CINCINNATI - Jameel Poteat walked around the University of Cincinnati campus and tried to imagine himself as a Bearcats running back. It was the same routine he followed at the many other schools who welcomed him to campus hoping to lure the talent ranked as the No. 15 back in the country by Rivals.
Then, for the first time in his life, he set his eyes upon Butch Jones.
"He ran out and gave me a hug," Poteat said.
For those who've never been drooled over by college football coaches, rest assured, the hello-hug doesn't come as standard greeting fare.
"I was real surprised," Poteat said. "My mom and dad were like, 'Wow, we like him a lot.' It was crazy the way he came up to me and hugged and everything."
Surprising? Maybe to someone meeting Jones for the first time. But not to anybody who understands the way he runs the program. Phrases like football family and character development play on repeat through the halls and elevators of the Lindner Center. Only, it's not recruiting shtick. Jones' genuine belief in being not only caretaker of the program, but 105 sons wearing its uniform, can't be faked.
In Poteat's case, other coaches came off as underhanded and telling him what he wanted to hear. Not with Jones."It really wasn't what he was saying," Poteat said. "It was the way he was talking to us."
When selling a program while trying to compete with the best of the SEC and Big 10 with their seemingly unlimited budgets, there's no time to be fake.
And it's working.
Freshman WR Chris Moore, out of Tampa, Fla., opened to the prospect of heading north when UC assistant coach Jahmile Addae started the recruitment. Names like Mardy Gilyard, Armon Binns and Vidal Hazelton drew the initial interest.
Selling the NFL works for teenagers. Selling a stable, family atmosphere closes the deals with parents.
"We went to his office, me and my mom, and we just talked with him," Moore said of meeting Jones for the first time. "It was one of the greatest experiences, ever. My mom was shocked. She fell in love with coach Jones right after she met him. Me, he felt like the perfect role model for me and the perfect coach."
Those words come as high praise considering the source. This was a Parade All-American with 49 receptions for 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns turning down offers from Auburn and Michigan State to be part of the Cincinnati family.
Moore arrived to his first team meeting on Sunday along with 25 other true freshmen. They represent the first true signing class of the Butch Jones era. Last season's group were credited to Jones, but he and his staff only had a few months to secure previous commitments and find others.
This group arrives after two years of courtship of a specific type of player. Jones said the recruiting style which has worked well over the course of his career begins with those relationships. A strong open to the 2012 recruiting class as well insists the time dedicated to developing those are paying off.
"The first year was very challenging because we didn't really have a time to establish relationships," he said. "(These freshmen were) a year in the making. We started the process very early, we had established relationships not only with these young men, but with their parents and their grandparents and their uncles."
Jones and his staff's ability to quickly create familiarity with the prized recruits can be a game-changer. It was for RB Akise Teague. The Ohio Mr. Football new little about UC before opening his recruiting process. Sure, he knew a few players and some of the team's history, but outside of that it wasn't a destination location.
Yet, after meeting with Jones and his assistants, UC jumped into the lead.
"Probably after I evaluated coaching staffs (did UC become my top choice)," he said. "The coaches were so much like mine, I was like man, I like this place."
The player-coach relationship changed Monday. Years of pulling the players into the university transforms to pushing them through grueling practices.
"It's part of the maturation process in the development of them personally," Jones said.
admits Monday to be one of his favorite days of the year. The process changes
from growing the family to cultivating it. The hugs might not come as often
during the 100-degree days featuring disciplinary wind sprints, but with the
addition of another talented recruiting class the Bearcats hope the wins will.