February 2012

Yancy’s Legacy

What is Yancy Gates’ legacy as a UC Bearcat?

I suspect that topic is going to be debated quite a bit heading into Yancy’s final home game on Wednesday night against Marquette.

Here are my thoughts.

I believe that Yancy has endured more scrutiny and criticism from fans and media than any other UC player in recent memory and I don’t think it is because he is from Cincinnati.  It is largely because of what he is not.  He is not a First-Team All-American.  He is not Danny Fortson on offense, Kenyon Martin on defense, and doesn’t have the relentless motor of Eric Hicks (few do).  He is not the NBA lottery pick that many people thought he might become at 6’9”, 260.

Additionally, he bears responsibility for suspensions in his final two seasons – for a verbal altercation with an assistant coach as a junior and for punching an opponent as a senior.  Yancy did not make excuses in either case, admitted his mistakes, and publically apologized.  I believe he was sincere and has learned from his mistakes.

So instead of fixating on what Yancy is not, let’s take a look at what he is.

He is about to become the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounding for four straight years.

He will finish his career as one of the top 15 scorers in Bearcat history.

With 853 rebounds, he is on the verge of passing Martin (869), Fortson (873), and Hicks (888), and depending on how many games that Cincinnati plays in the post-season, Yancy could become one of 10 players in school history to reach 900 rebounds.

As a junior, he played a major role in getting the Bearcats back to the NCAA Tournament and finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in their tourney win over Missouri.  As a senior, he’s nearly averaging a double/double at 12 points and 9 rebounds, and is probably one win away from securing a return trip to March Madness.

He has been accessible and honest with the media and has never publically complained about the criticism he’s received on talk shows and message boards.

Most importantly, Yancy was one of the most highly-touted recruits to come out of Cincinnati in the last 20 years and elected to play for UC even though the program was in shambles after a messy divorce with Bob Huggins.  Yancy brought massive credibility to Mick Cronin’s rebuilding effort and was a starter from Day 1.

Oh yeah, and he stayed for four years.

I asked Coach Cronin on Sunday to discuss Yancy’s legacy.  Here’s his answer in its entirety.

He rebuilt the program. I think that’s got to be the focus.  I believe in the positive and you have to understand that he came to us when it was not in vogue to come to Cincinnati.  He could have gone anywhere in America.  He had offers from everybody.  When I went in there to see him, I was sitting next to Billy Donovan, John Thompson, Rick Pitino, you name it.  They were sitting at Withrow High School, and he committed to the Bearcats after we finished 2-14 in the Big East.  He made his announcement right after that.  It allowed us to go out and recruit some other guys with some confidence.  The impact of him coming to our school was immense.

Secondly, he had the weight of the world on his shoulders for four years and I admire the fact that he and his family have shown an immense amount of class and character through tough times.  With this age of the internet and talk radio, he’s taken a lot of shots.  He’s a young kid – they’re not professionals.  You know, he’s had some bad days, but his family showed immense class and character though the whole thing as well as Yancy.  We wouldn’t be where we are as a program if he wouldn’t have been with us.

In this presidential election year, we are going to hear candidates from both sides ask the following question between now and November, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Nobody is asking that question about the UC basketball program and Yancy Gates is largely responsible.

Seems like a pretty good legacy to me.

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Searching For Clues At The NFL Combine

I certainly didn’t expect Marvin Lewis to step to the podium on Friday and tell us who the Bengals are hoping to select with their two first round picks in this year’s draft.

No GM or coach is that forthcoming at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Lewis is always guarded in what he shares with the media.

Still, there were possible clues to the team’s off-season plans.

Most mock drafts have the Bengals using one of their first round picks on a cornerback.  It is a position of need since Leon Hall is trying to come back from a torn Achilles, Nate Clements is 33-years-old, and Adam Jones is a free agent.

The last two times that the Bengals drafted a corner in the first round, they did well by picking Hall and Johnathan Joseph,

“There’s research that says that the best starting corners in the National Football League are first round picks,” said Coach Lewis.  “There’s an occasional second round guy or third round guy, but year after year, the best ones are generally first round picks.”

That doesn’t guarantee that the Bengals will choose a cornerback in round one, but it would not be a surprise.

The Bengals could also be looking at running backs.  Cedric Benson will become an unrestricted free agent next Month and recently told Sirius NFL Radio that he has not talked to the club about a new contract.

