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Tim Couch Believes Mark Stoops Has UK Ready To Keep Going Forward

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Tim Couch enjoys life in Lexington with his wife and two sons, but he also continues to keep a close eye on the UK football program. Tim Couch enjoys life in Lexington with his wife and two sons, but he also continues to keep a close eye on the UK football program.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Count Tim Couch as one who believes Kentucky football could take a major step forward this season.

The former UK quarterback was part of the search group that helped bring coach Mark Stoops to Kentucky five years ago and Couch, a former No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, believes the Cats can build on last year’s 7-6 season that included a trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl.

“I am really excited about this season. They have recruited so many great players. They have a lot of talent, even if it is still young talent for the most part,” said Couch. “Finally they have depth at pretty much every position.

“I am excited about the quarterback position with Stephen Johnson in year two and if something would happen, guys behind him are just as good. I like our schedule, too. Louisville, Tennessee, Florida are all at home. I would not be surprised at all if Kentucky wins eight or nine games minimum this year.”

Couch played three years at Kentucky after a record-setting career at Leslie County High School. However, if UK had not fired coach Bill Curry after his freshman year, he would never have stayed at UK and became the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns and got UK to the Outback Bowl his final season.

“I actually was not very excited about playing for Bill Curry,” Couch, who threw for 132 touchdowns and over 12,000 yards at Leslie County, said. “They had won one game the year before I signed. I had other offers. I had actually committed to Tennessee.

“Rather than have a falling out with my dad, I told him if he wanted me to go to Kentucky that bad, I would do it for a year and see what happens. I had every (national high school) passing record and he (Curry) wanted me to run the option. I get on campus and the first play we put in was the option. It did not go well. It was probably the worst year of my life.

“I was in the wrong system. I was going to transfer and go to Tennessee. I decided I would give it one year but I was going to leave.”

He waited for then athletics director C.M. Newton to find a new coach. Newton brought in Hal Mumme, a coach who fit Couch’s style perfectly.

Couch believes Stoops was the same kind of hire for Kentucky. He got to know Stoops during the search process and loves the way he has embraced former players. He wants them at practice. He wants them on the sideline before games.

“Everything Mark said during the search process, he has far exceeded that. I don’t think we could have a better coach for the program,” Couch said. “I really expect great things for this program going forward.”

If that happens, one of Couch’s former UK teammates will deserve a huge amount of credit as well. Offensive line coach John Schlarman was a starter at UK during Couch’s time and protected the quarterback much better than the offensive line protection Couch got once he went to the Cleveland Browns.

“He was a tough guy. He was exactly the way he coaches now — hard nosed, hard worker, knew what he was doing every play, intelligent player,” Couch said. “I rarely got hit at Kentucky. We would get rid of ball quickly and Schlarman was one of the very best at protecting me. It’s no surprise to me his offensive line has been so good, and will still get better. He’s a great coach.”

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