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ON THE BUTCH JONES BEAT

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      As the saying goes, "There's a new sheriff in town!".

      He's full of detail, research, integrity,hard work and results. He's as no-nonsense as they come.

      In a sense, he's Joe Friday from Dragnet. He does his homework, he understands intricate pieces that make a big puzzle and he has "functional intelligence" (just the facts).

      Based on that, it's no surprise new UC football coach Butch Jones likens his duties to that of a law enforcement official. Turns out, if he wasn't coaching football, he'd be on a beat somewhere.

      "No brainer, I'd be a police officer," said Jones quickly. "My father was a chief of police for 35 years, my uncle was a post commander in the Michigan State Police, so I grew up in a police household. Shoot, I was three-years-old and had my own police uniform. I think there's a lot of similarities between police work and football. That's why I've really wanted to reach out to the local authorities and get them involved in our program and for our players to understand that the uniform is good. I do have a passion for police work and great respect for all that they do."

      Considering the police background, it's no wonder Jones has set high standards for the Bearcat football program and considers everyone in his "precinct" family. That mentality also shows in the "Represent the C" mantra that's been preached since Coach Jones first addressed the fans and students at a UC basketball game. In Jones' eyes, the "C" equates to a badge that must be lived up to and honored.

      Thus far, Butch Jones and the Bearcats have done just that. After a successful spring practice session during the month of April, Jones and company are continuing on with recruiting and also are engaging in a number of appearances in the warm months. Though not exactly "tent revivals", the Bearcat Caravans allow fans to hear some of the other coaches, in addition to Butch Jones, speak of their programs. (Though not necessarily fundraisers, should you be inspired to pass an offering plate UCATS would gladly help you direct your money.)

      "Well, I tell you what, it's really been an enjoyable journey so far," said Jones of the public meet and greets. "We were in Columbus, Salem Gardens (east side of Cincinnati) we'll even venture up to Cleveland. It's been great to meet our fans, meet our supporters and hear their passions."

      Butch Jones has only been around since mid-December, but his days seem to fly by with meetings, outings, appearances, workouts and the non-stop necessity that is recruiting. As I have with previous coaches, I teased him about putting out a "Butch Jones Summer Tour 2010" t-shirt. In recent years, you'd be hard pressed to find a baby kissing, glad handing, chamber of commerce affair without a Bearcat coach nearby. In Jones' case, he's been visible and still has throwing out a first pitch at a Reds game and dropping a puck for the Cyclones playoff game ahead.

      Is he selling this program harder than others he's been at before?

      "Probably a little bit more--especially with this being the first year and all that," said Jones. "I also think it's necessary for us to get out vision out on where this football family's going. Like I said, the opportunity to meet people's been very, very rewarding. With stags and getting around local high schools and the communities, then with the Bearcat Caravans it's been hectic. But, I enjoy meeting people and hearing their thoughts about the program. It's obviously a very exciting time right now."

      Of course, it was exciting before Jones got here. His job is to maintain that level of optimism which sometimes can be harder than building a program up. What was also difficult was being named as head coach, then having to watch from a distance someone else coach his team (Jeff Quinn) in a BCS bowl game.

      "I had to have the seatbelt at Mike Thomas' box at the Sugar Bowl," confirmed Jones. "I've enjoyed the process. I thought being hired on December 16th has really proved to be beneficial. It was an opportunity to kind of evaluate the program, evaluate some of our players and also get to know those players and ease their minds a little bit. Being a coach, it was difficult (watching the Sugar Bowl) keeping your distance and staying afar. You know there's so many things you wanted to do. Once that Sugar Bowl was over, knowing that it's your team is very exciting. I think everything has been beneficial in the transition."

      Since then, the program has been all Jones. Players appear closer to the head coach and practices are even faster than they were before. The style is similar to Brian Kelly's, but definitely has the stamp of Butch Jones on it.

      "Every coach has his little idiosyncrasies, some similarities, some differences," said Jones. "Every person has their own little touches. But I'm excited. I'm excited about the kids, I'm excited about the program."

      Jones is so excited, that he seemingly spends every waking moment on UC football. With his family not here 'til after the school year, he's not exactly sitting home watching, "American Idol" or "Dancing With The Stars".

      "No question," said Jones with a grin. "I could probably tell you my favorite TV shows right now are practices one through 15 (spring ball)!"

      What the public has seen is just a small sample of what was worked on in spring ball in the public Bearcat Bowl IV. While the scrimmage had it's moments, Coach Jones and staff haven't even installed the whole offense. What you saw in late April at Nippert was less than half of what is scheduled to be unleashed on Fresno State to start the season.

      Spring practice for Butch Jones was a chance to get back on the field, and if he could legally do it, he'd probably have the guys back out this month.

      "I wish we had 15 more practices," said Jones. "But, I thought it was very, very beneficial. We were able to accomplish many things and the first thing is our expectations. You know, what's expected at all three phases--the way we practice--doing it the Bearcat way which we talk about everyday. Then obviously, implementing our schemes in offense/defense/special teams and then evaluating personnel and trying to figure out what players we can win with in 2010."

      Clearly, there are a lot of players the Bearcats can win with this upcoming season, as many return for another Big East title run. Armon Binns is back to haul in long passes and Isaiah Pead is back to burst runs. Specifically, several other players caught Jones' eye in April.

