Part II: In Depth with Butch Jones

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.

  • I like his diplomacy, regarding recruiting local talent.

  • BJUnklFkr said... (original post)

    I like his diplomacy, regarding recruiting local talent.

    I haven't been so diplomatic in the past.............and I'm still not. We need Cincinnati talent to stay in Cincinnati and build a championship program year in and year out. Respect the "C."

    signature image

    .........and so it begins...........

  • I was somewhat curious regarding the comments on highly ranked locals who went elsewhere and had disappointing careers. The implication seemed to be that if they had stayed home, they would have succeeded. I would contend that in most of those cases they were probably overrated and wouldn't have faired any differently here. Or even if not overrated, at least didn't live up to the potential they had for whatever reason (eg, Demetrious Jones.)

    Of course, if any of those players were to have committed with us, their ranking would have dropped to a 3 star, and expectations wouldn't have been as high.upset

    edit - By the way, I realize this is just Butch having a discussion, so I don't want to make more out of it than what is there. Just kind of looking at the situation from another viewpoint.

    This post was edited by bearcat85 3 years ago

  • Name escapes me, but wasn't there a Glenville guy, back in the MD era, who came in, only to leave shortly afterward? This guy was an academic casualty at OSU, but ended up not cutting it at UC either.

    Not a local guy, but supports 85's premise on rankings.

  • Lenix! Thank you Ack. +1 for you.

  • bearcat85 said... (original post)

    I was somewhat curious regarding the comments on highly ranked locals who went elsewhere and had disappointing careers. The implication seemed to be that if they had stayed home, they would have succeeded. I would contend that in most of those cases they were probably overrated and wouldn't have faired any differently here. Or even if not overrated, at least didn't live up to the potential they had for whatever reason (eg, Demetrious Jones.)

    Of course, if any of those players were to have committed with us, their ranking would have dropped to a 3 star, and expectations wouldn't have been as high.

    I agree 85. What local recruit the past few years would be starting over Collaros or Pead? I guess UC could have Devier Posey at WR, but frankly I wouldn't want the headache.

    UC needs to continue with this staff's strategy of recruiting other parts of the state (particularly NEO and Central Ohio), Indiana, Michigan, Florida, GA, New Jersey. There's plenty of good talent out there. If there is a local that wants to be here who fits in, then take him, but not at the expense of a quality athlete who wants to be here.

  • I have some input on this topic as well.

    Players want to play, but too many of them seem to be unable to identify a school that gives them the best opportunity to actually get on the field. Most have aspirations of playing in the NFL, but outside of maybe a Matt Cassel, they don't get a chance if the NFL teams don't get to see them.

    Many of the players listed in that article could have not only played at UC, but they likely would have had very good career there. I'll go back to a guy like big Bill Thomas from Aiken in the early 80's. He went to OSU, sat the bench and transferred to UC where he became a 3 year starter at left tackle. Maybe he would have played at some point at OSU, but I don't see any way he would have played that much.

    Connor Smith would have surely started at UC and probably done well rather than being a career back-up at OSU, and the same goes for Kallen Wade at Notre Dame.

    Part of the maturation of any player comes from game experience, but if a kid can't get on the field, he's not ever going to benefit from that game experience.

    I really wonder how much Trent Cole would have played at OSU or John Bowie or Trevor Canfield or Terrill Byrd or Brent Celek or Connor Barwin. Would they have developed into the same type of players without that extensive game experience? I don't think so. All but Byrd played in the NFL, and Byrd became an All-American.

    UC isn't going to survive without takeing players from a number of states, but I think it's hard to argue that every college feels the importance of recruiting well in its home state and certainly its own city.

    Tony Pike is a perfect example of the huge importance of getting on the field of play. Pike was drafted and is with the Panthers, but would he be in that situation if A) Ben mauk had been granted a 6th year or B) Dustin Grutza doesn't break his ankle at Oklahoma? We all know the answer is "No." Coach Kelly, who I think is an excellent QB coach, had Pike on his way out of the program.

