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Stoops: Kentucky is capable of winning SEC title

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Stoops: Kentucky is capable of winning SEC title

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Mark Stoops was introduced Sunday as Kentucky's new football coach and got everyone's attention, saying he believes the Wildcats are capable of winning the Southeastern Conference title.

He didn't say it would be easy, but it's not impossible.

``There are no magic wands,'' Stoops said at a news conference.

But Kentucky is confident Stoops can rebuild a program that just finished their third straight losing season and was 0-8 in the SEC.

Stoops, the former Florida State defensive coordinator, received a 5-year, $11 million deal. He'll begin his work at Kentucky immediately and will not accompany the Seminoles to their bowl game.

``There's too much work to do at Kentucky and it's hard to be in two places at once,'' Stoops said.

Kentucky had announced on Tuesday that the 45-year-old Stoops was going to be the man to replace Joker Phillips, who was fired on Nov. 4. Phillips was 2-10 this season and 13-24 overall.

Stoops arrived in Lexington less than 18 hours after helping the Seminoles beat Georgia Tech 21-15 for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a likely BCS berth in the Orange Bowl.

He led a Seminoles defense that ranked second in the nation this season and came up with a last-minute interception on Saturday night to preserve their victory over the Yellow Jackets.

Stoops is the third and youngest brother from the famed coaching family to lead his own program. Older brother Bob is Oklahoma's head coach and Mike Stoops, the former coach at Arizona, is the Sooners' defensive coordinator.

Kentucky has a storied basketball tradition and the school wanted to show Stoops just how strong its commitment was to putting together a winning football program. So in addition to his base salary, his deal includes a $900,000 bonus for winning six SEC games, the Eastern Division and the conference title.

``We wanted to make sure that Mark knew we wanted him here,'' athletic director Mitch Barnhart said. ``We wanted to make sure that he knew we were committed to football, that he has got the resources in terms of dollars to go out and get the staff necessary to get it done.''

Kentucky is Stoops' first head coaching job. He made his interest in the position known to Barnhart soon after Phillips was fired. Stoops and the AD met the following weekend and continued talks culminating in an agreement last Monday.

The Youngstown, Ohio, native drew a big cheer from the several thousand gathered in Nutter Field House when he said what drew him to Kentucky was ``Big Blue Nation. I feel very, very comfortable here. And we have everything we need to be successful.''

Stoops also noted that his successful record at Arizona and Florida State should quell any concerns about his never having been a head coach.

In three seasons as Florida State's defensive coordinator the team went from being ranked No. 108 to one of the nation's top defensive units. The Seminoles entered Saturday's ACC title game allowing 249.4 yards per game.

Before joining Jimbo Fisher's Florida State staff, Stoops rebuilt an Arizona defense with similar issues that Kentucky has experienced. Arizona was 109th in total defense before his arrival; the defense was ranked in the top 25 in his final two seasons and Arizona earned consecutive bowl bids.

Still, Stoops knows there will be questions about his lack of head coaching experience.

``It comes with the territory,'' he said. ``If you look at every place I've been we've been very successful.''

Turning Kentucky around will be one of his toughest challenges. The Wildcats allowed 391 yards per game this season and ranked 11th in the tough, 14-team SEC.

The new coach said he plans to use multiple defensive formations from a 4-3 alignment. Stoops would not name any candidates he would like to hire to complete his staff, but said he has several in mind.

One of his first priorities will be Kentucky's offense. The Wildcats ranked near the bottom of the conference in several offensive categories. Stoops pledged to the crowd that, ``You will have an offense that you guys can enjoy.''

But he knows success in the SEC starts on defense.

``I'm a defensive guy,'' Stoops said. ``This is the SEC. It's a physical conference. I realize that. I want to be tough and I want to be physical.

``We have to build this foundation with great defense. There's no way around it. If you don't play great defense, you're not going to win consistently.''

Despite the state's reputation for lacking the type of high-level football talent that can be found in neighboring Ohio or Tennessee, Stoops said there are players in Kentucky that can make the Wildcats be successful and he plans to recruit them. He also plans to follow up on his normal recruiting areas, including Florida.

Stoops was firm in his belief that the Wildcats can achieve a national profile for a sport other than basketball - a bold statement considering that Kentucky is coming off its eighth national title.

``Kentucky's had success,'' said Stoops, noting that he has talked with Wildcats basketball coach John Calipari. ``The key will be to build on that success and be consistent with it and take it to another level.''

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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