day was complete and all the signed letters of intent had been received, UC
football coach Butch Jones could sit back, reflect on the past two months and
then get back to work almost immediately.
structure of getting our staff here, playing in the late bowl and having a
couple dead periods of recruiting sandwiched in there, it made it extremely
challenging," Jones said after today's recruiting rundown presser. "But I can't
say enough in the job our staff did in assembling this class. We're very
excited about the potential of it. (But) we're still going to continue to
recruit for this class. There are some area needs that we would like to be
filled. We're still looking to recruit this class and then we'll move onto the
class of 2011."
the moment - and maybe only for this very moment - he could showcase to the
assembled media the 22 members of the 2010 recruiting class, a mixture of Brian
Kelly and Butch Jones recruits, and be proud of the work he and his assistant
coaches accomplished in the first seven weeks of their tenure.
illustrate that point, Jones pulled out his staff's itinerary from the first
full week of January. On Jan. 6, the assistants that remained at Central
Michigan helped coach the Chippewas to a victory against Troy in the GMAC Bowl. Of course, the game
went to double overtime, which was a problem because the coaches had to catch a
6 a.m. flight to Cincinnati
the next day. The new staff reached campus about noon on Jan. 7. The very next day,
they were recruiting for UC.
the whirlwind we've been through," Jones said. "This process was approached
with meticulous attention to detail. It was finding the right individual that
fits our profile, individuals who are representing the C. We made no promises,
no guarantees. The only thing that was guaranteed was to compete for a top-10
football program on a daily basis. To re-recruit a class in a short period of
time, that has a lot of challenges. We were forced to build relationships in a
short period of time. We take great pride in the developmental business. We're
going to teach our players to reach their potential."
a couple of the newest Bearcats, though, already have impressed people around
the country with their talent. Guys like quarterback Munchie Legaux, who's
ranked as the No. 12 dual threat quarterback by rivals.com and who committed to
the Bearcats late Tuesday night after Legeaux's high school basketball game in New Orleans.
It was an
especially key get late in the recruiting season because the Bearcats are in dire
need quarterbacks - they only have three left in the system, junior Zach
Collaros, junior Chazz Anderson, and sophomore Brendon Kay.
up on his visit and fell in love with the place," Jones said. "He's an
individual with high character. But we don't have to beg anybody to come to the
University of Cincinnati. We're very attractive,
especially for a young man who plays quarterback. Him also seeing us at the
Sugar Bowl, he was able to understand our passion."
while watching the Sugar Bowl, apparently was wearing a Florida Gators T-shirt.
"We wanted to make sure we got that corrected," Jones said.
key element of this recruiting class was the former Central Michigan's staff
familiarity with quarterback Cody Kater (from Montague, Mich.) and receiver
Montrel Robinson (from Southfield, Mich.) - both of whom had attended CMU camps
in previous years that were run by Jones and his staff. Those prior
relationships helped ease the pain of losing former UC commits Luke Massa (to Notre
Dame) and Dominique Brown (to Louisville).
is about relationships, and the relationships we had formed with Kater and
Montrel, those are basically year-long relationships," Jones said. "There are
so many things that go into a recruitment of a young man and the bonds that you
form. Sometimes people look at these kids as property instead of as human
beings. The relationship process was big with those two."
asked him if the coaches felt like they needed to make a big splash with this year's
recruiting class so they could prove to the national recruits and pundits that
they actually could recruit on a national level.
trust my coaches and I trust myself," Jones said. "It's all about the evaluating
process. We don't get caught up in who's recruiting who or if he's a one-star
or two-star or three-star recruit. The last time I checked we went to the
Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, and our recruiting classes have been middle to
last in the Big East conference. We're just looking for the best players that
fit our system and the best players we can develop."
put itself in pretty good position. At 14-7 overall and 5-4 in the Big East,
the Bearcats have moved their way into a tie for sixth place in the conference and,
for now, have clawed their way into the conscience of NCAA tournament prognosticators.
remember, this is similar to what happened last season as well - before UC lost
six of its final seven games (including that mind-numbing defeat to DePaul
(winless during league play in the regular season that year) in the first round
of the conference tournament). The Bearcats believe this year will be
how I see the final nine regular-season games of the year for UC.
Dame, Thursday: The Bearcats (basically) shut down Luke Harangody once this
season, thanks to the tremendous defensive input of sophomore forward Yancy
Gates. It'll be harder to do that again - particularly in the JoyceCenter.
Vs. Syracuse, Feb. 7: Whew,
this is going to be a tough one for the Bearcats. The Orange have lost once all season (unless
you're also counting the Lemoyne exhibition defeat) - a 10-point home loss to
Pitt. They're aiming for the best start in program history, and with five
players averaging double-figures, they'll probably get it en route to a No. 1
NCAA tourney seed.
Feb. 13: With how much the Huskies have struggled since they lost to UC last
month - plus, with the uncertainty surrounding coach Jim Calhoun - this might
be UC's best chance to grab a road victory. Unless it's ...
Feb. 16: The Bearcats haven't fared well in the Sun Dome (and with those
hideously-painted seats, you can certainly understand why), but UC still has
more talent and they'll be playing for a postseason berth. Yet, it's also tough
to win back-to-back games on the road in conference play. Really, I'd say a win
at UConn is more likely than a win in Tampa,
but that's just kind of a gut feeling. And probably incorrect.
