The incoming class for the University of Cincinnati football team isn’t full of highly touted recruits, but that’s hardly cause for concern.
The 2019 class is ranked 75th nationally, according to 247Sports. American Athletic Conference (AAC) foes the University of Central Florida, University of Memphis and Southern Methodist University each achieved higher ranks than the Bearcats.
The low ranking may come as a shock and seem like a step in the wrong direction for many Bearcats fans, as last year’s class was ranked 47th nationally and first in the AAC.
“We did what we wanted to be able to do,” third-year UC head coach Luke Fickell said during his early signing period news conference Dec. 19. “We feel really good about it. When you initially look at it, everybody will start to wonder. It’s not just last year that we talked about, ‘Hey, the rankings matter because you were first in the league and ranked really high nationally.’ We don’t not talk about them this year because the reality is, we’re ranked a little bit lower.”
So, what’s the biggest difference between 2018 and 2019? The number of signees.
The more players that sign, the higher the ranking. Last year, 24 recruits pledged to the Bearcats. This year, that number is just 15. Yet the low number gives Fickell and his staff room to chase after players looking to transfer from their current schools.
One of the more intriguing additions this year is University of Michigan transfer James Hudson. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound right tackle appeared in three games for the Wolverines in 2018. He will block for his childhood friend and current UC running back, Michael Warren II, as the two graduated from Toledo Central Catholic High School in 2017.
Every signee in this class except Hudson is a 3-star recruit, according to 247Sports. Hudson was a 4-star in high school when he committed to Michigan.
Fickell knows where his bread is buttered when it comes to recruiting: the state of Ohio. Nine of the 15 signees went to Ohio high schools. Fickell, a native of Columbus, Ohio, endlessly recruited the state during his assistant coaching tenures with the University of Akron (2000-2001) and the Ohio State University (1999, 2002-2016).
He continues to stockpile Ohio talent at UC through the relationships he built with high school coaches and players during his time at Akron and OSU.
With a core group of playmakers returning — including Warren, starting quarterback Desmond Ridder and linebacker Jarell White — this recruiting class didn’t need to be spectacular.
Warren, a 3-star in high school who was considered the 473rd player in the country, rushed for 1,329 yards and a school-record 19 touchdowns this past season. Solid college coaching always outweighs high school rankings. Ridder and White were also considered 3-stars in high school.
With UC still a member of the nationally-disadvantaged AAC, you can’t expect much more out of Fickell in terms of recruiting. To attract top prospects, the only thing Fickell can do is continue to win and perform well in bowl games.
With three recruiting classes under his belt as a head coach, Fickell has established a culture that players — both incoming and current — want to be a part of.