Three and Three

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Well, didn't take long for Mike Thomas to find his next head coach, and if you find success at one school, why not go back to the well one more time? This hiring happened fairly quickly, and that's a success for the administration. Thomas said he knew Butch Jones was the right man for the job the first time they met face to face, and though Houston's Kevin Sumlin declined an interview last week - really, a Conference USA coach didn't even want to talk to the No. 3 program in the country? - that matters not at all today. The Bearcats have their new coach, and if he's anything like the last coach they hired from Central Michigan, UC should be fine shape.
Three things UC fans should be excited about

1. The Central Michigan to UC pipeline: Mike Thomas has hit home runs in two of the three major-sports hires on which we can judge him. Brian Kelly obviously was a slam-dunk from the very beginning. Mick Cronin, after a rough first couple of seasons, has the team back in the top-25 and should finish in the top half of the Big East standings this season (Wednesday night's loss to UAB, notwithstanding). J. Kelley Hall and the women's basketball team didn't work out so well, but overall, Thomas has shown an ability to recognize coaching talent at the mid-major or low-major level. Thomas has gone once again to Central Michigan - I imagine the Chippewas fans feels the same way about UC as UC fans feel about Notre Dame, times 2 - but it worked so well the last time, why not give it a shot?

2. The offense remaining the same: The offense that was in place under the last staff accomplished two positives with the spread, no-huddle system: 1) It was very effective against teams who don't see those offenses every day in practice, and 2) it was fun for the fans to watch. It would have been a shame if Thomas had hired a defensive-minded coach like Temple's Al Golden, because all the excitement that had been built with a team that can score 40-plus points per game would have evaporated as soon as he coached the Bearcats to a 12-9 victory. This system also will be helpful to the offensive linemen. Since Kelly and his staff already had been stockpiling linemen who fit this system so well - thinner, more athletic players that can move in space and get off the line of scrimmage and run - Bearcats like Jason Kelce and Alex Hoffman shouldn't have to change their bodies (or their mindsets) very much at all.

3. No reason for the top Bearcats players to transfer: Not that many of them were going to leave anyway, because of the whole having-to-sit-out-a-season-as-penalty thing. But if you were worried about Zach Collaros having second thoughts about remaining a Bearcat, this should put that to rest. Same with Armon Binns and Isaiah Pead and the rest of the skill player recruits. If the offense remains the same, the players that were recruited to play in that offense should stay satisfied. Most of them, at least.

Three things Butch Jones should accomplish in the next year

1. Continue the local recruiting upswing: When it was clear Kerry Coombs was not heading to South Bend, Jones' first call should have been to the former associate head coach. It appears that was exactly the case. So, Jones is already off to a good, smart start. Coombs is one of the major reasons top local recruits have to consider UC. It was the right move to offer him the job. It was really the only move.

2. Keep the fanbase excited: I hate to keep harkening back to what Kelly did when he was here, but he provides the perfect example of how to get people pumped for Bearcats football - pumped enough to get them to buy season tickets and start donating more money, anyway. Jones might not have the same kind of charasmatic, politiciany-type personality that makes fans want to put down their prayerbooks and shout "Hallejuah" when he's finished with his sermons, but it falls to Jones to keep the fanbase enlivened. Perhaps Coombs can help with that, as well, because, as we all know, Coombs is fairly excitable.

3. Schedule Notre Dame: Brian Kelly talked about this in the Enquirer the other day, saying he wants to schedule the Bearcats in the future (though, I wonder if he'd be amenable to having a home-and-home series in South Bend and then at Paul Brown Stadium). Either way, schedule the game. This will be a prime opportunity for UC to show it's more than just Brian Kelly's program but also a program that can survive the loss of him.

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