders.

Wallace, the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after his play against Ball State, has 19 tackles in two games and is glad teammates view him as a leader.

“I can say I’m a leader and everybody looks at me as a captain. You need that captain or leader to go out there and look at players so everybody can go out there and wrap around and keep going,” Wallace said.

“I had said to myself ‘If nobody is going to make the play then go make it so everybody else can feed off that.’”

Wallace went over 100 career tackles with his seven stops against Eastern Kentucky that includes a quarterback sack, quarterback hurry and forced fumble. He also forced a fumble in UK’s first game that Jalen Geiger returned for a score.

Bryant works way up depth chart

One of the early surprises for the Kentucky football team has been safety Ty Bryant, a Frederick Douglass High School product and son of former UK receiver Cisco Bryant.

He was on the kickoff team for the opening game and has worked his way to No. 4 on the overall depth chart at safety already. He’s also make

“Ty’s been really solid. I really have been impressed overall with Ty, just the way he approaches it,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He did come in early [enrolled in January]; I like the way he’s progressing.

“I like the way he approaches the game. I like the way he’s very serious about it. He takes pride in it. He’s getting better. He’s instinctual. He helps us on special teams. He’s our fourth safety, and so he will play, and I have confidence in him.”

What does Stoops want to see from him going forward?

“He just has to continue to stay the course. He’s doing good things and, if every freshman approached every workout and every practice and everything, the way he does, then, they’d be further along and he’s done a good job,” Stoops said.

Bryant’s high school coach, Nathan McPeek, has not been surprised by Bryant’s success after his versatility helped the Broncos go 15-0 in 2022 and win the Class 5A state title (he was the most valuable player in the state championship game).

“Coach (Vince) Marrow tells  me every time I talk to him how impressed he has been and how impressed everyone in the (football) building has been,” McPeek said. “He was committed so long that a lot of people forgot about him.

“He always wanted to go there (his father played at UK). I told coach Marrow and coach Stoops when they signed him that he would be a team captain because of his intangibles. He is a great kid from a great family and if he’s not good at something, he works at it until he is good.”

It also didn’t surprise McPeek that Stoops praised Bryant’s work ethic.

“That is Ty. I cannot tell you how many nights he stayed with the coaches (at Frederick Douglass) watching extra film,” McPeek said.