In more than 32 years of college coaching, Tommy Tuberville has never run into weather-related travel nightmares like he did over the last month.
“Awful,” said Tuberville. “I’ve never seen anything like the last few weeks but it was kind of fun at times. I was in Tampa and I had to rent a car because I had to be in New Orleans that night. I got to Tallahassee after five hours of driving and I pulled over at Cracker Barrel to get something to eat – my favorite is fried catfish and hushpuppies – and all of the state troopers were in there. So I said, ‘Man, you guys all take a break at the same time?’ Some of them recognized me and they said, ‘No Coach, we’re closing the interstate.’ So they gave me the back roads and I slid around, helped people out of ditches, and made some good friends.
“Another night a policeman pulled me over and said, ‘Hey sir, does it look funny out here?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You’re the only one driving. Get off the road!’ So I got off and stopped at a Shoney’s restaurant and he pulled in behind me and also recognized who I was. He was an Alabama fan. You always run into those dang Alabama fans.”
Sometimes on the recruiting trail, you even run into Alabama’s coach.
“I sat with Nick Saban at a luncheon in Macon, Georgia,” said Tuberville. “Nick’s from Ohio and he said, ‘How do you like my home state?’ I said, ‘I like it pretty good. Our weather up there is much better than it is down here.’ Which it has been. It’s been bad here but it’s been worse in the south.”
The travel woes continued right up to signing day. On Tuesday, Tuberville and assistant coaches Blake Rolen and Jeff Koonz could not get a flight back to Cincinnati out of Georgia so they hopped in a car and started driving, making it as far Lexington before the roads became impassable. They finally made it to campus on Wednesday morning as the Letters of Intent were coming in on the fax machine.
In all, Cincinnati got 28 commitments (including preferred walk-ons) from 11 different states with an emphasis on speed.
“We recruited as much speed as anyone in the nation,” said Tuberville.
That’s been his number one priority in recruiting since working as an assistant under Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami.
“It all started there,” Tuberville told me. “Jimmy’s basic instructions to you when you went out recruiting were, ‘Don’t bring a guy in here that can’t run – at any position.’ They had to have good athletic ability and they had to be able to run.
“If you were recruiting a big guy, he pretty much wouldn’t give you the green light to recruit him if the kid didn’t play basketball. We had a couple of guys that we recruited this year under the same scenario. A lot of people didn’t offer them, but we went and saw them play basketball and these guys had more athletic ability that some of the guys that we were beating our heads against the wall about.”
One of the fastest recruits in this year’s class is JUCO wide receiver Casey Gladney from Copiah Lincoln CC.
“He’s one of the best receivers that I’ve ever recruited,” said Tuberville. “He was going to sign with Alabama two years ago and they were over the limit so we signed him at Texas Tech and put him in a junior college. He’s an Anthony McClung-type that plays slot receiver and he can fly. He’ll play in the NFL. We just have to figure out more ways to get him the ball. Anthony caught about 70 passes this year so I foresee Casey having a great career here over the next couple of years.”
On defense, Tuberville expects an immediate contribution from a defensive back from Fort Lauderdale, FL.
“We got a young man named Carter Jacobs who will be all-conference here for several years and maybe all-American,” Tommy told me. “He’s a safety from American Heritage High School and he’s one of those guys that you can’t get out of the weight room or the film room. He loves football and he was offered by everybody. We got him committed early and all the big schools from the SEC came in and made offers and he said, ‘I’m going to be a Bearcat.’ He’ll play next year. He’ll either be a starter or a backup because he’s a football player.”
Cincinnati’s class was ranked anywhere from 58th to 66th in the various recruiting websites, but Tuberville advises fans not to put too much stock in those numbers.
“I spent nearly 10 years at Miami and not one time was our recruiting class ranked in the Top 25, but we won three national championships” said Tuberville. “The bottom line is, when you get to about a three star prospect they’re all about the same. You can’t measure heart – if you could do that then you could really put a star on a kid. But you can’t tell how much determination and what kind of work ethic he’ll have while he’s with you. If you could do that, you would never lose a game.”
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1