Coach Butch Jones and his staff have done a phenomenal job on the recruiting trail this past year. It’s nearly November and the Bearcats boast the largest class in the Big East. It is also the biggest and arguably the most talented group of prospects this early in the process ever in the history of UC recruiting. You can see a list of all 25 of UC’s recruits here. Typically this is the magic number that coaches want to average in each of their recruiting classes and normally the Bearcats would be just about finished by now. But, with current verbals Bennie Coney and some of the Warren Central High School players possibly ‘enrolling early’ in December and counting towards the 2011 class, Coach Jones will probably cap the 2012 class at about 28 or 29 total players.
So with the Cincinnati Bearcats’ having about 3 or 4 spots available, the coaching staff has the luxury of only taking the most talented players available. UC is now a national brand and will no longer have to settle for being restricted to a tight recruiting base in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. While this will always be where the coaches hit first, new hotbeds for the staff like Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee are now emerging. By-and-large the players in these areas are among the most athletic in the country and provide a huge boost to the talent on the team. In effect, Cincinnati is closing their doors on less athletic prospects that only 7 or 8 years ago they would have welcomed with open arms. Because UC can say ‘no’, they now become more desirable to a competitive student athlete that wants a college scholarship. That’s the beauty of this renaissance in Bearcats recruiting and is what makes it so exciting to watch.
To get you in the loop if you aren’t already, here is a breakdown of Cincinnati’s commitments, needs, and likely targets for the remainder of the 2012 class:
OFFENSE – 11 Verbals, 3 Needs
Quarterback: 1 Verbal, 0 Need
– Commitments: Bennie Coney
– Targets: William Gross (Memphis verbal)
Runningback: 3 Verbals, 0 Need
– Commitments: Dennis Norfleet, Deionte Buckley, Ti’on Green
– Targets: None
Wide Receiver: 4 Verbals, 0 Need
– Commitments: Jeremy Graves, Shakim Alonzo, Vincent Miller, Nate Cole
– Targets: Dwayne Stanford (Ohio State lean), Alton ‘Pig’ Howard
Tight End: 0 Verbals, 1 Need
– Commitments: None
– Targets: DeShawn Dowdy
Offensive Tackle: 2 Verbals, 0 Need
– Commitments: Kyle Williamson, Ryan Leahy
– Targets: None
Offensive Guard/Center: 1 Verbal, 2 Needs
– Commitments: Deyshawn Bond
– Targets: N/A
DEFENSE – 14 Verbals, 3 Needs
Defensive End: 1 Verbal, 1 Need
– Commitments: Josh Posley
– Targets: Pedro Sibiea
Defensive Tackle: 1 Verbal, 1 Need
– Commitments: Jonathon Burt
– Targets: Alex Pace
Linebacker: 6 Verbals, 0 Need
– Commitments: John Law, Kenneth Bynum, Ey’Shawn McClain, Lester Liston Jr., Errol Clarke, Joey Jones
– Targets: Jaylen Coleman
Cornerback: 3 Verbals, 1 Need
– Commitments: Alex Dale, Leviticus Payne, Drake Bruns
– Targets: Andre Scott
Safety: 3 Verbals, 0 Need
– Commitments: Marcus Foster, Andre Jones, Kevin Brown
– Targets: None
These player positions are by no means etched in stone. We saw last year how Munchie Legaux, a quarterback in high school, switched to wide receiver and finally back to his natural QB position this season. This position shuffling could easily happen to guys like Kevin Brown who could add some lbs and move down to outside linebacker and Ti’on Green who plays both running back and corner in high school but could play tail back or outside linebacker/safety at Cincinnati.
So the Bearcats are basically set at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker and safety. Their biggest need by far is along the offensive line. Coach Jones has done a nice job pulling in three solid bigmen to protect the quarterback in the future in Williamson, Bond, and Leahy. Also, Ohio State transfer Sam Longo will be eligible to play next season so you can essentially pencil him in as the 4th OL in the 2012 class. I think the tackles are set for the next few years with Sean Hooey, Eric Lefeld, Cory Keebler, Kevin Schloemer, Justin Murray, and Parker Ehinger to go along with Williamson and Leahy. However, the interior is still suspect. I’d like the Bearcats to get a true center in this class to push Dan Sprague and Daniel Murray at that position. Finally, another guard in this class would go a long way to stabilizing that unit.
The final offensive position the Bearcats need to look at is tight end. While the spread typically favors wide receivers, tight ends do wonders for opening up plays over the middle of the field. I think as Cincinnati has added taller quarterbacks like Munchie Legaux, Patrick Coyne, Bennie Coney, etc. who can literally see over the offensive line better, we’ll see the tight end utilized more. Currently, no true tight end has verballed to UC but it’s very possible that Shakim Alonzo could add some weight and become a solid receiving TE. However, the Bearcats are targeting DeShawn Dowdy from Akron who would immediately play tight end. As it stands now, the future at that position is probably going to be a battle between Blake Annen, Josh Russ, and Matt Staubach so another solid player to add competition would be helpful.
On defense, the Bearcats are pretty much set with Josh Posley at defensive end but could use another one in this class. Preferably that guy will be Pedro Sibiea who visited during the Louisville game. 2012 will be Walter Stewart, Dan Giordano, and Brandon Mills’ senior season. They will be back-filled by guys like Brad Harrah, Chad West, Silverberry Mouhon, and Chad Hannah, all of which are freshman now. I think the transition will be pretty smooth but Coach Jones and co. need to bring in another end for this class to add depth. On the interior, the Bearcats are giving Jordan Stepp and Camaron Beard a lot of playing time this year because they will likely be the starters next fall. Backing them up are Brandon Mitchell and Roney Lozano, and.. that’s about it. Jonathon Burt can add some weight and play DT when he arrives at Cincinnati along with Ryan Leahy (although I think he stays on the offensive line). Ideally, I want Cincinnati land Alex Pace who will be visiting both UC and Illinois in December. If Ron Zook looks to be out the door around that time, look for Pace to cast the dice with the Bearcats.
The Bearcats’ coaching staff did a great job gaining commitments from some very talented defensive backs. Cincinnati could certainly use an upgrade in size and speed in the secondary and the crop of players Coach Jones has reeled in so far should do the trick. Andre Scott would be a nice addition to this list of already solid DBs. He plays a little bit of everything in high school but projects to a corner in college. I can see no better fit for him than a red and black ‘Cincinnati’ jersey across his shoulder pads next fall.
Overall Cincinnati is molding a really nice class that should rank even higher than the one Butch Jones reeled in last year that at the time was the best group of freshman talent in UC history. There are still a few slots to fill like on the interior of the offensive line and bits and pieces of the defense. Also players like Alton ‘Pig’ Howard who, while a wide receiver gaining interest from a team full of them, is a gamechanger and still uncommited. But I’m confident Jones and his staff will find the right players to take those last few schollarships. After all, these are the same coaches that brought in guys like Nick Temple and Alex Chisum who have both contributed quite a bit as true freshman. Coach Jones clearly has an eye for talent and I’m excited to see what recruits he convinces to call themselves ‘Bearcats’ in the months leading up to signing day.