Q & A WITH JIM KELLY JR.

Bearcat Insider's Tim Adams, recently spoke with 14 year Bearcat football radio analyst Jim Kelly Jr. about the state of Bearcat football.

Q.  There are differences in programs whenever there is a coaching change.  What differences did you  observe last season compared to the Minter years?

A.  There is always going to be a learning curve whenever there is a coaching change.  I think we saw that last year in certain games.  There were some games earlier in the year where the team didn't play well.  I think some of that was a byproduct of the coaching change.  Some attitudes needed to be adjusted, and some had to adjust to the changes in "X's" and  "O's."

The coaching change also probably gave some of the newcomers a better opportunity.  Look what took place on the field last year.  We had 25 seniors that were going to play.  It would have been tough to keep them off the field, but some of the freshmen played key roles as the season progressed. That's a good thing.  Bradley Glatthaar and Butler Benton became key contributors along with Earnest Jackson.  I saw Jackson's talent on the first day he was switched to receiver.  He didn't know what he was doing at first, but you could see the talent there. 

Q.  When looking at the 2005 football recruiting class, what do you see?

A.  This staff likes two things- speed and athleticism.  I also think this staff is willing to take a chance on kids.  We saw that last year with Glatthaar.  Many people backed off him because of his forty speed , but we saw there are very few players that run as hard as he does.  This year we saw it again with Byrd.  Many recruiters thought Byrd was too short at 6 feet tall, but I've seen a lot of very good defensive linemen that were 5" 11" or shorter.

Q.  What do you think of the low ranking many recruiting sites gave this class?

A.  Too many people want to base their opinion on NFL combine numbers like height and weight.  There are so many other variables to consider like leagues and their competition.  Those kids from Colerain played great competition all year long.  There are also other intangibles to consider like coming from winning programs like Colerain and Elder.  I don't put a whole lot of stock in those ranking.

Q.   How do you see the QB competition shaping up next year?

A.  Well, as everyone knows we lost a 4 year starter that took about every snap and owns about every record.  How do you replace a guy like that at such a key position?  Personally, I see it as a three man race.  The leaders in my mind are Dustin Grutza, Nick Davila, and Tony Pike.  I've been impressed with Pike.  He's about 6'6" tall and has a  strong arm.  He still needs to put on more weight, but he has great potential.  Although he's had only one year at QB, Carey could be in there too.  The great thing about Carey is he can play TE too.

Q.  How does UC football draw more people?

A.  That's a tough question.  We've seen it go up and down, but we know certain teams will draw.  Playing Pitt and WVU will draw fans, but I'm not sold that Rutgers, U. Conn. And even Syracuse will draw well.  I think the key for UC is to win games.  They need to go at least three years in a row with no less than 7 wins a season.  If you look at urban schools with professional football teams, they all struggle with attendance, even Miami of Florida.

I'd like to see us have teams like OSU, Kentucky, Indiana and Purdue on the schedule on a regular basis.  On the other side is a Kansas State that has built its program by playing weaker non-conference teams and building a winner.

Q.  Some believe UC basketball was able to take the next step when it successfully recruited Herb Jones to the program.  His star quality helped to bring others.  Can that happen for UC football?

A.  Yes, but it takes more guys in football.  One guy can make more of a difference in basketball.  It's important for UC football to eventually land some of the very best local recruits.  By the best, I mean those that are now going to Michigan, OSU, and Tennessee.

Q.  What do you predict for the Bearcats in their first season in the Big East?

A.  When the Big East has its meetings this summer, UC will be projected in the lower end.  I would expect them to be picked 6th or 7th, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  It sure didn't hurt this year that CUSA picked them so low.  They may be able to sneak up on some people, but I expect a battle in every game.  I don't see any team they can't beat, but Louisville would be my early favorite.

Q.  Do you envision any of the incoming freshmen starting next season?

A.  It's very possible, but it's too early to say where.  With all the graduating seniors there are plenty of openings, and there won't be a lot of returning upperclassmen so there will be a lot of competition.  I'm not sure any of the freshmen will start right away, but I think some may work their way into the line-up by the 3rd or 4th game.

Q.  There are six Bearcats at the combines.  What are their prospects?

A.  I like them all.  I've always been a fan of Gino, and I see him making a roster.  I love the speed of Trent Cole and was impressed with him at the Senior Bowl playing as a standup linebacker.  Frazier is a fast as Cole but I just wonder if his body will hold-up in the NFL.  Enzor and Hagler are similar to (ex-Bearcat LB) Troy Evans, and Evans has managed to stick with Houston for several years now.  Holly is just so fast.  If he gets with the right coach, he could make it too. 

Although all six of them have a decent chance, I see Cole as the only "lock."  I think he'll get drafted on the first day but not the 1st round.

Q.  When was the last time UC football returned its entire staff?

A.   I can't tell you that .  There will be change because it's the nature of the profession, but there doesn't need to be 4 or 5 guys leaving every year.  That's tough.  Coach Dantonio knew that was a problem and addressed it with Bob Goin in the beginning.  Some of the current staff will eventually leave, but I think Coach Dantonio has recognized that his guys don't need to be working 14 hours a day.  There needs to be some time for their families too.  He's such a class guy.

Q.  What does returning the entire staff mean to the program?

A.  We saw what it means when Coach Minter was here.  Often the Bearcats under Minter would get off to poor starts, but finish the season strong.  I think much of that had to do with the coaching changes.  It took a while for everyone to get on the same page.

Bearcat Insider would like to thank Jim Kelly for his time and looks forward to listening to his broadcasts for many seasons to come.

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