A unique month-plus of recruiting essentially came to a close Wednesday and new coach Tommy Tuberville could finally relax after weeks spent sifting through the transition from Butch Jones.
CINCINNATI -- During a week of bowl practices in December, Tommy Tuberville stood along the sidelines inside the bubble. Coaches, administrators and even the occasional media type would come and go, but for the most part he stood by himself.
He watched and evaluated. Alone.
"Normally I've got 10 or 12 sets of eyes and knowing this is exactly what we need going into this recruiting class," Tuberville said. "It was me. I was really the only one here."
As the opening weeks of recruiting began he opened the process of seeking out who verbally committed to UC and who could be available as moving parts everywhere chaotically dispersed like fifth graders at recess. With much of his staff still assembling and finishing up bowl games, he took on the majority of the load.
The events of the last month and a half came to a calming conclusion Wednesday set to the ancient sound of the fax machine. All the typical National Signing Day buzz words laced Tuberville's press conference. He recruited speed, character, upside.
Nobody will know for a few years how many will flourish and how many will flounder.
All that is known about the class of 2013 was the collection took interesting roads to get here. For some, their heads are still spinning from the process. Certainly, Tuberville's would be among them.
"We were probably looking at about 10-12 players this time last week we had no clue where they were going," he said. "We had to put a hard drive on the last few weeks."
As far as filling the desires of class, the Tuberville administration made the most of their short time span.
"Usually when you have six or seven guys on the fence the last couple of days you hope to get 50 percent," Tuberville said. "We got more than that this year."
No need to break down the hip swivel, pad level or quick twitch of all 22 new members of UC football. One trip through Signing Day Central will tell you all about the blur of WR Johnny Holton's top-end speed or special athleticism of TE Chris Burton. For Tuberville, this class would be about more than tangible 40-yard dash splits or vertical leap heights.
This winter whirlwind has been about filling needs and recruiting to a profile. Switching from a spread system to multiple pro style requires different fits and switching from the relentless personality of Butch Jones to calculated managerial methods of this man of the South bares different parameters.
Amid a slew of controversies far from unique to UC, the uneasy process of finding players and coaches that fit each other didn't come easy. Tuberville never expected it to. He never wanted it to. He's learned to trust nothing but his own eyes during decades spent unearthing talent such as finding Ray Lewis for Miami when nobody else offered him or tracking down RB Rudi Johnson for Auburn when they needed a running back.
The mentality of building a football program wasn't about to change now.
"I am not going to let other people pick players for me," he said. "The evaluation part of recruiting is the most important part. You can go out and sign all these big-time high school athletes and they might not be able to play. You make less mistakes when you go out and do your own evaluation, don't take anybody's word for it, work with the coaches, work with the counselers, work with the principals, everybody involved and try to get the best person, the best athlete to come to your university."
The results of the evaluations?
UC needed more height in the secondary. Tuberville landed five DBs, three listed at 5-foot-11 and two more at 6-2.
He wavered over how many quarterbacks to sign with Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux set to graduate after next season and a cast of unproven players behind them. He eventually stayed with only one QB recruit, Brent Stockstill of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Instead, he viewed junior college running backs with experience taking big hits as a more pressing need.
A defensive line without much disruptive height on the outside concerned the coach as well, so he sought out versatile linemen who can add weight later but have height now. Jerrell Jordan, Mark Wilson and Terrell Hartsfield all list at 6-3.
Searching for holes to plug so next year's team doesn't end up strapped at key positions, he added seven junior college players instead of a more standard four to five for immediate impact.
Instead of over-signing, the new coach opted for the opposite leaving three scholarships open to reward returning players.
In the end, a few players Tuberville desired to keep ended up at Tennessee. A few players Texas Tech wanted to keep ended up in the C-paw. And a number of players nobody knew who would keep, decided on Cincinnati. The musical chairs continued for more than a month and the Bearcats feel they emerged with the right types of athletes sitting in the red and black seats.
That's all that mattered to Tuberville. Believing anything but his own eyes wasn't going to cut it, even if that meant for a hectic first few months on the job.
"It doesn't take great players to win championships," he said. "It takes a lot of good players that work together as a team. Expectations of where we were at compared to what I thought we would do a month ago is a lot better."
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