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.
“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.
“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.”
“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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