Vs. Marquette, Feb. 21: Despite one stupefying bad loss at
DePaul, the Eagles have a couple pretty good wins on their resume (Xavier, Georgetown). But mostly,
they've won the games they're supposed to win and lost the ones they're
supposed to lose. Where does UC fit in there? At 5/3, Marquette probably won't be favored.
DePaul, Feb. 24: If the Bearcats lose this one at home, they probably don't
deserve an NCAA tournament berth.
At West Virginia, Feb. 27:
Mick Cronin has done pretty well against his former boss, Bob Huggins. But
Huggins' team this season is really, really good. With the production of
Da'Sean Butler and Kevin Jones, mixed with the talent of Devin Ebanks, this
will be a tough one for the Bearcats.
Villanova, March 2: Yikes, this will be another dangerous one for UC. Win here,
though, and that likely will affect the Bearcats' seeding more than answering
the question of whether they'll still have a chance to make the tournament. By
that, I mean they'll be in.
At Georgetown, March 6: And sure, why not just end the
regular season with the top-10 ranked Hoyas at the VerizonCenter?
look at the Big East standings today, you'll see the Bearcats still have to
play all four of the top teams in the league. That's a nightmare way to end the
year, but the real question is whether UC can withstand the final nine games
and make the NCAA tournament for the first time since Huggins left.
answer: I see the Bearcats going 4-5 in that stretch. That would leave them at
18-12 and 9-9 in the Big East. That puts them right on the tournament bubble.
But a win against one of those top four squads might just seal their place on
the bracket. Maybe the best chance of that happening is in Morgantown.
But if I
had to guess whether Deonta Vaughn finally will get to experience his first
NCAA tournament, I would say ... Probably. What do you think?
football news, former WR Mardy Gilyard and former QB Tony Pike have been
invited to the NFL Combine later this month. This, of course, comes as no
UC has placed 12 football players on the Big East All-Academic team. They are:
QB Chazz Anderson, LB Alex Delisi, OL T.J. Franklin, S Drew Frey, DL Dan
Giordano, RB John Goebel, OL Alex Hoffman, OL Sean Hooey, OL Jeff Linkenbach,
LB Collin McCafferty, LB J.K. Schaffer, and S Aaron Webster.
sure to check back here Wednesday evening where Katz on the Cats will have a
full recap of the day's recruiting news. The Butch Jones news conference
happens at 3 p.m., so we'll have his thoughts on the day's events afterward.
really good win for the Bearcats, especially considering what could have
happened if they had lost. Now they're 5-4 in the Big East and in sixth place.
A couple points I want to make:
Wright surprised the Friars tonight. He scored a career-high 24 points, and Providence didn't seem to
have anybody that was capable of stopping him. Remember, this is the same
Cashmere Wright who hadn't started since the Dec. 16 UAB game and had played 6
minutes against UConn, 7 minutes against Rutgers, 4 minutes against Pitt, 9
minutes against St. John's, 4 minutes against South Florida and 0 minutes
against Notre Dame.
Although Providence managed to
keep Deonta Vaughn, Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson in check (they scored a
combined 31 points), the Friars were stunned by Wright, who made 9 of 11 shots.
surprised," said Providence
guard Sharaud Curry. "Our main concern was Vaughn and Stephenson. They threw us
off balance by throwing him in the starting lineup. He came out and shot the
ball great and he was big for them."
Wright: "I was just playing my game. Things started falling and that's how it
Cronin, though, wasn't surprised. Those are the kind of performances he
witnessed when Wright played at UrbanChristianAcademy
in Savannah, Ga.
been a learning experience for him," Cronin said. "He went to an excellent
school academically, but it is also very small. His high school is not allowed
to play the other public schools in Georgia. Consequently, he hadn't
had a lot of real game experience. He didn't get to play in big games. He
played in front of 15 people - friends and family only. I think that hurt him, combined
with sitting out for a year."
Stephenson didn't start, Cronin said, because he's suffering through a lower
was a thought that he might not even play," Cronin said. "He struggled to get
loose in walk-through. He came in and shot after the women's game. He felt much
better. I know it bothered him a little bit."
Wilks had quite a game as well, scoring 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting to go with
four rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
me listening to what coach says and being patient," Wilks said. "When I get the
ball, not rushing it."
thing to address: the abysmal free throw shooting that nearly cost UC the game.
After tonight's 20 of 41 performance from the foul line, the Bearcats are
shooting 63.0 percent.That would rank
15th in the Big East and 311th out of 334 teams (using
the statistics from before today's games).
Cronin: "We won't be able to do that on the road at Notre Dame. I'm a big
believer in the law of averages. Deonta Vaughn hadn't missed a free throw since
Gonzaga. Dion Dixon hadn't missed one in eight games. It is eventually going to
catch up. Let it catch up tonight when we have a 14-point lead. If we do that
Thursday, we will not win."
Before the game, there was a little FT competition between Anthony Buford and former Providence star Dickey Simpkins, both of whom are analyzing tonight's game for TV. Buford made four FTs in 30 seconds; Simpkins made 5. This will have no impact on the game tonight. But I thought you should know anyway.
FASHION ALERT: Mick and his coaching staff come out in khakis and black short-sleeve windbreakery type things with sneakers (Coaches vs. Cancer and all that). Mick is wearing gray long sleeves underneath his shirt. The Friars coaches are sporting suits and sneakers. Again, no bearing on the game.
