In Part II of this three part series, Coach Jones addresses a number of factors in recruiting.
Butch Jones talks to a UC fan during a recent fan caravan. (photo credit: Brian Baker/Lacking Focus Photography)
Although Coach Jones and his staff have successfully recruited some highly sought local players like Kevin Schloemer and Patrick Coyne, a number of others have chosen to go elsewhere. Jones was asked if he ever gets frustrated when a local star leaves Cincinnati.
“That’s just part of recruiting, but we’re fortunate to live in a great football city and a great football state,” he replied. “It’s very competitive here, and we’re still building a football culture. There’s something to be said for staying home and representing your home school. UC can help you not only on the field but off the field as well. We’re blessed to have ten Fortune 500 companies in the Cincinnati area. Players have the chance to be a home town hero and have a legacy that will live with them the rest of their lives. I think we are still in an educational process for players, high school coaches and parents because they still don’t understand the things we have to offer when you look at the wide range of academics and curriculums, the success of our academic programs and our campus being voted one of the ten most beautiful in the world. We can offer all those things in addition to playing major college football and competing at a very high level.”
Jones continued making his points.
“A lot of times people think going away is better, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the best situation is sitting in your own backyard, and you don’t realize it. I think we’re going through a culture shift in how people view UC, and I’ve been pleased by the response we’ve received from the local high school coaches, respective student athletes and their parents.”
The Cincinnati head coach could point to a number of 4 and 5 star Cincinnatians who chose to go elsewhere and ended up having disappointing careers. In 2005, Rob Schoenhoft from St. Xavier signed with Ohio State, but was eventually moved from quarterback to tight end before ending his college career at Delaware. Conner Smith, Cobrani Mixon and Kallen Wade were three more local stars in 2006, but despite being a 5 star recruit, Smith never made a start for OSU while Mixon ended up transferring from Michigan to Kent State. Wade logged slightly more than 10 minutes of playing time in his career at Notre Dame. Eugene Clifford from Colerain, Solomon Thomas from Lakota West, and Ben Martin from LaSalle were all considered blue chippers in 2007. Clifford and Thomas became Buckeyes, but Clifford now stars for Tennessee State while Thomas has had a disappointing career in Columbus and will sit out a five game suspension at the start of 2011. Martin has faired better, but some Volunteer fans categorize his career as disappointing as he tries to return in 2011 from two Achilles injuries.
Jones wasn't around when those players bypassed Cincinnati, but some of them may have enjoyed a better career if they had stayed home.
Although college coaches may disagree on how to recruit, they all readily agree on its importance. Some schools will continue to add what they believe are more talented players in the final weeks leading up to National Signing Day and ask previously committed prospects to grayshirt (delay their enrollment until after the season) because their scholarship for the next season was given to another player, but Jones has never participated in what some believe is a “bait and switch” approach to recruiting. He explained why.
“In the last couple years the world of recruiting has undergone a major change, and everything has been accelerated. I still believe in honesty and your word is your bond. If a young man is going to commit to us and hold that commitment to us, we’re going to hold that commitment to him. We also take great pride in the fact we don’t mass recruit. By that I mean an offer from the University of Cincinnati means something. We’re going to recruit kids like we’d want our own sons recruited. We’re never going to go back on our word.”
Butch Jones (photo credit: Brian Baker/Lacking Focus Photography)
Jones and his staff already have thirteen players committed for 2012, and it’s likely they won’t have a full complement of twenty-five scholarships to offer. The UC head man talked about filling those remaining spots and the angst some fans feel when a prospect decides to commit elsewhere.
“We’re at a point where we’re going to be very selective. People can’t get too caught up with that. It’s a year round process, and we have a great handle on it. I’m excited about the individuals we signed in this year’s class, and we took our time and were able to attract the individuals that fit our profile. Our freshmen are doing a great job, and we’ll continue to do our due diligence in everything that we do. There is still a long way to go in the recruiting process, and there are a lot of players that don’t develop until their senior year. If you’re filled up, you might have to pass on some really good players.”
Jones said his staff already has a 2013 and a 2014 recruiting board that is constantly being updated.
To order to stay competitive in recruiting, it can often seem like an arms race as every school constantly wants better facilities and equipment. It’s no different at UC. When Jones was asked what his program needs, he wasted little time in identifying a major need.
“We’re allowed so many opportunities during the season to see players play live,” said Jones. “If he’s playing on a Friday and we’re playing on a Saturday, it would be nice to be able to hop on a plane, watch him play and get right back for our game that same night. Those are the types of resources we need to continue to grow our program and attract great players. We recruit every day nonstop because winning to a function of successful recruiting.”
Even though fans are prohibited from contacting prospects, Jones believes they can still have a positive influence on recruiting.
“As we continue to grow, fans can help by creating a great game day atmosphere. Everything in recruiting is based off first impressions. When recruits and their parents visit Nippert Stadium and now Paul Brown Stadium, they are watching to see how our fans react in support of our football team. It helps if they see a fanatical fan base.”
Part III in this series will take a look at a number of topics associated with Coach Jones and the Bearcat football program.