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Why All Is Not Yet Lost

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There has been a ton of criticism leveled at Butch Jones and the way that he has conducted himself and the program. Some of the criticism of him and his staff is somewhat justified. His staff has been slow to grasp what kind of personel they have. As a result the have been very slow at tailoring their system to the skills and abilities of the people on hand. That for me is a worry, the amount of time it took for them to realize that C.J. Cobb can't play tackle in this offense was the first red flag. While it has gotten better there are still people who are getting a lot of run despite not being able to do their jobs.

Despite all of the issues that have cropped up in the near term I still remain relatively up beat about the future of the program. To quote Jon Stewart "we are living now in hard times, not in end times."

"There’s a lot of things that people don’t see that go on behind closed doors," Jones said. "Our big supporters do. They understand where we’re at, but the average Joe Public has no idea."

That was the quote that Butch Jones had on the state of the program in the wake of the Syracuse loss on Saturday. His tone is a bad choice for a start, but the general gist of things isn't too far wrong. I know that people don't want to hear it but this year was always going to be rough. I didn't think it would wind up as bad as it has become, but I knew it wouldn't be the fun, breezy kind of season that have ruled the day for the last three years.The root of it all is that this is the youngest team to take the field for UC since 2005, the last time UC had a losing season and went bowl-less.

No one wants to hear it because all of the big names are back. "With Binns, Woods, Pead and Collaros back how could it all go so wrong" is the sentiment that has been growing and strengthening like a tropical storm of the West Coast of Africa waiting to hit the warm waters of the Mid Atlantic to explode into a Hurricane of furry. That warm tropical water was the performance on Saturday afternoon. But the furry is misguided and probably misplaced. The coach at the helm will always get the brunt of the the criticism from fans. The bottom line, for me at least is that this is not a very deep team. The front lines are great in places, good in others, below average in some, but there is almost no depth to speak of behind those starters. The things that separate bad teams from the good is depth, and UC has almost none of it to speak of at most positions. I mentioned in my pre game comments on the Syracuse game that at every defensive position there is just one primary backup for the safetys, corners, ends and tackles and that there was nary a backup linebacker in sight. That's a bad spot to be in. It is asking a lot for the starters at a position group to play 70 or 80 snaps a game.

That isn't really the fault of Jones. That goes in part on Kelly and his recruiting and then the natural attrition that comes with a coaching change. The crux of the issue for me seems to be with Kelly and his recruiting at UC. He was great at finding athletes who were great fits for his offense, from the offensive line to the skill position guys. He didn't just recruit athletes on offense, he went after the guys who he could get and fit in the offense the best. That worked out well because his offensive guys have been very good. Pead, Woods, Binns, Hoffman ect. On defense that is another story. It seems like he just recruited bodies to play on defense. He had never really had a defensive philosophy so he didn't know who was most likely to work out so he went after bodies and didn't really look for difference makers, particularly on the defensive line. He took a lot of chances with guys who probably weren't the best athletes or prospects believing that he could create difference makers in the weight room or by plucking guys from the offense like he did with Connor Barwin. That can work from time to time, but you can't build a program that way.

Then there is the attrition that has been pretty significant, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. No class illustrates that better than the class of 2009. Here is a list of the defensive recruits from the class of 2009 that are no longer on the team.

Player Position Where Are They Now
Romel Dismuke DB Transferred to Buffalo
Evrett Horne DB Never Qualified
Malik James DB Quit
Ricky Harris DL Quit
Angel Clybourn LB Career Ending Injury
Tristin Marvin LB Never Qualified
Demarkus Bracy DL Never Qualified

There were a total of 15 recruits in that class that were marked to be on defense. Just 8 of them are still on the team. This is the point where a coaching staff should be able to rely on those players for either special teams or in spot relief of the backups. The class of 2008 has been very active on the defense, almost every starter is a member of that class, Drew Frey is the lone hold out from the 2007 class. So this class, in theory, should be the backups to the starters getting between 10 and 20 snaps per game. However just three of them get minutes, Maalik Bomar starts, Chris Williams is the Nickle Back and Jordan Stepp backs up John Hughes and Derek Wolfe. For a program like this to have just 3 people make an impact from a defensive class of 15 is not good. The problems are most acute on defense but they are present in other parts of the team. That's why so many True Freshmen like Roney Lozano and Anthony McClung are being thrust into the heat of battle before their time this season. Whatever your feelings on Kelly may be it is pretty apparent that he didn't recruit defensive players very well, and he didn't recruit as well as he could have. Now Jones comes along and has to pick up the pieces. It is very hard to lay this roster at the feet of Jones and say "This is your fault." But that is what many people in the fan base are trying to do.

Could Butch Jones be doing a better job than what he is? Yes, without question. Butch Jones is not perfect and has done a number of things that I question in terms of strategy and personnel usage. But the problems that plague this team, a general lack of depth and near complete absence of difference makers on the defensive side of the ball are things for which you can not place the blame on Butch Jones. He has been on the job for just under 10 months. The root of the current maladies go back almost two years. If come next November the program is in the same or worse shape then feel free to jump on the Butch Jones = Steve Kragthorpe bandwagon, I will most likely be joining you en route to Hyde Park with a Molatov Cocktail in my left hand, a pitchfork in my right and a shotgun slung across my back. But until such a time I would calmly plead with all of you to cool the fuck out with all of this bullshit. Jones should, at the very least be given a moment to address the problems he inherited before we try to hang him from the Big Mac Bridge in effigy for some of the shortcomings of Brian Kelly.