After Jamine Peterson hits a 3 to start the game, Wright answers with a 3 of his own.
After Providence follows with two more 3s - Sharaud Curry and Brian McKenzie - Mick takes a timeout. Replaces Thomas with Darnell Wilks. Of course, Wilks then doesn't block out McKenzie, which leads to an easy rebound/layup.
Wright scores the first seven points for UC. Then Bishop with a short jumper and a 3.
Providence makes 6 of its first 7 shots.
Providence 16, UC 12 (15:19 to go)
Gates airballs his first FT, and he can't help but smile. Perfect on the next. Toyloy in for Gates. Still no Stephenson.
Providence has hit its first 6 3s of the game. Also making 9 of first 10 shots. With about 13 minutes to go, the Friars finally miss a 3.
Stephenson finally in the game with 14:31 to go in the first half.
Providence 24, UC 18 (11:49 to go)
Brian McKenzie picks up his second foul with 11:24 to go. He'll go to the bench. Thomas picks up No. 2 59 seconds later. That's probably not the worst thing in the world. He has not been good so far. Then, with 9 minutes to play, Wilks gets foul No. 2 . He stays in the game.
Remember when Cashmere Wright got off to that really good start? He's been on the bench forever.
Couple nice shots by Wilks, and Stephenson finally gets on the board with a left-handed layup. Bearcats have cut the lead to 1, forcing a timeout from the Friars. A Stephenson 3 ties the game.
UC is shooting 68.8 percent from the floor. Providence is 57.9 percent from the floor; 70 percent from the 3.
UC 30, Providence 30 (7:55 to go)
UC takes its first lead on a nice dish from Wright to Bishop for the layup.
Crazy sequence: Bishop has a chance to extend the UC lead to 5, but blows an absolute gimme dunk. Then, transition to the other end where Duke Mondy buries a 3 to tie the game again.
Wright and Bishop lead the way with 10 points a piece. Peterson has 10 for Providence as well.
Providence 40, UC 37 (2:59 to go)
After making its first six 3-pointers, Providence misses 7 of its next 9.
UC, meanwhile, contiunes to remain hot from the floor. A turnover by Providence and a layup by Wright gives UC a one-point lead.
Gates called for an offensive foul for swinging his elbows. He can't believe it and the crowd goes crazy. I don't understand. Looked pretty blatant to me. A layup from Peterson gives Providence the lead again.
Wright with two FTs. He makes one with 4 seconds left. A missed 3 from Council means the Friars missed eight of their last 10 threes of the half.
Wright has 13 points, and Peterson has 14. Providence is outrebounding UC 17-16. But not a whole lot of missed shots to rebound. The Friars are 50 percent from the floor. UC is 51.5 percent.
UC 44, Providence 44 (half)
No Gates to start the second half. Instead, it's Toyloy. I guess 0 for 2 from the floor with 1 point will keep you on the bench to start the second half. Stephenson also starts the second half next to Mick.
A 3 by Peterson ends Providence's slump from the 3, but Vaughn hits one on the other end.
Peterson picks up foul No. 3 with 16:02 to go. He heads to the bench.
But the Friars continue to hang around, and Kyle Wright rebounds a miss and makes the layup as Gates fouls him. A free throw upcoming.
Providence 54, UC 53 (15:45 to go)
Stephenson makes his first second-half appearance 5:57 into the half.
You know who we haven't seen tonight? Dion Dixon.
If UC can't pull out this game, that would be a bad, bad loss.
Providence 60, UC 59 (11:58 to go)
A great drive and shot by Wright. He's been really, really good today.
All of a sudden, Providence in sloppy with the ball, and the Bearcats are making the Friars pay. UC goes on a 13-0 run. After a Wright 3-pointer, another timeout for Providence.
UC 70, Providence 60 (9:16 to go)
Gates picks up his fourth foul with 8:54 to go.
UC 73, Providence 63 (6:54 to go)
UC, of course, playing very well, so this is nit-picking (though not really). The FT shooting has been abysmal (7 of 19). The Bearcats should be leading by 17 or 18.
UC 75, Providence 65 (3:58 to go)
A Dion Dixon sighting. After Stephenson tried to dribble through about 300 Friars players before ultimately turning it over. Mick taps Dixon to get into the game.
Really, a heck of a job in the final 12 minutes of the game. For a minute there, it looked like UC was out of it. But then, the Bearcats defense started forcing turnovers and Wright and Bishop continued to play so well on offense. A much-needed win for the Bearcats.
Wright obliterates his 12-point career high with 24 points. Bishop has 16 and six rebounds. Stephenson gets 12 points and nine rebounds.
UC outrebounds Providence 38-33.
But geez, how bad was UC's FT shooting? I'll tell you how bad - 48.8 percent bad. The Bearcats were lucky to escape with the win.
ago, I was invited into Butch Jones' office for a little question and answer
session. I hadn't met Jones yet, so I was interested to see him in his new
digs, how he was adjusting to his new job and how he would answer my questions.
Here's part III of III of my interview. In case you missed part I,
click on this link. And part II
is right here.
Part III begins here:
Katzowitz: I saw a little Skyline Chili gift basket outside your office. Have
you been to Skyline yet?
Jones: Oh yeah, I've been to Skyline a number of times. You saw the basket? That's
one example of the support we've received since coming here.
There's a Skyline neck tie in there. Are you going to wear the tie?
may. You know what? I've been so busy I haven't been able to look at it too much.