“We want to improve our running game, and if that includes Ced it will include Ced,” said Lewis.  “But we know that is an important part of what we need to do as a football team.  We need to create more explosive runs and more explosive plays offensively, and I think that’s going to be a part of it.”

Several mock drafts have the Bengals targeting an offensive guard with one of their first round selections.  Nate Livings, Mike McGlynn, and Bobbie Williams are all free agents, and the 36-year-old Williams broke his ankle late in the season.

But Coach Lewis disputes the notion that the Bengals have a dire need at guard.

“We’ve got some guys in the bank, and last year we didn’t know who those guys were,” said Lewis.  “Otis Hudson had an outstanding training camp for us before he got
injured.  We drafted Clint (Boling) and at the beginning of the year he started for us.  We’re in no situation where we have to panic.  Nate is a free agent and we have the opportunity to get him back.  We brought in McGlynn who filled-in a void between center and guard.  We’re in pretty good shape.”

Marvin did make one guarantee:  He told us what position the Bengals won’t target in the first round.

“I think we’re going to pick a guy that has a chance to contribute to our football team very, very early and he probably won’t be a quarterback,” said Lewis.  “But I think that basically any other position is in our sights depending on who the best guys are.

“We have a good opportunity ahead of us. We do have the two first round picks and know that it’s important to hit on guys that can come in and make a contribution at some point.  I don’t know if it’s going to be Day 1, but he’ll have the opportunity to become a productive player year after year after year.  They have to share the passion of being able to play, the ability to be able to play, and we’ll probably have an opportunity for them to play right away.”

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Coach Lewis had interesting things to say about a pair of former UC Bearcats.

Running back Isaiah Pead is generally projected to be picked late in the second round or early in the third round after being named MVP of the Senior Bowl.

“I think he’s a really good prospect,” said Lewis.  “I have not watched much tape on him so it would only be TV scouting.  I think he showed a different dimension with the punt returning that he did at the Senior Bowl and I think that’s going to do nothing but elevate his stock and his opportunity.  I have not even met him and he’s not on our interview list here because we’ll be able to spend enough time with him back at home.”

Wide receiver Armon Binns went undrafted last year, but was signed to the Bengals practice squad on September 20th and will battle for playing time in training camp.

“I think Armon made great strides,” said Lewis.  “Our offensive coaches at the end of the year wanted me to put him in the game.  They wanted to not only dress him but, ‘Can we start him?’  There’s another player that we identified last year as a good prospect.  We’re not afraid to play young players if the guy can do it.”

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“The Inseparables” Look To Lead Bearcats Back To NCAA Tourney

Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon have been UC Bearcats for the last 1,252 days.  Sometime in the next 41 days, their college careers will be finished.

“Time flies,” said Dixon.  “I can remember my freshman year like it was yesterday.”

“We talk about how we came in together and everybody said we were ‘The Inseparables’ because we go to class together, practice together, everything,” said Gates.  “Now we’re about to be on our way out together – it’s crazy.”

Their reasons for coming to Cincinnati were different.  In Dixon’s case, the rebuilding Bearcats offered an opportunity to play right away in the nation’s best conference.

“I felt like I could come here and play, and I felt like they needed me to play right away to help the team,” said Dixon.  “I thought that I could come here and have a good career and it turned out well.”

For Gates, the former Withrow High School star, it was the opportunity to help put UC basketball back on the map after the turmoil that resulted from the ouster of Bob Huggins.

“Rebuilding the program was the main thing for me,” Gates told me.  “When Coach Cronin was recruiting me, that’s all that we talked about.  I told him that I was willing to come in and do whatever I needed to do to help, whether it was hosting recruits when they came here, or playing my game.  That’s been really big for me – especially being from here – helping to get the program in my home city back on track.”

Gates and Dixon helped the Bearcats return to the NCAA Tournament as juniors, and are determined to return to March Madness as seniors.  As much as they try to focus on the next game, it’s hard to ignore the various bracketologists that have Cincinnati listed as a bubble team.

“I know for me, that it’s kind of hard not to pay attention to it – especially as a senior,” said Gates.  “You’re constantly looking at where you stand and what you have to do to improve your status and try to make the tournament.”

“We don’t know if we are in or not right now, so we feel like our backs are against the wall and we have to win out,” said Dixon.

Their fate is in their own hands.  Cincinnati’s next three games are against teams that are currently in the Top 50 of the RPI (Louisville-21, USF-50, Marquette-8), followed by a difficult road game at Villanova on Senior Day.

