Butch Jones and his staff have gotten off to an excellent start for the class of 2012. So far they have started to hit on positions of need, defensive and offensive lines as well as the secondary. Of the 11 commits in the class so far 9 of them fall into one of those categories. Still there is a vocal minority in the smallish world of UC recruit-nicks that are for some reason dissatisfied with Butch Jones's recruiting to date, not so much with last years class, but with this current crop. There are reasons why it is foolish to bitch about the recruiting ability of any staff 8 whole months before national signing day. The reason? the whole 8 months to signing day thing.
Still I read around the various message boards. While the overwhelming majority of people like what Jones has done, and is doing. Still, i see that there are always a couple of guys all too willing to take the piss out of Butch Jones for his recruiting methodology. And the occasional email finds its way into the official Down The Drive inbox spouting the same rhetoric. Why? Who knows, my guess is that these are the same guys who for years bitched that Mick Cronin couldn't recruit a competent Basketball prospect to save his life. Last year shut up that line of discussion. Emphatically. So those guys need a new target, and who better than the guy who took over a potentially Nouveau Riche Football program and drove it promptly off a cliff.
Lets start there because this is something that is just maddening to hear spouted off again and again as fact when the reality is far from it. Butch Jones did not inherit a solid gold program. On the outside it looks golden. Even last year UC's starting units were among the strongest in the conference. But the difference between good and great teams isn't found among the starters, it's in the back ups and having quality depth. The fact of the matter is that Jones inherited a program that was straight out of the gilded age. Shiny and new on the surface, but rusted to the core inside.
Last year UC had no depth whatsoever up front, on either side of the line, or at linebacker, and to a much lesser extent at Wide Receiver. There were several weeks where there were four healthy linebackers in the entire program. Derek Wolfe had to play 80+ snaps a game last year. I could go on and on with example of how the lack of depth created a myriad of problems for the 2010 season but that would only result in a rage sprial, and those aren't particularly fun. For anyone.
I am the first guy to admit that Jones was off the mark on a couple of things last year in terms of personnel, game planning ect. But as intelligent, knowledgeable fans we all have to be able to distinguish the difference between playing the hand you were dealt and creating a bad situation for yourself. Jones was dealt a bad hand by Brian Kelly and he did the best he could with it last.
The class of 2009 has already become infamous in some circles of Bearcat Nation and is kind of a perfect storm of BK's recruiting failings here at UC. At the time it was hailed by one and all as the best signing class in recent UC history. But two years on that class has been an absolute bust. Of the 25 prospects signed in that 2009 class 10 of them have left the program. Some in search of more playing time (Romell Dismuke), some due to injury (Angel Clybourn) and some didn't qualify in the first place (Josh Jones). And it gets worse because most of the guys who left played at those three position groups that were so starved for depth last year. Coming into this year I think that there are three solid rotation players, (Chris Williams, Jordan Stepp, Mont'e Taylor) and three starters (Reuben Johnson, Malik Bomar and Austen Bujnoch). The rest of that class will more than likely be confined to special teams duty at best and will never crack the two deep.
What does all that have to do with Jones and his recruiting? It puts Jones in a place where he has to fix problems he inherited through recruiting rather than recruiting for the future, building a quality depth chart for two or three years down the line. That is a fucking terrible place for a new coach to have to deal with. So Jones has to to recruit two different ways. He has to seek out and find guys who can come in and contribute depth and meaningful repetitions immediately while at the same time looking out for guys who can contribute down the line. All of these complications makes his job that much tougher. Jones is still sorting through Kelly's mess with the start to the 2012 class. 9 of the 11 commits so far will play along the lines or in the secondary when they get to Clifton. Jones is still having to build depth at spots where having depth isn't a luxury, it's a requirement.
The last point that I need to make before my rant is over. Quit bitching about some of UC's commits only having MAC offers at this point. It is still ridiculously early in the process, you know 8 whole months until the 2012 class signs on the dotted line. MAC coaches do a great job of spotting and evaluating talent because their only chance of keeping their job is to spot that under the radar guy who can blossom into a dominating player. The proverbial Larry English's of the world. In this area of the country most prospects first offers come from the MAC.