I went right for the crackers. I may sport that tie every now and then again.
That's the major headline. Jones: I May Sport that Skyline Tie Every
Now and Again. Anyway, getting back to talking about Nippert Stadium
and making it a tough ticket to get. Obviously you're getting some new practice
facilities, and there's a lot of talk about expanding Nippert. Were do you
stand on that?
thing that excites me is the term they use about Nippert being the Wrigley
Field of college football. You look at it and look at the great tradition
that's been played in Nippert Stadium and the great atmosphere and the great environment.
It's our job to put a product on the field that people want to come and watch.
Also, the gameday environment: it's fan friendly, it's family friendly. I want
to make it an event, and when you do that and people witness that, they want to
keep coming back. I haven't really thought too much about (stadium expansion).
But it's something to be said about college football and the environment and
the nostalgia that comes with gameday. We obviously have that here, and I'm
excited to witness that and build upon that.
What's going on with the practice fields? Is it still on for this year?
still going. I'm very excited. That's the continuation of the building process
of this football program. To be able to have a practice facility like that, to
be able, when the weather gets cold for bowl prep or November games, to go inside
a climate-controlled practice facility, it's going to be big for our program.
guys had that at West Virginia,
and we had it at Central (Michigan)
Invariably, the comparisons to you and Brian Kelly are going to continue to
exist. I don't know much you had that at Central. I imagine it was a little bit
Obviously, you're not the same guy, you're not the same personality, you're not
the same coach. How do you deal with that?
don't spend too much time thinking about it. My sole focus is working hard each
and every day to make everyone proud of the UC football program. Building upon
the championship culture that exists here and making this program better each
and every day. I don't lend myself to comparisons between myself and Brian
Kelly. I don't even know what's out there. The big thing is it's about the
kids, our players. It's about developing our players on the field and off the
guys are similar in the way in that you spent some time in Division III
football (at WilkesUniversity). How did that
work in your development?
really lends itself to your development. There are so many things you have to
do coaching at those levels. It makes you appreciate the game. You're coaching
for the love of the game. You're having to do the laundry, you're having to coach
other sports. When I was there, I was the head men's tennis coach and the intramural
director. The passion you have to have to coach football, the sacrifices you have
to do that are associated with that. It really lends into your development.
you a pretty good tennis coach?
think that's about it. Anything else I should be asking that you want to get out
want high expectations. But people also need to be realistic. We've been through
it, we've taken over a program and built upon it. There were growing pains at
first. But if you look at how we developed the program there ... when I took the
job at Central Michigan, I said we were going
to be a top-25 football program. Everyone looked at me and they laughed and
chuckled and said that can't be done at Central Michigan.
We finished 23rd in the country this year. Any time you go 12-2 in
the MAC with an out of conference schedule that includes Michigan
State, Arizona and BostonCollege,
that doesn't happen by mistake. We know how to take a program to the next level.
"We beat Northern Illinois for the first time at their place in
years. Three years ago, we beat Western Michigan
and it was the first time we had won at their place since 1993. We did it again
this year. We took them to three straight bowl games. That had never been accomplished.
The top-25 ranking is huge. Been there three years and two conference
championships. We were getting everybody's best shot. We were the hunted each
and every game.
strikes me that you can have a great season next year. You could go 9-3 and go
to, say, the Meineke Car Care Bowl and it would seem almost like a step down.
How do you deal with that?
just continue to build a football program. You just look at the world of
college football. There's parity everywhere. What separates winning and losing
is inches. It's maybe three or four plays in a game. It's a decision here or a
decision there. Winning is very fragile and staying on top is very fragile as
well. But you wouldn't want it any other way.
of the attention the first few days of the Senior Bowl has been focused on Tim
Tebow and Terrence Cody*. But there are others - a few of them you might actually
know - who are doing their best to make a mental mark on the scouts and coaches
assembled in Alabama for the annual all-star game/meat market.
if he's going to walk around for photos like this.
happen to catch the game Saturday at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network, here's who
you'll want to be watching.
Pike: There are, as you probably know by now, a few knocks on Pike as
he begins his offseason of prepping for the NFL Combine, working out for
whichever teams decide to bring him to their complexes before the Draft and
participating in UC's Pro Day. He's got good height for a QB, but he's thin (he
weighed in at 212 pounds this week) and he seems to be a bit brittle. That will
be a concern and why, instead of becoming a late first- or early second-round
pick (as some had him before he was injured in this year's South
Florida game), he might drop to the middle rounds. Also, you have
to wonder if he is a (dreaded) system quarterback
got an NFL-ready arm, and he seems like a smart, well-reasoned, calm individual
- on the field and off it. That certainly counts for something.
his first day of practice, he performed well, and, according to the Sporting
News, he "definitely looked like an NFL quarterback ... and really could help
himself if able to play at this level all week."
ESPN's Todd McShay isn't sure about Pike. Before the Sugar Bowl in a
teleconference call with national reporters, McShay didn't seem so impressed
with Pike, and earlier this week, he reiterated that opinion by writing:
Tony Pike is accurate and tall enough to develop into an NFL backup and possibly
a starter down the line. However, his ability to read NFL coverage is a concern
and there are questions about his overall work ethic, so he may never reach
His ability to take
advantage of and learn from the Detroit Lions coaching staff throughout the
week will either amplify or dampen these concerns. In addition, Pike must prove
he can make the transition from the spread attack of his college coach Brian
Kelly to a pro-style system.