“We’re looking at these games as must wins,” said Dixon.  “We don’t want to leave any doubt in anybody’s minds.”

“We feel we’re capable of pulling these last four games out, so that’s been our big focus,” said Gates.

Realistically, the ‘Cats probably need to win at least two of their last four games, and a win on Thursday night over 17th-ranked Louisville would be great for their tournament resume.

“Nine o’clock…ESPN…it’s hard not to be excited about it,” said Gates.  “And it’s Louisville – college basketball at its best.”

“Everything is on the line…identical records…this is what it’s all about,” said Dixon.  “You work all year for this.”

By then, they will have worked for 1,254 days.

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Cincinnati’s non-conference strength of schedule has been a major topic of conversation in recent weeks, and one thing that would have helped it considerably, was if Coach Cronin had gotten his wish in the Big East/SEC Challenge.

“We were tabbed to be a road team and we were slated to play Georgia,” said Cronin.  “I lobbied and requested to play Kentucky or Alabama – the two highest-rated SEC teams that were scheduled to play at home in that challenge.  But ESPN gets to pick that, and I was upset with the Big East because I didn’t think that they fought hard enough.  They sent St. John’s to the wolves at Kentucky, and I thought that was unfair to those kids because they have a team with no experience.  I thought our league should have been stronger and never let that happen.  Especially when you have a coach 75 miles from Lexington that’s saying, ‘I’ll go down and play ‘em win, lose, or draw.’”

One way to boost the non-conference RPI is to play tough opponents in early-season tournaments and the Bearcats are scheduled to do that next season.

“Next year at Thanksgiving, we’ll be in Las Vegas playing Iowa State in our first game and then either Oregon or UNLV in the second game,” said Coach Cronin.  “So we’ll have a chance to get some decent wins early and establish our RPI.”

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JK Schaffer Looks To Prove Doubters Wrong…Again

JK Schaffer spent the last four years proving people wrong.

After not being heavily recruited out of LaSalle High School, Schaffer concluded his college career as a First-Team All-Big East linebacker – one of only four players in league history to have more than 100 tackles in three straight seasons.

So as far as JK is concerned, not being invited to next week’s NFL Scouting Combine is par for the course.

“I’ve always used that stuff for motivation,” Schaffer told me.  “When I was in high school, people told me that I wouldn’t play in Division I.  Now, it’s not getting invited to the combine or people saying, ‘He’s too small, he’s too whatever.’  I just take all of that stuff and think about it on that last run of conditioning drills when I’m struggling and don’t want to do it anymore.  It’s another reason to go out and prove people wrong.  I also look at it as giving me an extra week to train and get ready for Pro Day.”

While fellow seniors Isaiah Pead, Derek Wolfe, and John Hughes will be in Indianapolis when the combine starts on Wednesday, Schaffer’s opportunity to work out for NFL scouts will come on March 2nd when UC holds its annual Pro Day.

Schaffer, an excellent student who was recently named the Big East Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, is now busy cramming for the tests he’ll get from NFL scouts.

“It’s all about Pro Day,” said Schaffer.  “About 3 ½ weeks ago, I moved up to Barrington, Illinois which is a little northwest of Chicago and is where my agent is based.  I’m living and training with two guys from Northern Illinois University while taking 15 hours of online classes because I want to be able to graduate by June.  We work out three to four times a day and at the field house where we have the weight room and the field where we do all of our position drills and running.  We have basketball courts where we do different things and there’s a pilates room which we use twice a week.  That’s basically my life right now – training six days a week for most of the day and then coming back to the house and doing a little homework.”

Schaffer, who was listed at 6’1, 227 this year, is trying to get bigger and stronger while shaving a fraction of a second off of his 40-yard dash and shuttle run times.

“I’m trying to put on a little bit of weight,” JK told me.  “I’ve never really been above 230 in my life, so I’m trying to get to 235.  Obviously, I can’t improve my height, although I would really like to.  You can’t get that much faster, but what you can improve is your technique.  I know that I didn’t understand technique, so we’re working with a lot of guys who know what they’re doing.”

While Schaffer was not invited to the combine, he was selected for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl – an all-star game in California where he played for former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil.

“The whole week leading up to the game was great, but unfortunately, I played four seasons at Cincinnati and didn’t miss a play due to injury, and pretty early-on in that All-Star Game, I took a helmet to the hip and got a hip pointer,” said Schaffer.  “I couldn’t even stand up, so I got taken out of the game.  That’s why you didn’t see much of me.  I’m fully recovered from that, so it’s not a problem.  I was sore for a couple of weeks, but it was not a serious injury.”

