The first of what is expected to be multiple changes to Mark Stoops’ Kentucky football staff this offseason came Monday with the news running backs coach John Settle would not return for the 2023 season.
A UK spokeswoman confirmed Settle was no longer with the program after the university posted a football assistant coach position to its jobs website.
Settle, whose contract was set to expire in June, spent two seasons as the Wildcats’ running backs coach and co-special teams coordinator. While star running back Chris Rodriguez thrived with Settle as his position coach, the Kentucky special teams were a consistent source of frustration this season, and Kentucky’s backup running backs struggled during Rodriguez’s four-game suspension to open the season.
UK ranked 103rd nationally in field-goal percentage. Some of those struggles could be attributed directly to kicker Matt Ruffolo, but much of the problem resulted from repeated mistakes with the snap and hold. Snapping was also an issue on multiple punts this fall.
Settle was not credited as the primary recruiter for any Kentucky commitment during his time in Lexington, according to the 247Sports database.
UK hired Settle from Wisconsin in March 2021 after assistant Jemal Singleton returned to the NFL after just more than one month on the Kentucky staff. A 1988 Pro Bowl selection as a player for the Atlanta Falcons, Settle coached ACC Player of the Year James Conner at Pittsburgh and two-time first-team All-American Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin.
Hiring a new special teams coordinator could be a priority for Stoops this offseason due to the repeated kicking issues in 2020, but quality control coach Louie Matsakis is the assistant who primarily works with the kickers. Stoops has actually gone out of his way to praise the performance of what he calls the “core four” special teams units (kickoff, punt, punt return and kickoff return) throughout the season. Among the nine full-time assistants on staff, Settle shared the special teams coordinator title with safeties coach Frank Buffano.
Settle is one of three Kentucky assistants whose contracts are set to expire in June. Defensive line coach Anwar Stewart and defensive backs coach Chris Collins will also need new contracts if they are to return to Kentucky next season.
Settle’s contract paid him $475,000 this season. UK owes him the rest of his salary in monthly installments through June, but those payments could be offset by the salary Settle is paid at any job he takes during that time frame.
On his radio show Monday night, Stoops said he was not ready to announce specific staff changes but he did confirm he plans to hire a dedicated special teams coordinator this offseason.
On Tuesday, UK confirmed it had fired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, the subject of much criticism in recent weeks.