I agree with the work ethic thing, but OK, I'll buy most of that.
Gilyard: I'll be really interested to see where Gilyard goes in the
draft. He's got first-round talent, but a late-rounds body. He weighed in at a
light 179 pounds, and at 6-1 (though I'm pretty sure he's shorter than that),
that's not going to help impress the scouts who think those measures are so
know, though, that Gilyard is an NFL talent. He's not the fastest receiver in
the country, but he's got great hands, quick moves and he knows how to use his
body to his advantage. Plus, he's one of the best kick returners in the nation.
to the Sporting News, he had a strong first day, showing "good quickness and
agility in his routes, getting out of cuts quickly and flashing the ability to
make tough catches." But not everybody was quite as impressed. Like Dallas
Morning News scribe Gerry Fraley, who wrote that Gilyard had stiff hands after
dropping three passes during Tuesday's practice. And like Lions receivers coach
this passage from strong Butch Hobson in his Bengals.com story
MOBILE, Ala. -
Call it Mardy Gilyard's first professional chewing out after Monday afternoon's
first Senior Bowl practice for the North.
In a not
so intimate huddle Lions wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson lit into his
group for their inability to keep up with the speed of the game and since
Gilyard is considered by many to be the best of the lot at this all-star game
despite the 113 catches of Missouri's 6-4, 220-pound Danario Alexander and the
4.38-second 40-yard dash time of Clemson's 5-8 Jacoby Ford, Jefferson seemed to
be staring at him much of the time during the tirade.
he has potential, but it seems like the game is a little too fast for him," Jefferson said later. "Maybe I'm too hard on him, but in
this day and age there is no time to get these kids ready. They have to be
ready now. Today was a bit overwhelming for him.
later Jefferson walked over to Gilyard kneeling on one knee and patted him on
the shoulder and Gilyard told him, "I'm going to look you up tonight," after
Jefferson challenged them to spend extra time with him to learn the plays.
then fired on himself in a passionate diatribe for coming out so passively.
ran my first comeback and it got picked, I was saying, 'What's going on? What
am I doing?'" Gilyard fumed at himself. "I'm being coached hard and with
intensity. I need that and it's something that I love. I got frustrated. Then
once I relaxed I got a little bit better toward the end. I need to take what I
did at the end and transfer it to the beginning and just keep
If I had
to guess, though, I think Gilyard goes before Pike in the Draft.
Windt: You ever notice him on the field for Bearcats? Probably not,
and that's probably a good thing. A long-snapper is there not to be noticed,
but to be solid on every single snap. And Windt has been exactly that during
his UC career.
I didn't expect to find much news on Windt, but along came this little passage
things are universal. At NFL practices, the specialists hang in packs (packs of
three to be precise) and that's no different at the Senior Bowl, even if the
trio just met within the past 48 hours. Specialists are also typically the
first ones to arrive at practice and usually display some sort of "abnormal
behavior" in the process.
morning, the few people at Ladd-Peebles Stadium 60 minutes prior to the North's
start-time were treated to a sprinting Mike Windt (LS - Cincinnati) singing the
U.C. fight song. Odd behavior among specialists seems to be world-wide.
On a side
note, don't think that coaches and scouts simply watch practice and leave to
review the tape. These NFL talent evaluators join media members on the field
for post-practice interviews of their own with the college prospects. Even
though the Chiefs seem set at both kicker and punter, that didn't stop special
teams coach Steve Hoffman from gathering all three North specialists for a
ago, I was invited into Butch Jones' office for a little question and answer
session. I hadn't met Jones yet, so I was interested to see him in his new
digs, how he was adjusting to his new job and how he would answer my questions.
Here's part II of III of my interview. In case you missed part I, click on this
Part II begins here:
Katzowitz: Not many people have talked about this, but what kind of defense do
Jones: First of all, we'll be real multiple with a four-down and three-down
front. We'll be very, very aggressive, but we're going to be fundamentally
sound. We'll be a great, great tackling team. We'll pride ourselves on playing
with great fundamentals, not only on defense but on the other phases as well.
they went from a 4-3 with Joe Tresey to a 3-4 with Bob Diaco last year. Is it a
hybrid of that for you, or is it a wholesale change?
not a wholesale change. It'll be a hybrid. We'll do some things with a standup
defensive end and also have him down in a three-point. It's probably a
combination of both defenses.
do you like about that defense?
becomes real multiple. You're able to disguise coverages. You're able to be
sound in the run game and the throw game. It allows you to bring pressure from
the field and from the boundary. It allows you to be multiple yet maintain some
simplicity as well.
interesting with these offensive head coaches who run spread and what their
defensive philosophy is, because that defense has to go against the offense
every day in practice. I wonder if they're always thinking about how they would
stop their own offense. I know Brian thought the 3-4 was right because it could
stop what he was doing.
you look first and foremost at the offenses in the Big East and what you're
going to have to be defending against. That's the first thing. When your
defense is going against your offense, it's imperative you're able to have the
schemes in place that they're going to be seeing on a week-to-week basis in the
Big East conference. A lot of people tend to think of spread offense as four
and five receivers all the time and throwing the ball around and the term "finesse"
comes out. We're far from being a finesse offense. We'll play with a fullback;
we'll play with a tight end. We'll be in multiple personnel groupings. You need
that - you need to take pride in being a physical football team. In order to be
a physical football team, your defense has to see a physical style of football
from your offense day in and day out.