Wes Welker, Osi Umenyiora, and Jay Ratliff are among the current NFL players who have been to multiple Pro Bowls despite not being invited to the combine, and while UC head coach Butch Jones is not necessarily predicting Pro Bowl appearances in Schaffer’s future, he has been singing JK’s praises to NFL teams.

“The scouting process is not an exact science and they can’t measure the intangibles,” said Coach Jones.  “On Pro Day, everybody is looking at your athleticism – the way you run a 40-yard dash, your short shuttle time, your change of direction – but what you can’t measure at Pro Day is heart, and that’s what JK has.  The big thing that every coach looks for is consistency, and the great think about JK is that you know what you are going to get each and every day.  He has great competitive spirit and coachability – couple that with his physical skills and, I am his biggest advocate to say the least.”

Coach Jones says he expects Schaffer to get an opportunity in training camp to make a roster, but the senior linebacker takes it a step further by saying he expects to play in the NFL.

“There’s no doubt,” JK told me.  “I don’t know what kind of competitor I would be if there was any doubt.”

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How Mick Makes Use Of His Movie Memory

Do you have any friends that have an uncanny ability to remember famous lines from movies?

I do.  His name is Mick Cronin.

“My memory is probably my best trait,” said the UC head coach.  “Whether it’s a player from years ago or a play that the other team runs, I think that recall is one of my strengths.  Plus, I’ve watched certain movies multiple times.”

Mick makes frequent use of his movie memory.  For example, when asked at a recent news conference about fighting through the Big East grind, Coach Cronin quoted the end of Rambo: First Blood Part II when Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) tries to comfort John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) before Stallone’s character walks off into the distance as the credits roll.

Colonel Trautman:  How will you live John?

Rambo:  Day by day.

Coach Cronin doesn’t only use movie references when dealing with reporters.  Frequently when trying to emphasize a point at practice, he’ll quote a movie line in an effort to make it resonate with the players.

“You pick out spots,” Mick told me.  “A good example would be, when a guy is trying to do too much with the basketball, I hit ‘em with General McAlister from Lethal Weapon:  ‘There’s no more heroes left in the world son.’  In other words, just play your role and take care of the ball.  During the suspensions when we only had eight guys and had to stick together, we brought out, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper,’ which is a New Jack City reference.”

“He has a lot of movie quotes and they are usually right on,” said Yancy Gates.  “It’s hard to remember them all because he has so many.  I can’t remember the movie, but one line that he uses is, ‘You’re nothing but a lot of talk and a badge.’  That’s one of his favorites after a loss.”

For the record, that line comes from The Untouchables and is used to make the point that talk is cheap.  It’s no surprise that Yancy Gates remembered the line but not the movie since the film came out two years before he was born.

“He usually talks about movies that we’ve never seen,” said Dion Dixon with a laugh.  “They’re either too old or they’re movies that we don’t watch.”

“Unfortunately, if it’s not a slapstick comedy, today’s players have not seen the movie,” said Coach Cronin.

Mick, on the other hand, prefers the classics.  What’s at the top of his all-time list?

“The Godfather, which I brought with me on the last road trip,” said Cronin.  “I have trouble sleeping, so I can always put on The Godfather 1 or 2.  I have to put those two near the top, along with Goodfellas, and Pulp Fiction.  After that, there’s another category where you go from the best movies of all-time to some really good movies that I enjoy.”

Mick actually used a line from The Godfather when talking to the players about not sharing too much inside information about the team on their Twitter accounts.

The Bearcats most recent road trip to St. John’s and Marquette even included a trip to the movies.  To break up the drudgery of going back-and-forth between practice gyms and hotel rooms, the entire team went to see the new Denzel Washington movie Safe House.

“We talked to Drew (Seidenberger, Director of Basketball Operations) about it,” said Cashmere Wright.  “We said, ‘We’re going to be on the road for so long, we have to do something.’  He said, ‘I’ll talk to coach about it.’”

“That was the movie that everybody was talking about,” said Gates.  “We were all planning to see it together when we got home, so when Drew told us we were going to go see it on the road trip, everybody was excited.  I thought it was great – another great Denzel movie.  I think he’s the only bad guy that has everybody cheering for him.”

