National Signing Day 2011

National Signing day has arrived for Butch Jones and his staff who are currently holed up on the top floor of the Lindner Center camped by the fax machine waiting for the National Letters of Intent to arrive from the newest members of the Cincinnati Bearcats Football program. With that in mind its time to take a look at the class currently assembled with a little breakdown.

Class Grade - B - From a UC only perspective this class would be an A borderline A+ class. Nationally it is a little bit different. The lack of higher quality difference makers on the defensive side of the ball brings it down a notch from a national perspective. And there is a general lack of players on the higher end of the scale. This class is heavy on quantity, possibly 26 or more kids and sets a great foundation for the program. But ideally you would like to see more kids who are able to come in and compete from day one. That being said Jones and Co. have gone heavy after positions of need at defensive end, linebacker and safety. A lot of those guys stand a good chance to be rotation players as first year guys.

Top Five Players

Most Likely Early Contributors

Malcolm Murray - Safety was a disaster for UC this past season. Murray brings boatloads of athletic ability and an uncanny understanding of offensive design to a position group that was found to be lacking of both for long stretches of the season. He is already on campus and working in the off season program.  

Jameel Poteat -  There is nothing much behind Isaiah Pead at the moment. Poteat will have to beat out defacto backup Darrin Williams who is coming off an injury that cost him the last eight games of the 2010 season. Poteat is a talented runner who catches the ball well. His ability to pick up the blocking schemes will go a long way to determining if he has a role this season

Nick Temple - Same M.O. as Murray, should provide athleticism and depth to a linebacking core that was decimated last year by injuries.

Sleeper

Akise Teague - The reigning Mr. Football in the state of Ohio spurned late offers from Penn State and Nebraska to stay with UC. Teauge is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands who I would expect to have a role as a kick returner from the start and eventually as running back or slot receiver in this offense. He may only have two stars next to his name but he is a great player.

That's A Bit of a Reach

Max Morrison - A record setting receiver from Kenton High School, home of one year wonder Ben Mauk. The Morrison thing didn't make much sense to me from the start. I am not entirely sure that he is a BCS caliber athlete, he played at a lower division of Football in Ohio but doesn't manage to stand out on film from athletically. Second he is a grey shirt so his scholarship won't count against this years class, but it will against next years. Which brings me to the third issue and that is UC will never struggle to recruit quality receivers running this offense and now one of those receiver spots for next year is taken. The only real head scratcher in a class that is by and large devoid of them.

Best Position Group

Linebacker - It was close on this one for me, it could very well have been the receivers, but need trumps quantity and UC has a desperate need for linebackers and they went out and got four quality guys, each of whom looks capable physically to step into a role on the two deep for the 2011 season.

Least Best Position Group

Offensive Line - This is a numbers thing. UC didn't have a huge need at offensive line in this class but they did go out and pick up three quality guys at all the positions; Tackles Justin Murray, and Parker Ehringer and Center/Guard Daniel Murray.

One(s) That Got Away

Antonio Poole and Steven Daniels - Cousins and local linebacking prodigies. UC was thought to be in the lead for both of them at various points in the process, though crucially never at the same time. In the end UC fell out with Daniels and was never really a factor from about August onward. The Poole situation played out over a longer interval but the end result was the same.

Recruiting Map

Because I am utterly without shame when it comes to promoting my own work.

Closing Thoughts

Butch Jones has recruited at a higher level at UC than either of his predecessors Brian Kelly and Mark Dantionio. He hit every position group and went hard after quality defensive players, particularly defensive ends and linebackers. The jury is still out on Jones and this staff on a coaching basis, but the door is shut on arguing that this staff doesn't recruit well.

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