'He catches everything thrown to him'

This week, Jose Cruz was the newest edition to North Carolina's 2005 recruiting class. How good is the 6-5, 240-pound tight end from Johnstown (Pa.) Bishop McCort? <i>Inside Carolina</i> conducted a Q&A with Bishop McCort head coach Ken Salem ...

What type of player are the Tar Heels getting?

"Well, they are getting a pretty versatile athlete. I think everybody is impressed with him based on his ability to catch the football. He's a 6-5, 240-pound kid [who plans to put on 20-30 more pounds before taking the field at UNC] that runs very well. He's only 17, he's just a pup, so he's going to get a lot bigger and stronger. I think he has impressed every coaching staff that he has been to their camp. In fact, he's able to adjust to the football, and he catches everything that is thrown to him. That will be his best attribute, his ability to catch the ball."

They are definitely recruiting him as a tight end, right?

"Yeah, I'm very sure of that."

What sort of statistics did Jose put up last year?

"That's why nobody recruited him until he went to the skill camps. We struggled last year with a very inexperienced offensive line. We only completed thirty-something passes, which is an eighth of what we threw two years ago. He only had two receptions for twenty-one yards and a touchdown. And he had a two-point conversation for a touchdown.

"That was the big deal, we sent out his film which obviously showed him run block, and taking care of defense -- he played our five-technique [defensive] end and he did very well in those films. The question was, why aren't they throwing to him? Once they saw him in person they realized it wasn't because he couldn't catch, it was because we couldn't throw."

What do you think led Jose decide to become a Tar Heel?

"Jose had visited over 15 schools during the months of May and June, and was very impressed with North Carolina's academic and athletic reputation. The visit to campus two weeks ago when he was there for two-day camp was what completely sold him. He was just overwhelmed with the atmosphere and the beauty of the campus, and the attention he received from the staff. He was very excited about the prospects for the future of UNC football. They started 13 freshmen last year, and he feels that the coaches are headed in the right direction."

What other offers were on the table?

"Offers that were on the table were Boston College, Akron, and Indiana. We had a number of other schools that were going to get back to us, but after that visit, he wasn't interested in waiting any longer."

Were there any other schools that had grabbed Jose's interest?

"He was very, very interested in the tri-state schools. He was very interested in Pittsburgh, Penn State, and West Virginia. Penn State and West Virginia we thought were going to offer him early in the season. Pittsburgh had told us that due to their numbers problems they weren't going to be able to offer. But those were the three schools locally that he was very interested in. He is just excited to get this decision behind him, and concentrate on his grades and playing football for us his senior year."

What has the UNC coaching staff told you in regards to Jose?

"Coach Powell contacted me a few times with some basic information and some opinion on him. I have to believe that Coach Powell was in contact with a number of the camp coordinators up east here. I think he knows Joe Butler in Pittsburgh and a couple of the others that sort of keep an eye on where the talent is in Pennsylvania. I know he came highly recommended by those people and then [the UNC coaching staff] were very [impressed] when he came down and worked out as to what they saw.

"Coach Powell told me that Coach Lawing, the recruiting coordinator, and all those guys were very excited to get the commitment. They felt that Jose was the tight end that they were after and they were hoping that he would be able to make this commitment early because they felt they had some good momentum with their recruiting class and this would just help that. Like I said he was very, very pleased with how he worked out, and they liked his attitude. They are an energized bunch of guys and they obviously want to get things turned around and I think Jose believes they are going to get it done."

Does Jose have any plans to try to play basketball at North Carolina?

"No, I think he is going to be committed to football. I think Jose understand what a big step it is to play at an ACC school and he wants to commit himself to getting in the best possible shape and to be the strongest possible so that when he gets his opportunity he's ready. He also wants to be able to focus on his classes at UNC. He understands what an outstanding academic school it is and he realizes he is going to be working hard both academically and athletically."

What's Jose's focus now?

"Jose's focus now is to finish very strong here academically, to make sure he is a qualifier and to be a team leader in all sports that we think he can be here. He comes from a good family. He has twin sisters and a younger brother, who is going to be a prospect in the future also, and he wants to provide the with the best possible example. He has always been the caretaker of those kids. I think he is going to focus on his teammates, his family, his senior year and try to get himself ready academically and athletically for UNC."


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