While the Bearcats went to watch Denzel last week, the Academy Award-winning actor showed up at Madison Square Garden two years ago to watch them.  He was sitting near President Clinton when West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler beat the Bearcats with a last-second three point bank shot.

“Denzel is a big college basketball fan and his son Malcolm is a pretty good player,” said Coach Cronin.  “We have mutual friends so I’ve met him before and he’s a huge basketball fan.  He’s one of the best actors of our time, so I thought the guys would like it and it got us out of the hotel.”

There’s a scene in Safe House (it’s in the trailer so I’m not spoiling anything) where a young CIA employee played by Ryan Reynolds tells Denzel’s character that “you’re not getting into my head.”

Denzel’s character coolly responds that “I’m already in your head.”

I wouldn’t be shocked if that line is eventually used to make a point at a Bearcat practice.

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Bearcats Get Wake-Up Call

The text message from Mick Cronin to his players was sent on Monday night.  Instead of practicing the following afternoon at the usual time of 3 o’clock, everybody was required to be ready to go at 7:30 on Tuesday morning.

“When he sent us the text, everybody was like, ‘Yo, this is not looking good,’” said Sean Kilpatrick.  “Usually when a coach wants you to come in at 7:30 in the morning it means you have to get your track shoes ready.”

But Coach Cronin’s objective was not punitive.

“We don’t have class until 11 o’clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I was just trying to keep it fresh for the guys,” Mick told me.  “It gives them more recovery time until the next day and changes the routine up – which I think is important this time of year.  Also, it allows the coaching staff to get on the phone and recruit and do the things that they need to do.”

The twice-a-week early morning practices are expected to continue until the end of the academic quarter and while they are not meant to be punishment, the players have been doing plenty of running.

“It has been ‘get out the track shoes’ to be honest with you,” said Coach Cronin.  “I think that lately we’ve played too slow and as a coach, you always have to look in the mirror.  Coaching is not about telling guys what to do; it’s about getting them to do it.”

In their last two games, the Bearcats scored 53 points in their loss to Syracuse, and 54 in their loss at Rutgers.  Coach Cronin disputes the notion that they’ve changed their offensive approach from the attack that helped them win five of their first six Big East games.

“You have to get easy baskets,” said Coach Cronin.  “When we were 5-1, we were averaging 11 steals a game.  The telling stats for easy baskets are ‘points off turnovers’ and ‘second-chance points.’  If you have to rely on all of your baskets in a Big East game coming in the half-court, you’re not going to win.  You have to get second and third shots, and more importantly, you have to get easy baskets in transition.  We’ve worked really hard at practice this week on getting back to being aggressive on what we’re doing on the defensive end to get us some easier baskets on the offensive end.  We’re trying to get back to running on every possession and trying to attack teams before they can set the defense.”

Cincinnati is hardly the only team that has had low-scoring games in Big East play.  Connecticut scored 44 points in Wednesday’s loss at Georgetown, the Hoyas were held to 49 points in a victory over Providence on December 31st, and Pittsburgh managed 39 points in a home game against Rutgers on January 11th.  It didn’t mean that Jim Calhoun, John Thompson III, and Jamie Dixon forgot how to coach.

“Fans are entitled to their opinion, but I don’t think they realize how hard it is to score in the Big East,” said Kilpatrick.  “Every day you face something different.  Teams have scouting reports and they adjust their defenses to the way that we play and the way that everybody else plays.  Lately, the teams in the Big East have been doing a great job of that.”

“Look at Syracuse,” said Coach Cronin.  “They are number one in the country in steals, but in their last three games, they scored 58 at Notre Dame, 60 at Cincinnati, and 63 against West Virginia.  Their scoring totals are coming down because teams are not giving them all of those fast break points.”

So in an effort to get the Bearcats back to forcing turnovers and getting some easy hoops, Coach Cronin has been “cracking the whip” at the crack of dawn.

“No mistake has gone unchallenged or unpunished this week,” Mick told me.  “But the guys’ attitude has been great.  Winning will take of itself if your focus is on playing smart, having intensity, and staying together as a team.”

“You never know what’s going to happen with Coach Cronin,” said Kilpatrick.  “I think it’s been a good idea though.  We looked at the last couple of games that we played and it was embarrassing.  Everyone knows that and everybody’s mindset has been different.  The past few days have been great.”

Nine Newcomers Get Jump On UC Careers

I don’t know about you, but if I had bolted from high school in the middle of my senior year to enroll in college nine months early I would have been absolutely petrified.