You'll play with a fullback, huh? We haven't seen that here in a while.
Well, it's a fullback/h-back, which is a little different. It's not 21 personnel
and getting high formation. I'm talking about doing different things with the
tight end off the ball and moving him around - more of an H-back type.
Because you were in New Orleans
for the Sugar Bowl and because it was such a blowout loss, do you worry about
losing any kind of momentum from a fan's standpoint? There was so much hype going
into that game and then the team kind of fell flat. Do you worry about that?
BK: No, I
think part of being great fans is the term "loyalty." Fans have great loyalty
to our program and our football players. We have great tradition. You couldn't
help but see the excitement in New
Orleans. The fan support was incredible. I don't think
we lost any momentum at all. What it's done is been a renewed spirit and renewed
energy level for our players and propelling us into our offseason strength and
conditioning program. It was a very special season. Any time you go undefeated,
that's legacy. I don't think there's been any momentum lost at all. It's
refocused our players. They now understand what it takes to play on a national
stage and the things that are associated with those types of games. I don't
think there's been any momentum lost at all.
much do you have to do with fans because the coaching transition, at least at
the beginning, was ... well, frankly, it pissed a lot of people off. I wonder if
there's something you need to do to mend fences. What are your thoughts on
I'm going to be extremely visible as the head football coach at the University of Cincinnati. I'm going to get into the
community. They're going to know me, they're going to know my family. They're
going to see mine and my staff's passion for UC, for Cincinnati in general. You can't hide that
passion. They'll see that passion portrayed out on the football field with our
football teams. We have great fans here, very passionate fans. I'm very excited
to be a part of that process. There will be a process that goes along with it.
People here have been outstanding. Everybody told me that we were moving to a
great community. I've seen that. People have gone out of their way to say hello
and welcome us to the area. You can see that passion. You go back to the Sugar Bowl.
That was an unbelievable scene. It led me to believe that UC football is very important
to the people.
not from Cincinnati,
but moving here and working for the Post and seeing it from an objective point
of a view, I've seen that if you're not winning, people don't really care about
the team. Even the Bengals this year, for the playoff game, it didn't sell out
and there was nobody in the tailgating lots 2 ½ hours before the game. It's
great for you that you had 25,000 people that went down to New Orleans. But I wonder how difficult it is
to maintain that enthusiasm.
wouldn't say we're going to maintain that enthusiasm; we're going to build off
the enthusiasm. We're going to make that even better. I expect season tickets
to increase. I expect it to be even harder to get into Nippert Stadium than
it's ever been. I think of building upon it and building upon what has been established
here and taking it to even greater levels.
you do that by being out in the community?
It's a number
of things. We talk about being a family and developing pride and "Representing
the C." But first of all, it's our players representing extremely well, our players
being visible and our coaches being out there. Our student body, our fans, our
alumni, they see us as one of them as we are in this thing together. It's the
way we'll perform on the field and all the little things. They will know us. It
does become a pride thing. It does become a pride for great support. I think
you just continue to build upon that.
Sounds like Lance Stephenson is going to play today. Will be interested to see how effective he is with his ankle injury.
The starting lineup for UC: Deonta Vaughn, Lance Stephenson, Jaquon Parker, Ibrahima Thomas and Yancy Gates.
Also interested to see how Gates matches up with Samardo Samuels.
I'm still confused about how Mick sees Thomas. Sometimes, he plays 7 minutes in a game. Sometimes, he starts. Today, he starts and immediately hits a 3-pointer.
Looks like Stephenson is fine. He rebounds a Thomas miss and puts in a short jumper and then hits a 3 from top of the key to give UC a 8-0 lead and forces a timeout from Rick Pitino. Later, he rebounds a Vaughn miss and slams it home.
First Yancy Gates foul 2:02 into the game on a hedge 25 feet from the basket. Mick, like he said he would, yanks Gates and puts in Toyloy.
Two minutes later, Toyloy commits his first foul (an offensvie foul), and McClain enters. I'm sure Samuels likes that matchup.
UC is killing Louisville on the boards.
UC 12, Louisville 4 (14:44 to go)
Lance Stephenson with yet another 3-pointer.
UC struggling against the full-court pressure and then against the Cards' zone. Parker catches a break when he's fouled with 1 second on the shot clock. Lucky because he had no chance of getting off a shot.
UC 17, Louisville 8 (11:35 to go)
A couple threes by the Cards, and suddenly, Louisville is right back in the game.
10-second violation for UC, thanks to Louisville's full-court press.
UC 23, Louisville 16 (7:48 to go)
Jaquon Parker, as was to be expected, isn't quite as sure of himself handling the ball today.
Cards go on an 8-0 run, but Vaughn hits a 3 to move the lead to 4.
After missing a 3-pointer, Thomas plays nice defense on Samuels on the other end. First, Samuels basically airballs a layup and then Thomas swats away his second-chance attempt.
The Bearcats have one field goal in the last 6 minutes.
UC 26, Louisville 23 (3:35 to go)
Sosa hits a 3 with 1:40 to go to tie the game at 28-28.
UC goes from pretty good on offense to absolutely horrendous in the span of about 7 minutes. Louisville's press is really hurting the Bearcats.
Vaughn misses the layup, but Gates is there to rebound and dunk to cut the lead to 1. Sosa misses a last-second 3.
