The UC football team plays its final game of the year on Saturday at noon against Pitt.
The 2011 season begins 48 hours later.
"Starting on Monday, I'll review everything we do in our program and it starts with me," head coach Butch Jones said. "I'm the leader and we're going to get this right and it's going to be a product that everyone can be extremely proud of - I can promise you that. But we're going to look at everything. We have some holes that we have to fill, and the way you improve is by developing your talent and recruiting. The big thing now is to focus on recruiting and to get the best possible student-athletes to come to the
With a junior class that includes Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, D.J. Woods, Derek Wolfe, J.K. Schaffer, and Alex Hoffman, the Bearcats have some key building blocks for next season. But there are obvious question marks - especially on defense where the Bearcats did not put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and struggled in the secondary.
I asked Coach Jones on Thursday if he would address weak areas by having any players switch positions.
"The biggest conversation piece is (tight end) Travis Kelce," Jones told me. "He's a special football player and we're going to first look at him at defensive end. He can always play offense - it's like riding a bike. But we have to improve our third down defense and how do you do that? With a pass rusher and a shutdown corner. We have to be able to generate pressure with a four man push so we're going to look at him at defensive end.
"Then there's (freshman)
"The big thing is putting guys in the best places to succeed and to make us a better football team going into next year."
Church is one of 21 true freshman (including walk-ons) who are sitting out this year. Coach Jones says several of UC's redshirting players could play significant roles next season.
"One of the things that (strength coach) Dave Lawson does is take 'before and after' pictures of these guys to show how they look after a year of training," Jones said. "The progress that we're making is incredible. You look at Cameron Beard who's put about 35 pounds on - he's a defensive end who's going to play for us next year. Another individual is Eric Lefeld on the offensive line, along with Cory Keebler and Kevin Schloemer. Another individual is Jordan Luallen - the quarterback who transferred from Georgia Tech. He'll have three years of eligibility left and he is a leader."
Leadership is one area that Coach Jones considers to be strong for next season.
"I think our junior class has some dynamic leaders when you look at Zach and J.K. Schaffer. And one of our best leaders is (long snapper) Tommy DeTemple. We'll have a team meeting on Monday at 3 o'clock and after the Pitt game it's all about 2011. Before we can be a championship football team, every individual has to be a champion. What's that mean? It's doing the right things, it's going to class, it's working as hard as you can in the weight room, it's putting in the extra time, and it's representing this great university."
There are obviously things to play for this weekend. The Bearcats are trying to sweep all three rivalry trophies (
But after having their four year bowl streak come to an end, the 'Cats are already determined to start a new streak next season.
"I'm really excited and I think the future is very, very bright," Coach Jones told me. "I know that our fans are disappointed, but I want to say, 'Hang in there and keep your loyalty.' I promise you that we're going to get this thing going the right way and we're going to go bowling next year."
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