    Coach Jones wants to get more of the better players in Cincinnati, and a lot of those players would be smart to go to a place that really wants them and where they would get a great opportunity to play early than to cast their lot with a school that could be called a football factory because of the amount of talent they attract on a yearly basis.

    This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by Tim Adams 3 years ago

  • BearcatJournal

    Carey Hoffman

    There was an insightful thread on the basketball board last week about Mick Cronin saying that, because of UC's success in getting back into the NCAA tourney, we are now back in the lunchroom club, with the lunchroom club being defined as recognition of the name of your school such that a player that receives an offer from your school will then proudly bring that up to his friends in discussion over lunch.

    Being the hometown school in football, I think, makes it harder for us to be viewed as a lunchroom club member among Cincinnati-area football prospects. It is only a minority of kids who will opt to stay home if they also have options from brand-name football powerhouses.

    We've battled that problem for so long, with varying degrees of success over the years. I've always thought, though, that the biggest thing that would allow us to get past it is if we had a local player choose UC and then have that player become a genuine college football star at the national level as a Bearcat. If, for instance, a Patrick Coyne develops into one of the 2-3 biggest stars in all of the Big East, that I think would be a perception changer for future local recruits.

    We had a serious courtship with Devier Posey, who has had a nice career (excluding the current scandal) at Ohio State. He played right away at OSU and will be a four-year contributor and three-year starter, yet he still has only made honorable-mention all-Big 10 to this point. If Devier had come to UC, though, how many balls would he have caught in his first two years with that offense and Tony Pike throwing to him? I love Armon Binns and everything he did as a Bearcat, but there's a good chance that Posey would have been a faster version of Armon Binns at this point and a two-time all-Big East receiver heading into his senior season. He would be in the range of media star that Mardy Gilyard became. I'm not saying he made a terrible choice with Ohio State -- just that the benefits that UC was holding out to him three years ago could have made his college career much more special. Hopefully at some point that becomes a cautionary tale another sought-after local recruit will actually take heed of.

  • Tim Adams said... (original post)

    I have some input on this topic as well.

    Players want to play, but too many of them seem to be unable to identify a school that gives them the best opportunity to actually get on the field. Most have aspirations of playing in the NFL, but outside of maybe a Matt Cassel, they don't get a chance if the NFL teams don't get to see them.

    Many of the players listed in that article could have not only played at UC, but they likely would have had very good career there. I'll go back to a guy like big Bill Thomas from Aiken in the early 80's. He went to OSU, sat the bench and transferred to UC where he became a 3 year starter at left tackle. Maybe he would have played at some point at OSU, but I don't see any way he would have played that much.

    Connor Smith would have surely started at UC and probably done well rather than being a career back-up at OSU, and the same goes for Kallen Wade at Notre Dame.

    Part of the maturation of any player comes from game experience, but if a kid can't get on the field, he's not ever going to benefit from that game experience.

    I really wonder how much Trent Cole would have played at OSU or John Bowie or Trevor Canfield or Terrill Byrd or Brent Celek or Connor Barwin. Would they have developed into the same type of players without that extensive game experience? I don't think so. All but Byrd played in the NFL, and Byrd became an All-American.

    UC isn't going to survive without takeing players from a number of states, but I think it's hard to argue that every college feels the importance of recruiting well in its home state and certainly its own city.

    Tony Pike is a perfect example of the huge importance of getting on the field of play. Pike was drafted and is with the Panthers, but would he be in that situation if A) Ben mauk had been granted a 6th year or B) Dustin Grutza doesn't break his ankle at Oklahoma? We all know the answer is "No." Coach Kelly, who I think is an excellent QB coach, had Pike on his way out of the program.

    Coach Jones wants to get more of the better players in Cincinnati, and a lot of those players would be smart to go to a place that really wants them and where they would get a great opportunity to play early than to cast their lot with a school that could be called a football factory because of the amount of talent they attract on a yearly basis.

    Ryan Kelly, anyone? I hope he does well at Alabama, but I have a feeling he'll get buried on the depth chart.

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