My interview with Butch Jones, part I

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Last week, I was invited into Butch Jones' office for a little question and answer session. I hadn't met Jones yet, so I was interested to see him in his new digs, how he was adjusting to his new job and how he would answer my questions. Here's part I of III of my interview.


Josh Katzowitz: So, you've been here a couple weeks. How's everything going?


Butch Jones: The transition has been extremely smooth. We really benefitted from being here very early. Getting a head start on everything, a head start on recruiting. Being able to evaluate things, so all of a sudden after the Sugar Bowl, we've come in and hit the ground running.


JK: It's interesting the way the dynamic was. The last head coach came in and was caching the team for the International Bowl game. It was a little different situation with you. Was it OK for you? I don't know if it was an awkward situation, but it must have been nice to be able to take a step back and see who you've got.


BJ: It was great to be able to evaluate everything. I tried to stay as much in the background as possible. It was extremely beneficial to be able to take the time in hiring the staff and do due diligence there. We really benefited as a program of that time where we could sit back and see what was needed so we could hit it running once we were able to maintain a staff and go out and start recruiting.


JK: How's that aspect of it? How's the recruiting going?


BJ: It's going extremely well. We had our first official visit weekend (the weekend of Jan. 8). I thought it went extremely well, and our coaches did a great job. That's one of the great things about being at the University of Cincinnati. There's so much to sell, from great academics, to great facilities, great people, great city. A lot of times it sells itself.


JK: I wonder: you have these recruits that are already committed to UC. How do you spend your time keeping the guys you want and maybe there are some guys you don't want and going out and getting new recruits? It must be an interesting dynamic.


BJ: It is very interesting. You have to basically re-recruit them. We basically started the process of recruiting from scratch. But I'll tell you what: We have a lot of players in this class that are extremely loyal to Cincinnati. That's critical in the recruiting process. It's something special to be able to stay at home and stay in your hometown and represent your university. We've been able to get with our players that were committed and obviously bringing in some new players as well.


JK: I did a lot of research for my book, and every coach that came in always said, "We need to recruit Cincinnati, because there's such a good base of players here." Most of the guys were not successful. It began to get better with (Mark) Dantonio, and Brian (Kelly), with Kerry (Coombs), did a nice job. Is the base of the city still very important to you?


BJ: Sure, The foundation of our football program will be based from the greater Cincinnati area. And within a 200-mile radius. We'll also venture off and find the best possible student-athletes that will represent the University of Cincinnati. We use a term called "Represent the C." There are so many things that the C stands for, from character to championships to academics to University of Cincinnati, to city of Cincinnati. You're in a great state, one of the best states for high school football, and you couple it with a great area and the surrounding areas. The respect that we have on a national scope as well really lends itself to the recruiting process.


JK: At Central, I would imagine you're not as focused on more national-type recruiting. I'm sure you saw more of that (when you were an assistant coach) at West Virginia. How do you balance that here because Cincinnati is now becoming more of a national program? Is that something where you can compete on the national level?


BJ: First of all, at Central Michigan in last year's recruiting class, we had 12 different states represented. That's a byproduct of being on national television and this past year, we were a top-25 football program. You look at Cincinnati. We're going to win with Cincinnati players, with the state of Ohio first and foremost, but again, because of the national scope, we're able to walk into different areas and people understand what Cincinnati is all about. They understand the tradition that exists here. We'll continue to go anywhere and everywhere for players. But we're going to take care of home.


JK: Obviously, the first hire you made was Kerry. Why?


BJ: First of all, I've known Kerry Coombs for a number of years. I've had great respect for him - not only as a coach but as a person. Kerry brings so much to our football program. To me, that was critical. He's been instrumental in the transition phase - not only for myself but for our coaches as well. He means so much to UC football.


JK: I guess it is nice to have at least one guy who can transition the staffs and stay on recruiting.


BJ: No question. Coach Coombs is respected so much in Cincinnati, in the entire state of Ohio and surrounding areas. Obviously, he has a great passion and energy and great love for UC. He knows the ins and outs, and he's been a great asset to me and the rest of the staff.


JK: There's been a lot of talk about your (offensive) philosophies - that brand of exciting football, throw it down the field a lot. How would your characterize your offense? Is it spread, no-huddle?


BJ: We're a spread, no-huddle, up-tempo football team. We're up-tempo, and we're going to play fast in all three phases - offensively, defensively and with special teams. Everything we do, we train to play fast. We'll be very aggressive on defense and very sound in the kicking game.


JK: Who did you learn offense from? Who were your mentors?


BJ: I've benefitted with working for a lot of great coaches. It's not just been one coach, but it's been a number of coaches. I've benefitted from getting into coaching at an early age because of an injury in college. Being able to work in the National Football League for three years, it got my career jumpstarted a little bit. From the spread offense with Rich Rodriguez and being with him a little over two years and being with Brian for a year and some other coaches as well. I've really been a benefactor of working with and working for a lot of great coaches.


JK: Was that the Tampa Bay Bucs in the late '80s? Who was coaching?


BJ: Ray Perkins. 1987, 88, 89.


JK: What did you do?


BK: I was an intern and then a quality control coach.


JK: Is that a pretty good education for a young guy?


BJ: OH, it's a great education. Those experiences are invaluable.


Parts II and III of my Butch Jones interview will run next week.












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