      "Well, I thought Darrin Williams really stepped up," said Jones. "That's a position, the running back position, where we must have depth. Obviously, Zach (Collaros) the last couple weeks really came on strong and I thought really ended spring with a great grasp of our offensive system. I thought D.J. Woods ended with a very productive spring game. He's an individual that I thought obviously got better and proved that he's one of the guys that we have to get the ball in his hands. Then, I think Walter Stewart defensively, added a little 'edge' presence to our defense. J.K. (Schaffer) was J.K., just consistent. Then I said time in and time again, especially at the corner position we have a great battle of competition brewing there that will go on throughout training camp."

      Once training camp arrives, a whole new crop of youngsters get to suit up in black and white jerseys and enter the fray. On occasion, a true freshman finds his way onto the playing field. Plus, back-to-back BCS bowls has provided UC with superbly talented young men. However, Jones cautions those that think they'll just automatically be entered onto the "two deep" depth chart.

      "It's really difficult at this time to really say," said Jones. "You're dealing with 17 and 18-year-old high school seniors. I'll know more--I think they report June 20th and they'll get going for summer school. I'll probably know a little bit more probably after the first week of training camp--really after the first week at Camp Higher Ground."

      By then, we could know more about some of the shifting going on in the college conferences. The rumors are the Big East could lose Rutgers. Other stories have pointed at Pitt and West Virginia perhaps being courted by the Big 10. Syracuse has also been mentioned. With experience at Rutgers, West Virginia and now here, Butch Jones isn't losing much sleep over it.

      "I've been really focused with the task at hand which is our football team," said Jones. "You know, I think a lot of it is hearsay. I don't think anyone really knows. I'm excited because I think we're at an institution where, no matter what happens, we're a commodity. The University of Cincinnati I think has so much respect. Not only on the field with what we've done the last couple of years in our football program, but off the field academically, our fan support, our passion, our location. So, I think we're an extremely attractive university. I think the Big East is going to be fine."

      Truly a veteran answer by someone who's been surrounded by veterans with impressive backgrounds. Through his many stops, Butch Jones has numerous influences that have led him to the style of play and strategies he preaches today.

      "There's a lot and I'd be remiss if I missed anybody," started Jones. "But, I think at a young age, Ray Perkins with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, working for Rich Rodriguez and the things we were able to accomplish at West Virginia. I've worked with so many great assistant football coaches and then obviously working for one year with Brian Kelly at Central Michigan."

      Now, as he did at CMU, he follows a high scoring, successful coach and hopes to better his mark. The bar's been set high, but Butch Jones shows no fear in leaping.

      Since Kelly's departure, the "Jones era" has featured remodeling the football offices to include video, trophies and bowl watches from the various games on display. The second floor team areas have new displays, and the pictures outside of the locker room have all been updated. The goal of all of it is to link the past with the present.

      "It's critical--that's part of having a football program and not a team," said Jones. "You know, there's so many things, from our players 'Representing the C' and what that 'C' stands for--the pride, the history, the past and where the foundation's laid. For recruiting, it's about being able to attract the highest caliber student-athlete for our football family. It's all about facilities. Facilities mean everything--how you're going to develop the player on a daily basis. Everything is done strategically and everything is about morale and pride. The things that we're doing with the players lounge, our nutritional bar, the entrance to our football facility and the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex as well. That's really our classroom--our practice fields are developing future champions and future Bearcats."

      In terms of "Butch's Bubble" (the unofficial name of the structure as determined by a one-man steering committee...me) you can't miss the progress on a daily basis. Cranes are flying and Corryville currently has the highest concentration of hard hats and fluorescent vests in the city. What was a drawing will be a reality sooner rather than later.

      "We're excited about that, being able in the increment weather to go in and practice," said Jones. "I'm excited that everything is on schedule. Our administration has done a tremendous job. It's going to pay dividends from a recruiting piece, involvement with other athletic teams here at UC, the community piece--being able to host football games there. It's going to be a welcome addition and it's going to be a great piece to our football facilities."

      In the meantime, Butch Jones waits. He waits on his recruits. He waits on his next appearance as assigned by his assistant, Sherry Murray. And, he waits on his family. He waits to find time to be "Dad" again.

      "I've not had any free time," said Jones. "When I do get some free time I guess it's going to be being with my family. We've been away from each other now for almost about five months and I'm looking forward to waking up one sunny afternoon and just doing something with the family."

      While he waits, he "holds the rope" as his wristband says. He's learned about the area and looks forward to some summer activity with his kids, before his late summer activity with his "other kids" cranks up.

      "I'm looking forward to all the different venues we have in this great city," said Jones. "I'm a huge, baseball fan so every free moment I do get, if it's an hour and a half, I'll sneak down to Great American Ballpark and watch the Reds. I'm excited from the Zoo, to the Cincinnati Reds, to Kings Island, just going down to the city and being a part of it."

      He's also learning the local nuances, which allows one to adapt to life closer to I-75, or I-71.

      "I'm becoming a Cincinnatian," said Jones. "I understand the east side, the west side, all the great eating establishments to go to. Skyline Chili, you name it, I know it now. Those are the little things that make a difference, the little things that separate us from the other areas of the country."

      That, and being in the BCS conversation two years running.



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