Bearcats Breakfast 4.30.12

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What a weekend for the Bearcats football program.

In this day and age, the top high school players want one thing when choosing between schools willing to offer a free education -- a road to the NFL.

For so long, the road didn't run through Nippert Stadium. It bought property in Columbus, stopped regularly in South Bend and even wound down into the Lexington on the fringe of the SEC expressway.

While occasionally the Bearcats placed players in the league and many of them became among the best at their position, the quantity near the top of the draft didn't come consistently.

Butch Jones can tell high school kids about research, facilities and championships all he wants, but until he shows pictures of players being selected on the first two days of the draft, the 17-year-old with the short attention span won't snap away from his Ohio State pamphlet.

That's why what happened Friday was monumental for the future of Bearcats football. Cincinnati owned three of the top 87 selections this weekend's draft and four of the top 127.

WolfeDenver.jpgDerek Wolfe became the highest Bearcats player taken (No. 36, Denver) in the modern era since LB Alex Gordon went 42nd in 1987.

Only 14 picks later, at No. 50, Isaiah Pead went to St. Louis to make the first time in UC history two players were selected in the top 50. He was the first Bearcats offensive player drafted in the top 50 since QB Greg Cook went No. 5 in 1969.

By the time DT John Hughes went No. 87 overall to Cleveland and Adrien Robinson No. 127 to the New York Giants, college football had officially taken notice that there is a clear, definitive path to the NFL. And it stops in Clifton.

Plenty of Bearcats have been taken in the draft before. Players like Connor Barwin and Trent Cole among the most productive in the league. The schools reputation in the NFL gradually ascended along with its college football profile over recent years. But this draft represents a watershed event.

This was the type of draft that competes with the traditional big boys in college football.

Take a look into the regional recruiting battles UC fights and the numbers they can dangle in front of a recruit from Indianapolis, Youngstown, Louisville or right here in Cincinnati.

School        #selected/#in top 3 rounds
Cincinnati     4/3     
Ohio State    4/2
MIchigan      3/1
Michigan St. 6/1
Purdue         2/0
Indiana         0/0
UK               2/0
Big East
Louisville      1/0
Pitt              0/0
WVU           3/1
UConn         1/0
USF            0/0
Syracuse     2/1
Rutgers       1/1
While we are at it
Florida         2/0
Florida St.    4/0
Texas          3/0

RamsPead.jpgNot saying this is how school should be ranked, but how would you react if you were a high school senior considering your football options? Better believe stats like these will be plastered at the top of every recruiting pamphlet along with pictures like these.

The reverberations of back-to-back BCS bowls and three championships in four years are starting to be felt throughout the program. Days like Friday are among the final steps toward a program that regularly replenishes itself.

Only time will tell if this weekend was a temporary spike in numbers or the beginning of a trend. Regardless, a new precedent for draft exposure has been set at the University of Cincinnati.

Let's eat...

--- I would take the time
to hunt down all the stories about the drafting of UC players, but the good folks at UC sports info already have a page dedicated to that at NFL Draft Central. Eat your heart out on stories about the Cats.

--- I'll have plenty more this week on the individual situations for all these players. Not much to dislike about any, particularly Isaiah Pead landing in St. Louis to work alongside aging veteran Steven Jackson. Pead on turf=scary burst.

I don't want to forget the undrafted free agents who latched on with teams. JK Schaffer told us Jacksonville had been relentless in pursuit of him in the weeks prior to the draft, so his landing with the Jags made plenty of sense.

For the record, the Jags used but one selection on a linebacker and it was OLB Brandon Marshall out of Nevada. Opportunity awaits to earn a roster/practice squad spot.

DJ Woods landed with Tennessee, Monte Taylor with Seattle and Zach Collaros in Tampa Bay.

I have to assume Bucs scouts held a presence at the two games UC played in USF during Zach's tenure. In my opinion, his two greatest moments as a Bearcat occurred at Raymond James Stadium.

The first still sends chills down the spines of Bearcats fans as one of the definitive plays of the undefeated 2009 season.

The second will be remembered in my book as his most complete and one that topped off with a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute. Of course, my favorite play of that game was this one.

--- Doc writes about Butch Jones being hungrier than ever. Hard to believe after a dinner at Boi Na Braza, but a great column reflecting his loyalty to UC.

--- Here's Mel and Jon Gruden talking about Isaiah Pead. Now, Gruden had compliments for all 253 players selected, but he did just say Pead was "my guy" in the draft. He calls him the modern day NFL back.

--- As I was pointing out last week and His Hairness reiterated on Friday, the most productive DT in this draft: Derek Wolfe.

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