One day Chicken Little Coach was walking into the home of a college football prospect when -- KERPLUNK -- a rival coach fell on his head.
"Oh my goodness!" said Chicken Little Coach. "The sky is falling! I must go and tell the head coach."
While Bearcat fans are reacting to the news about the loss of one of the Bearcats verbal commitments in the same manner Chicken Little Coach reacted, trust me when I say this didn't happen today with any of the Bearcats staff. While I'm sure members of the Bearcats staff were upset about the loss of a young man they've worked hard to recruit, they also know this can happen the other way and must continue working to fill the remaining spots left in the Class of 2006.
Jason Sherman would have found a home at UC that would allow him to show his talent early. Instead, the first year football player will spend time on the bench with a team in good shape at the receiver position. But how do you get mad at a 17-19 year old kid for having a change of heart? You can't... This is football recruiting at its finest or lowest depending upon what side of the equation you're on.
For many years the Head Coach of the University of Cincinnati has seen players pick other programs to play for. This not only happens at UC, it also happens at Ohio State, Notre Dame and any other program across the country. Do you think you've heard the last about a player changing his commitment? No, it will happen again at least a half a dozen times across the country before players sign their National Letters of Intent. But while we could sit and ponder the loss of Sherman, I feel it's time to look at recruiting on the "Big Time" level it really is.
How far has Cincinnati come in its rankings? Go back to 2002 and see the Bearcats ranked 95th in the country. 2003 saw the Bearcats rise in the rankings to 84th in the country. Do you remember that class? The highest ranked player in the class was Terry Arnold with 3-stars. The rest were 2-stars including JUCO receiver Hannibal Thomas. Other names from the class.
Jordan Lear, Todd Spitzer, Chris Flores, Craig Worthen, Anthony Williams, Clint Parks, Jeremy Bolton, Cedric Dawley, Angelo Craig, J.P. Simon, Doug Jones, Brent Celek, Derrick Haithcock, Jon Tobin, Digger Bujnoch, Greg Moore, Mike Daniels, Jon Newton, Jordan Roth, Bill Poland, Darryl Snow and Derrick Jeffries.
Where do you place this class?
2004 saw another positive move as the Bearcats earn a 75th ranking. Two 3-star players signed in this class. Delbert Ferguson and Tyjuan Jones were considered high ranking recruits. The rest saw 10 2-star prospects and 6 1-star prospects. Here is a breakdown of the class by star ranking.
This class is proving to have more players in it then non-players. The highest ranking players have yet to show a return while several of the two stars have played key roles. Keep in mind the staff only had a little over a month to recruit this class. This class will prove to be a solid class that is the starting base for Coach Dantonio's program.
Now compare the rise in talent in this class.
2005 saw Cincinnati earn a 70th ranking. The experts said the three star prospects were Curtis Smith, Leo Morgan and Nick Davila. Smith entered school but wasn't able to play due to NCAA guidelines and will be part of the 2006 class. Morgan struggled to learn the defense and didn't see much playing time at linebacker and Davila earned the fans backing when the offense struggled, but couldn't do much more when he was given a shot. But look at the 2-star prospects and the impact they will have on this program. Here is a breakdown.
2-star: Tyler Clifford, Brad Jones, Marcus Waugh, Jared Martin, Kazeem Alli, Cedric Tolbert, Thomas Claggett, Andre Revels, Derrick Stewart, Corey Smith, Terrill Byrd, Marshawn Gilyard, Dominick Goodman, Mike Mickens, Steve Gawronski, Craig Carey, Trevor Anderson, Chris Jurek and Connor Barwin.
Now let's look back at this past season. Out of the three stars only Davila gave any production worth talking about. But he couldn't beat out the previous year's 2-star prospect Dustin Grutza for the starting job.
The core of the 2-star players played key roles for the Bearcats. Corey Smith and Mike Mickens both earned 2nd Team All-Big East honors as true freshmen. Marcus Waugh was ready to breakout and play until a knee injury stopped his season. Trevor Anderson earned some starts and much playing time along with Terrill Byrd. Connor Barwin is set to be the next great tight end and his running mate Alli was doing well until injury stopped his season. Cedric Tolbert was working his way into the lineup until injury stopped him. Dominick Goodman had a very good freshman year and many feel Craig Carey is the quarterback to watch in the coming years. But while all of these players played some key roles during the season, it's a player who didn't play at all that Bearcat fans will need to keep an eye on. Derrick Stewart has speed and speed seemed to be the one area the Bearcats missed last season. We also can't forget players like Andre Revels, Brad Jones and Jared Martin; all of these players will be on the field this fall.
But while the 2-stars will play a key role, all three of the 1-star prospects will have chances to play major minutes in upcoming seasons. Donnell McKenzie would be at Pittsburgh if not for grade issues that keep him from signing. Patrick Mimms has talent that has yet to be tapped and Linkenbach has the size to be an offensive lineman in the years to come.
So that brings us to 2006 and the feeling by fans that the sky is falling upon the Bearcats football efforts. The loss of Sherman is one I'm sure the staff didn't want to see. He's a play maker who would have pushed for playing time as a freshman. But while he's made his choice, this class is deeper and one that will see many of the players become key parts of future success in the years to come.
As I wrote this article the Bearcats sat in 65th on the Scout.com team ranking. They will drop some with the loss of 2-star Sherman, but not much. Also this class doesn't take into account Curtis Smith who was a 3-star prospect in 2005 and the talents of Derrick Stewart. We also must keep in mind Brandon Maupin could also be part of this class come fall.
But as fans stress over the loss of Sherman, they need to keep in mind this is a deep class with some high talent. Talent that has seen the Bearcats fighting schools like Auburn, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and others. Who will be the surprise player in this class? We will know by the start of the football season in September. With two JUCO offensive linemen and Freddie Lenix in the mix, the Class of 2006 looks fine to me.
But I can't stress enough the sky is not falling on the Bearcats and there may still be some surprises out there before all is said and done.