Louisville 31, UC 30 (half)
Stephenson leads the way with 12 points and five rebounds, and Gates has eight points. UC is outrebounding Louisville 19-14 and is shooting better from the floor.
Samuels has eight points, but Delk has been pretty impressive as well with seven points and five rebounds.
First three trips down the floor for UC in the second half: a turnover and three bad shots. Bad, as in advisable.
A turnover by Parker, and then Sosa drives right by him for the easy layup.
Louisville on a 26-12 run.
Louisville 40, UC 35 (15:24 to go)
I'll tell you what: UC looks like it has no clue what to do on offense.
Gotta watch out for Sosa. UC doubles the post, leaving Sosa open in the corner. He drains it for the 7-point Louisville lead.
Announcers have been talking about the experience of Vaughn. But he commits an intentional foul on Siva, and the Cards take two FTs and get the ball back.
Whatever happened to Stephenson?
Louisville 48, UC 38 (11:54 to go)
Vaughn hits a 3 from the top of the key to keep UC close.
Louisville 54, UC 47 (7:26 to go)
Cashmere Wright scores five straight points. He's done a nice job today.
UC cuts the leads to two, but Dixon misses a 3 and the commits an offensive foul. Meanwhile, Delk hits a 3 and Samuels hits a turnaround jumper to increase the lead to seven again.
Cardinals definitely outhustling the Bearcats.
But Wright hits another 3 to cut the lead to 4. He's scored the team's last 10 points.
Louisville 61, UC 57 (2:28 to go)
For some reason, Mick takes out Wright and inserts Parker. My tweeps argue it was for defensive reasons, but I still don't like the move.
Sosa hits a 3 to increase it to 7.
Samuels misses a 3 with 1:05 to play, and Delk gets the rebound. Yep, this one is about over.
Louisville 64, UC 57 (1:00 to go)
Vaughn hits a 3 to make it 66-60, but that's as close as the Bearcats will get.
Vaughn, Gates and Stephenson each finish with 12 points. Stephenson has seven rebounds and Vaughn with five assists. UC didn't shoot terribly, but its 17 turnovers hurt.
week, I was invited into Butch Jones' office for a little question and answer
session. I hadn't met Jones yet, so I was interested to see him in his new
digs, how he was adjusting to his new job and how he would answer my questions.
Here's part I of III of my interview.
Katzowitz: So, you've been here a couple weeks. How's everything going?
Jones: The transition has been extremely smooth. We really benefitted from being
here very early. Getting a head start on everything, a head start on recruiting.
Being able to evaluate things, so all of a sudden after the Sugar Bowl, we've
come in and hit the ground running.
interesting the way the dynamic was. The last head coach came in and was caching
the team for the International Bowl game. It was a little different situation
with you. Was it OK for you? I don't know if it was an awkward situation, but
it must have been nice to be able to take a step back and see who you've got.
was great to be able to evaluate everything. I tried to stay as much in the
background as possible. It was extremely beneficial to be able to take the time
in hiring the staff and do due diligence there. We really benefited as a program
of that time where we could sit back and see what was needed so we could hit it
running once we were able to maintain a staff and go out and start recruiting.
that aspect of it? How's the recruiting going?
going extremely well. We had our first official visit weekend (the weekend of
Jan. 8). I thought it went extremely well, and our coaches did a great job.
That's one of the great things about being at the University of Cincinnati.
There's so much to sell, from great academics, to great facilities, great
people, great city. A lot of times it sells itself.
wonder: you have these recruits that are already committed to UC. How do you
spend your time keeping the guys you want and maybe there are some guys you
don't want and going out and getting new recruits? It must be an interesting
BJ: It is
very interesting. You have to basically re-recruit them. We basically started
the process of recruiting from scratch. But I'll tell you what: We have a lot
of players in this class that are extremely loyal to Cincinnati. That's critical in the recruiting
process. It's something special to be able to stay at home and stay in your hometown
and represent your university. We've been able to get with our players that
were committed and obviously bringing in some new players as well.
JK: I did
a lot of research for my book, and every coach that came in always said, "We
need to recruit Cincinnati,
because there's such a good base of players here." Most of the guys were not
successful. It began to get better with (Mark) Dantonio, and Brian (Kelly),
with Kerry (Coombs), did a nice job. Is the base of the city still very
important to you?
The foundation of our football program will be based from the greater Cincinnati area. And
within a 200-mile radius. We'll also venture off and find the best possible
student-athletes that will represent the University of Cincinnati.
We use a term called "Represent the C." There are so many things that the C
stands for, from character to championships to academics to University of Cincinnati,
to city of Cincinnati.
You're in a great state, one of the best states for high school football, and
you couple it with a great area and the surrounding areas. The respect that we
have on a national scope as well really lends itself to the recruiting process.
Central, I would imagine you're not as focused on more national-type
recruiting. I'm sure you saw more of that (when you were an assistant coach) at
How do you balance that here because Cincinnati
is now becoming more of a national program? Is that something where you can
compete on the national level?
of all, at Central Michigan in last year's recruiting
class, we had 12 different states represented. That's a byproduct of being on national
television and this past year, we were a top-25 football program. You look at Cincinnati. We're going
to win with Cincinnati players, with the state
of Ohio first and foremost, but again, because
of the national scope, we're able to walk into different areas and people
understand what Cincinnati
is all about. They understand the tradition that exists here. We'll continue to
go anywhere and everywhere for players. But we're going to take care of home.