Shoot, I was nervous enough when I showed up in September with the rest of the freshman class.

But nine members of this year’s UC football recruiting class that signed their letters of intent on Wednesday have been enrolled in class since early January.

Deionte Buckley, Warren Central H.S.

“It was difficult at first,” said running back Deionte Buckley from Indianapolis, IN.  “You have that heartbreak of missing your family and missing your friends – you might have a girl back home – but after the third week or so you get used to it.  You know what you’re here for and you have to grind and work hard.”

“I miss my family and I went to school with my younger sister, so I miss going to school with her,” said defensive lineman Josh Posley from Indianapolis, IN.  “I miss being part of my high school family, but I know what I’m here for and I know that this is going to help me in the future.”

By enrolling early, the nine recruits can get a jump on their academics, participate in the Bearcats’ off-season workout program, and take part in spring football.

Bennie Coney, Plant City H.S.

“That’s the best way to compete and have the opportunity to play early,” said quarterback Bennie Coney from Plant City, FL.  “I decided that if I got in early, I could learn the playbook and it would be fair game on the field.”

“It was something that I always wanted to do because I’ve always wanted to play as a true freshman,” said linebacker Errol Clarke from Miami, FL.  “So I figured what’s the point of waiting?  I wanted to get a head start on other guys and get going.  I just have to work really hard in the weight room and on the field.”

“Since my freshman year of high school, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do,” said quarterback Trenton Norvell from Daytona Beach, FL.  “Regardless of what school that I chose, I just wanted to get ahead of the competition, get into the playbook and the weight room, and have a chance to start.”

The adjustment to college life has been an eye-opener – especially the demands of strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson.

“He’s been murdering us,” said safety Marcus Foster from Troy, OH.  “They say that it’s going to get even harder, but I’ve never been around anything like this.  The first few weeks have been kind of hectic.  It’s a lot different.  Being on your own, you have to be responsible and be where you’re supposed to be.  It’s a lot different when your mom and dad aren’t there to tell you when to get up and when to go to bed.”

“We haven’t started practice yet, but it’s already a lot of work,” said defensive back Kevin Brown from Indianapolis, IN.  “You have to have the mindset to come in and work hard because you know it’s going to be better for you in the long run.”

I spoke with seven of the nine early enrollees on Wednesday and found their reasons for choosing Cincinnati to be remarkably similar.

“The love and the atmosphere from the coaches,” said Coney.  “The players were upfront and told me how everything was.  They said that the coaches were real and really cared about the players as more than just athletes.

“I came with my mom on my visit and it was her first time flying.  When we got to campus, all of the coaches were at the bottom of the stairs and they gave me a standing ovation.  It was a real nice welcome and I felt pretty special.”

“When I first visited, it felt like a family – I felt at home,” said Buckley.  “I woke up one morning and it was on my mind.  I talked to my parents about it and they loved it.  When they first came down here, they loved it too.  It was God’s will – he showed me here and this is the best place for me to be.”

“I felt like this was my best fit,” said Posley.  “I like the environment, I like how the players interact with each other, and I feel like I have the best chance of having a good college career here.”

Trenton Norvell, Seabreeze H.S.

“I prayed to God about it,” said Norvell.  “I was committed to Marshall, but one day I woke up and I knew it was the right thing to do.  I prayed for about a week, and I woke up one day and I looked at all of the hats that I had and saw the C-Paw and it just kind of hit me.”

“We all felt like this was family and this was a home-away-from-home,” said Brown.  “Coach Jones and Coach Coombs – who recruited me – made me feel like I was a part of the family before I even got here.  That gave me the peace of mind that when I came here, I would have the family structure that I have in my own home in Indianapolis.”

This year’s class of 28 signees and two preferred walk-ons is the highest rated in school history.  Scout.com has Cincinnati ranked second in the Big East behind West Virginia, and 33rd in the country.

“It means a lot,” said Posley.  “I love the players that were already here before us, and I’m liking this class that we have.  I really feel like we should go to a BCS bowl and compete for the National Championship sometime soon.”

“I think it says a lot about Coach Jones and what he’s been doing to get the program back on its feet after the 2010 season,” said Brown.  “If we work hard, learn the system, and be coachable, then we can be successful and eventually get to a National Championship.  That’s everybody’s goal.”

“It’s nice to be part of something that’s the best,” said Coney.  “Best school, best fans, best everything.  That’s how we want it.”

The nine newcomers are off to a fast start.

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