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Southern Charm

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The Bearcats recruiting class comprised more players from Georgia and Florida than Ohio and Indiana, an accomplishment Butch Jones hopes will benefit the program for years to come.

 

CINCINNATI - Slicing through the tables of hats, rumors of questionable tactics and Three-Card Monte of decommitments, the foundation of Signing Day success lies in relationships, familiarity and opportunity.

 

Winning recruiting wars inside the 300-mile radius of Cincinnati will always be at the center of the Bearcats plan. In no other location are the three core elements of success more prevalent. The geographic safety net holds a taut connection for teenagers who've only seen most American landmarks in their history textbooks.

 

The unique element to the 2011 Bearcats recruiting class was the willingness to ditch the safety net. Not only did they ditch the safety net, they tossed aside one of their top recruiting tools and ventured into the midst of the SEC recruiting jungle of Georgia and Florida.

 

Cincinnati enjoyed limited success in Florida before. Players like Mardy Gilyard, Dominique Battle and Ricardo Mathews were among those from the Sunshine State who thrived in Clifton.

 

The Bearcats have never succeeded in Georgia, at least not in recent history. In fact, UC doesn't have any on their current roster and haven't snatched a player from Georgia since Clint Parks and Anthony Williams in 2003.

 

Yet, here they were not only entering SEC territory as the Big East outsider with no recent track record in the state, but coming away with four recruits from Georgia and six from Florida on Wednesday.

 

The Bearcats grabbed 10 players from Georgia and Florida the past five years combined. To match that mark with one class was more than coincidence or snowball effect.

 

"It was a priority," Butch Jones said. "They have great high school football down there, great coaching as well. We wanted to make that an area of emphasis."

 

For the 2010 season, Florida and Georgia both ranked in the top five for most players from their state in the NFL, along with Texas, California and Ohio.

 

Establishing a foothold in those prominent areas means throwing punches with the big boys of the sport. The Bearcats aren't in a position where top RB Isaiah Crowell would be on ESPNU pulling a bearcat cub onto his podium instead of a bulldog puppy representing his University of Georgia commitment, but Cincinnati showed they aren't afraid to pit their program against anybody.

 

The days of living and dying by the depth of Cincinnati talent may be of the past. Four of the Queen City's finest were a part of this class. There were more from Florida and Georgia than Ohio (8) and Indiana (1).

 

Cincinnati will always be the engine of this program, but establishing desired depth and prominence will only be obtained venturing outside the friendly confines of the I-275 belt.

 

"We got a great product here," recruiting coordinator and co-defensive coordinator Jon Jancek said. "When they have an opportunity to get up here and show them the opportunity and them meeting with people they are going to be surrounded by creates a lot of excitement in their minds."

 

Jancek deserves credit for facilitating the excitement. Many of the connections were made as a result of his time as an assistant at the University of Georgia. Previous flyover country for Bearcats recruiting landed RB Ralph David Abernathy IV from Atlanta, teammates DL Demetrius Alston and DL Silverberry Mouhan, of Norcross, along with WR Alex Chisum from Fayetteville.

 

Chisum spearheaded the northern migration last summer as the first to commit and the other four seemed to feed off of his move, according to Jones.

 

"We got such great reception when we brought the kids up on our campus," Jancek said. "Every time we went down to a school down there we were very well received. It was a great situation."

 

Jones also credited running backs coach Jahmile Addae, who grew up in the area of Tampa, Fla., for establishing connections with recruits like WR Chris Moore, QB Stephen Weatherford and DL Chad Hannah, all from the area.

 

"You go where you trust the coaches," Jones said. He was also referring OL Parker Ehringer from Rockford HS in Michigan. "I've coached three kids from Rockford and all three play in the NFL."

   

Considering the track record of the southern states, the percentages of finding schools that provide Rockford-type production only go up. That means the Bearcats program will also, or so Jones and his staff hope.

 

"Our base will always be the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, basically a 300-mile radius," Jones said. "We really made some inroads in the state of Georgia that I think will serve us for many years to come."

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