Obviously, the first hire you made was Kerry. Why?
of all, I've known Kerry Coombs for a number of years. I've had great respect
for him - not only as a coach but as a person. Kerry brings so much to our
football program. To me, that was critical. He's been instrumental in the transition
phase - not only for myself but for our coaches as well. He means so much to UC
guess it is nice to have at least one guy who can transition the staffs and stay
question. Coach Coombs is respected so much in Cincinnati,
in the entire state of Ohio
and surrounding areas. Obviously, he has a great passion and energy and great
love for UC. He knows the ins and outs, and he's been a great asset to me and
the rest of the staff.
been a lot of talk about your (offensive) philosophies - that brand of exciting
football, throw it down the field a lot. How would your characterize your
offense? Is it spread, no-huddle?
a spread, no-huddle, up-tempo football team. We're up-tempo, and we're going to
play fast in all three phases - offensively, defensively and with special
teams. Everything we do, we train to play fast. We'll be very aggressive on
defense and very sound in the kicking game.
did you learn offense from? Who were your mentors?
benefitted with working for a lot of great coaches. It's not just been one
coach, but it's been a number of coaches. I've benefitted from getting into
coaching at an early age because of an injury in college. Being able to work in
the National Football League for three years, it got my career jumpstarted a
little bit. From the spread offense with Rich Rodriguez and being with him a
little over two years and being with Brian for a year and some other coaches as
well. I've really been a benefactor of working with and working for a lot of great
that the Tampa Bay Bucs in the late '80s? Who was coaching?
Perkins. 1987, 88, 89.
did you do?
BK: I was
an intern and then a quality control coach.
that a pretty good education for a young guy?
it's a great education. Those experiences are invaluable.
and III of my Butch Jones interview will run next week.
it wasn't exactly the win the Bearcats - not to mention coach Mick Cronin -
would have wanted, but UC will take it. The 78-70 victory against South Florida gives the Bearcats a 4-3 Big East record
and slightly strengthens their resume for possible NCAA tournament inclusion.
And yeah, there were some problems that need to be corrected before they travel
on Sunday, but maybe, they should just take a moment to reflect in a
with the way the Bearcats shot the ball (55.6 percent from the floor) and with
how little sophomore forward Yancy Gates played. Oh yeah, and the fact Lance
Stephenson (sprained ankle) was missing as well.
really happy we got out with a win," Cronin said.
And he should
be. But there's plenty on which the Bearcats can improve. Goal No. 1: convince
Gates that he needs to stop getting himself into foul trouble.
coming off his stalwart performance on defense against Notre Dame's Luke
Harangody and his game-winning shot to beat the Irish. Against the Bulls early,
he looked ready for another big game, scoring six-straight points to give the
Bearcats a 10-4 lead. But he picked up foul No. 2 just four minutes into the
game and he took a seat on the bench as the Bulls went on a 6-0 run of their
own to tie the contest.
second half, he was whistled for his fourth foul with 13:51 remaining, and once
again, Cronin had to yank him from the game. Gates finished with eight points
and two rebounds. He'll need to be more productive than that on Sunday in Louisville when he has to
face Cardinals sophomore center Samardo Samuels, who's averaging 16.3 points
and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Cardinals.
to adjust," Cronin said on his postgame radio show. "If he gets the quick early
one, I'm going to take him out. And he was dominating. It's tougher for a big
guy because your man could get by you and drive to the basket and then they may
jump into him. It may not even be a foul on him. But he has to know in that
situation that it's just not worth it early in the game. It affects us."
for UC, Steve Toyloy - who was battling a stomach virus - managed to play 28
minutes and finish with nine points and eight rebounds.
"Steve Toyloygutted it out," Cronin said. "We had to sub him out because he was having
stomach flu issues. He had to come out and throw up a couple of times. It
wasn't a pretty sight from what I hear."
guard Lance Stephenson sprained his ankle during Tuesday's practice, the same
ankle he hurt earlier in the season, and after not playing him vs. the Bulls,
Cronin said Stephenson was day to day. He could suit up against the Cardinals
on Sunday, though. He plans to give Stephenson the day off from practice
Thursday but would like to see him practice Friday and/or Saturday in
preparation for the Louisville
though, will not push him too hard.
going to put Lance in jeopardy," Cronin said. "We have a long season. If he's
healthy, he'll play. If he's not, he won't. I'm not going to throw him out
there if he's hobbling. Our season is too long, and we have too many things to
accomplish. He's too important to just put him out there if he can't practice."
Cronin seemed pleased with the response he got from freshman point guard
Cashmere Wright after Cronin benched him for the Notre Dame game because of a
lack of effort during practice, he started freshman Jaquon Parker in his place.
And Parker rewarded him with a 15-point, five-assist effort.
told me before the game just to be solid and get everyone involved," Parker
said. "And when you score, just to make the best of it. Shots were going in. It
was a good game for me. Oh man, that's good (on having five assists and zero
turnovers). There were some close calls."
South Florida coach Stan Heath wasn't happy to see it.
surprised," he said. "I won't be too happy with my assistant coaches for
scouting. He stepped up. I didn't really know how to look at Lance not playing.
I was afraid we let our guard down and relaxed. I was afraid that Deonta
(Vaughn, who scored a team-high 20 points) would step up, and both of those
things happened. A guy like Parker really stepped up and made some great plays
and shots. He did a nice job for their team."