If you missed it, here is Part I of my interview with Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. Today, Jones goes over some of the key questions headed into spring practice, which begins March 1.
Did you allow yourself any time to enjoy the season after the bowl win or did you rush into preparations for 2012?
BJ: We started working on 2012 during bowl prep. We wanted to finish, but were also were getting ready for the future. We stayed after in Memphis so we could enjoy the win, took a day and then we were full-fledged onto 2012. That's the thing in our profession -- you can never sit back. I thought we did some great things with bowl prep. We had our seniors meet with the junior class and talk about leadership and the things they learned.
BJ: They're going to have to earn that position every day. The exciting thing is with all the youth that we have and the competition that we have, there's already a renewed spirit, there’s a renewed commitment, there's excitement and energy in our football program. That's not just with the quarterback spot. I can feel that excitement already. I think the experience that Munchie gained and Jordan gained will prove to be extremely beneficial as we move forward. But it’s also exciting because of Patrick Coyne, Brendon Kay. Throw in two youngsters who graduated high school early -- to have them here already is going to pay huge dividends as well.
What do you think when people think 2012 will be a rebuilding year? I’ve written it myself.
BJ: All we can control is ourselves -- continuing to build our football program, and not paying attention. You look at last year -- I have it sitting on my desk -- you look at preseason rankings in the Big East conference and you look at the positions. Every single one of our defensive positions was ranked 7 or 8 in our conference. The thing we have to do is focus on being a better football team. It's what you sign your name to -- it's that excellence we talk about. I don't get caught up in the outside world because I know what we have, our players know what we have. We talk about not building a team but a program, and I think we have proven across the country we are a football program. So we just have to control what we can control, our daily work ethic, how we go to class, every individual taking accountability. There's a lot of excitement here in the community and in our football program. I think change is good, change keeps people on their toes. There's a lot of competition, our junior class that are now seniors they understand the responsibility that it is in our football program. There's a great spirit right now.
Where do you think is your biggest area of strength going into 2012?
BJ: Well, we won a lot of games on special teams this year. You look at starting season with an unproven kicker, Tony (Miliano) has a lot of room for improvement, but he also made big kicks for us, Pat O’Donnell returns as well. In our secondary, those individuals have gained a ton of experience, Deven Drane continued to get better as the season progressed, along with Cam Cheatham. Now we have Trenier Orr, whom we’re high on, so we’re going to have a high level of competition. We get Dominique Battle back. You look at our defensive end position with Walter Stewart and Brandon Mills, Dan Giordano so that and then I expect our receiving corps to be much better with Anthony McClung, Kenbrell Thompkins, Alex Chisum and the experience they gained. Also, I thought our tight ends really made some big plays for us. We’re going to miss Adrien Robinson, but that's a position that could be pretty strong as well.
How about at running back? You seem to have a lot of depth there when it comes to trying to replace Isaiah Pead.
BJ: I don't know if you just replace a great back like Isaiah. He meant so much to us but that's probably one of the most competitive spots that we'll have in our football program. When you look at Ralph David Abernathy and what he brings to the table, that big kickoff return (against Vanderbilt), Jameel Poteat, Akise Teague, George Winn. And if we’re able to maintain a couple in the recruitment process, I think that's going to be a very, very competitive position as we move forward and we'll see how it goes. The mark of great coaches is they're able to adapt each and every year for their strengths and weaknesses so we have to do a great job of playing to our strength. Each team have a different personality. We just have to do a great job of putting our schemes in and allowing players to be successful in what they can do.