Tuberville, Bearcats keep building in Year 3
CINCINNATI -- Tommy Tuberville was hired as the University of Cincinnati football coach in early December 2012. He had less than two months to put together a coaching staff and get caught up on the next season's recruiting class after Butch Jones left to take over at Tennessee.
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Things have been less hectic -- which is a relative term in the world of college recruiting -- the last two years as Tuberville and his staff have worked to mold the Bearcats into their image of a championship program.
"We are light years away from two years ago in December," said Tuberville Wednesday afternoon after this year's recruiting class of 28, including 10 players who have already enrolled in classes and will take part of spring practice, was announced.
Winning and familiarity go a long way in recruiting. UC is 18-8 in Tuberville's first two seasons, including rebounding from a 2-3 start last season to win its final seven regular season games and earn a share of the American Athletic Conference title with Memphis and Central Florida. The Bearcats featured a robust offense, led by quarterback Gunner Kiel who lived up his high school recruiting hype after not playing a snap of competitive football for three years.
The 28-member class is the same number the Bearcats added last year. Tuberville's first class numbered 22. The 10 players who have already enrolled at UC are an increase from the first two classes. There were five early enrollees in the 2013 class and four last year.
"It's good for this class to finally materialize and see it all come together the last day," said Tuberville. "We really didn't lose anybody we were really after the last couple of weeks. It worked out well. It was one of those things as we look at it that we're hoping it falls together in the last couple of weeks and it did for us this year."
According to numerous scouting services, including Scout.com, UC's class was given the No. 1 rating in the AAC. Six of the recruits came from Ohio, six from Florida and three from Texas. The majority of the class is made up of high school recruits (22) but the six junior college players should have a shot at coming in and competing for playing time right away.
Tuberville said linebacker Jaylyin Minor (Tyler (Texas) JC) and defensive end Lyndon Johnson (Holmes (Miss.) CC) are prominent among those junior college recruits. And yes, Johnson is named after the 36th President of the United States of America. They even share the same middle name, Baines.
Two years ago, Tuberville and his newly-formed staff were flying virtually blind. He had never coached in the Midwest before, being an assistant at Miami (Fla.) before head coaching gigs at Mississippi, Auburn and Texas Tech. They didn't know Ohio or the surrounding states. They didn't know the high school coaches. The high school coaches didn't know them.
That's changed. They had eight Ohio players in last year's class, while out of their top five recruits this year, according to Scout.com's ratings, four of them are from Ohio: defensive end Marquise Copeland (Bedford), tight end Doug Bates (Cincinnati Moeller), linebacker Bryce Jenkinson (Greenville) and linebacker Matthew Draper (Lydhurst Brush).
"We know a little bit more and we got more comfortable," said Tuberville. "That first year is awful for anybody. You don't know what you're doing. You don't know what you're recruiting against, and especially for new coaches with all new staffs. There is a comfort zone that you've got to get into with the coaches. They don't know you.
"We lost a kid from Massillon when we first got here. They didn't know us. You can't blame other players with new coaches going somewhere else when they don't know who you are."
They know Tuberville and his version of the UC program better now.
It helps to have a top quarterback like Kiel. The Bearcats added one quarterback in this class (Ross Trail of Wynne, Ark.) and four wide receivers: Daniel Cobb (Fort Meyers, Fla.), Kahlil Lewis (Hollywood, Fla.), Braxton Neal (West Chester Lakota West) and walk-on Brandon Beard (Fredricksburg, Texas).
"We're one of the few teams that throws the ball deep down the field. A lot of other teams around the country throw this chuck-and-duck stuff where it's three yards and hope you break a tackle," said Tuberville. "We do some of that but we like to throw the ball deep, throw it vertical and stretch the field because we have receivers.
"It was important for Gunner to have some success his first year, get away from that myth point. It was a very positive experience and Gunner's going to be much better as time goes. Gunner doing what he did, throwing a lot of deep balls, not only helped us with a quarterback like Ross Trail but helped us with wide receivers."
Lewis was the last recruit to fax in his paperwork to UC. That came in around 1 p.m. Lewis (6-foot, 180 pounds), had been expected to sign with West Virginia, along with as many as six other of his teammates from Miramar High School according to the Sun Sentinel reporter Ryan S. Clark. He defied those expectations and chose UC instead.
"I think he saw an opportunity with all of the senior wide receivers that we have coming back next season to come in and learn and then find his way into a starting position maybe next year or, if not next year then the year after that," said Tuberville