Addressing the Concerns of the Quantity and Quality of Cincinnati’s 2013 Recruiting Class

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Amidst the Cincinnati Bearcats posting an undefeated record and moving into the class of the ranked teams, there has been some chatter regarding the 2013 recruiting class. There hasn’t been a whole lot mainly because of the goings on of the current roster on the football field overshadowing the news (read: non-news) in the recruiting world. This isn’t surprising. Generally the attention of UC fans are focused squarely on the football team and especially during a successful season. When the eyes turn towards recruiting is during the two month period between bowl season and National Signing Day in early February.

At that time Butch Jones and his staff are frantically working to bolster the commitments of their currently verballed prospects and secure verbals from other recruits. They, like the fanbase, has the luxury of spending 100% of their energy on filling the ranks of the following years’ class. But that doesn’t mean this staff takes four months off from recruiting during the season. Coaches, and Cincinnati’s coaches especially, view recruiting as a never-ending process to continuously improve the talent on the roster.

But we’ve heard nary a peep on the recruiting front in over two months. Cincinnati’s last commitment was from Robert Davis on July 30th. His verbal capped off an insane two-month period in which the Bearcats landed an incredible fourteen (14) prospects. UC was easily one of the hottest programs on the recruiting trail over the Summer primarily due to the many camps Cincinnati held as well as the time Jones and crew had on their hands to visit high school players.

Since then, though, nothing. The silence has caused some corners, the most well-informed corners, of the fanbase to become restless. Sure reports out of Bearcat Report and Bearcat Lair show UC in the sight of some recruits but none have cast their lot with the Bearcats. And I think that’s what’s causing the most concern amongst those fans.

Scoping the many online outlets for UC fans to voice their concerns I’ve narrowed it down to two misconceptions:

1) UC will have to cap their class at 15 – 18 signees.

2) UC recruiting has fallen off when comparing this class to those in 2011 and 2012.

I was definitely at fault succumbing to the first belief, at least back in February anyways. At that time Cincinnati had again raised the bar with yet another strong group of high school prospects to play college ball in Clifton. Given the monstrous 2011 (25 signees) and 2012 classes (33 signees and transfers) that Jones put together in part to make up for what Brian Kelly’s 2009 class didn’t give him, it only made sense that next year’s class would be sizably smaller.

I mean it’s simple math. Of an 85-man roster, a whopping 68% of the spots were going to be occupied by just two classes.

But attrition took its tole on both classes. Of the group who signed for 2011, Rodriguez Coleman and Demetrius Alston were forced to head to Junior Colleges, Stephen Weatherford left the program, Carroll Phillips and Dwight Jackson have been ghosts on the roster, and Akise Teague was kicked off the team. Of the 2012 recruits, Errol Clarke doesn’t appear to be on the roster, Alex Dale was forced to JUCO, Caleb Stacey quit the team, and nobody knows where the heck Aaron Harris is.

Adding them up, 10 of the 58 2011/2012 signees (17%) aren’t on the roster essentially opening up spots in the 2013 class. Now Coleman and Alston could rejoin the Bearcats at the end of their 2-year campaigns on the JUCO circuit but even if they did come to Clifton, Butch Jones would still have quite a few open spots to replace 24 graduating seniors (25 if you count Greg Blair but he has another year of eligibility, I believe). So while the current list sits at 15 commits including one grayshirt (Austin Wolf), expect the 2013 class to cap out between 22 – 25 recruits, the annual standard class size, instead of the previously believed 15 – 18 players.

This leads me to the second misconception, that Cincinnati is accepting prospects who aren’t at the caliber from a recruiting rankings or BCS scholarships standpoint as they were in the previous two recruiting cycles. In that, most of the recruits in the 2013 class don’t have the same ‘star power’ like those in the 2011 and 2012 classes.

I wouldn’t be concerned about stars or ratings at this point. First of all, it’s early in the season and players can be reevaluated after their senior campaigns. But if you want to look at ratings now, based on Rivals.com for example the 2013 class is fairly on par with previous classes. Rivals gives recruits they evaluate a rating from 4.9 to 6.1. Cincinnati’s 2013 class is averaging a rating of 5.51 per recruit compared to 5.53 in the 2011 group and 5.55 in the 2012 group. As of now, the list of prospects for this year are rated slightly lower than the previous two classes but the difference isn’t that significant and they are comparably ‘better’ than the 2010 class that has an average rating of 5.47. So the Bearcats are at least holding par with the quality of their recruiting classes and if you looked across 247 Sports, ESPN, and Scout they would probably tell the same story.

Secondly you have to remember the state of the football program Butch Jones is recruiting in now as opposed to the environment that influenced the 2011 and 2012 classes. In those years the Cincinnati head coach was scrambling to not only bolster the depth of his team but to find players who could contribute right away. Early playing time was something that won over a ton of prospects who were inclined to continue getting playing time rather than transitioning from perennial starter to riding the bench year in and year out in some programs. Based on those two factors, Jones was able to nab slightly better recruits because he could sell them on that idea.

Now that the program has reached stability and Jones doesn’t need to throw younger players into the fire, he knows he can be more picky with the players he offers scholarships. Those players who fit his system to a tee and can take time to develop the skills necessary to succeed at their own pace. For example, on defense John Jancek values speed above all else when putting the best 11 on the field. As such he recruits smaller linebackers instead of big, bruising run busters with the philosophy that getting to the ball carrier faster is better than hitting him like a freight train. He’ll take the larger LBs but if they can’t get to the ball carrier quickly their reps will be cut short.

Makes sense.

So what we know is that Cincinnati’s 2013 recruiting class won’t be as small as originally thought, possibly filling out with between 22 and 25 signees. Also the group of players is right around as ‘touted’ from the major recruiting services as previous classes and even if there is a slight drop off from a rating standpoint it isn’t significant. But Jones doesn’t have a whole lot of spots available in this class. He’s not passing out scholarships like coupons because he’s not hard-pressed to find any warm body to fill out a roster whether they fit in the system or not. Therefore look for the last 7 or 8 commitments to be a nice blend of prospects who are fairly highly rated and a good match for UC.

Position-wise? Well Cincinnati still has needs along the offensive line, especially at offensive tackle with Eason Fromayan switching commitments to TCU and they could also pick up another guard. I’d also like to see more work done on the defense, especially at cornerback and defensive line. So if cash money were riding on these predictions I’d say the final verbals fall into the following position groups:

  • Offensive Tackle: 1
  • Offensive Guard: 1
  • Cornerback: 1
  • Defensive Tackle: 2
  • Defensive End: 2 (1 if Demetrius Alston joins the team)
  • Tight End: 1

Long story short, trust Butch Jones and his staff who have transformed recruiting at Cincinnati in a relatively short time. They know what they’re doing and are building this program in a manner that not only puts the but best player on the field, but the right player. Stay patient, Bearcat fans. The 2013 class will round out nicely when it’s all said and done this February.