Cincinnati graduated a pair of three-year letterman CB Brad Jones and FS Aaron Webster. Webster yanked down eight Pitt Panthers in the final regular season tussle of 2009.
Without Jones and Webster in the mix look for Drew Frey to be the starting strong safety once more, Dominique Battle to lockdown one corner spot, and Cam Cheatham to challenge for the other.
Coach Butch Jones brought in five defensive backs with his first UC recruiting class. Three are from Florida.
Adrian Witty, Jorian Hudson, Deven Drane, Demetri Beal, and Arryn Chenault are all eager to begin their ascendance within the UC program. The day after the signed the coaching staff shifted to the Class of 2011, where many talented DB's reside.
Junior Day Guests SS Tyler Sykes (Center Grove) CB Nick Stoner (Center Grove) CB Kenny Mullen (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers) CB Tamani Carter (Pickerington Central) CB *Eilar Hardy (Pickerington Central) CB Tony Traylor (Pickerington North) DB Chris Dukes (Colerain)
Doran Grant and Eilar Hardy are the only DBs offered by UC right now. Akron-native Grant has at least 17 offers including USC, Ohio State, and a half dozen other Big Ten programs. Few anticipate Grant will play for the Bearcats, so his offer is hardly precluding the reigning Big East Champs from expressing interest in other talents.
The "Hardy Boy" visited UC for the frustrating basketball loss to Marquette on February 25. Fortunately most of the football recruits lefts at half-time of the basketball game, already done with their tour and visit.
"I got to meet the new staff," said Hardy. "I love the new staff. I got to talk to a couple of them. I am still trying to see where I would fit in."
Remember Cincinnati was the second school to make an offer, following Maryland. Hardy told BearcatReport of his Kent State offer on Tuesday, raising the tally to an even 10. Ohio State is conspicuous in its absence on the offer board.
He has visits coming up at West Virginia on the 27th of February, Kentucky the following week and Notre Dame March 20th. Notre Dame was a big offer for Eilar when it came in, but should not be a surprise as former UC RB coach Tim Hinton expedited the initial offer when working for Cincinnati.
"I am looking forward to the Kentucky and Notre Dame visits," said Hardy. "I haven't been to either of them."
Hardy has friends and family advising him, which truly helps in treacherous, occasionally phony world of college football recruiting.
"My brother went through the same process," said Hardy. "He went to Toledo, now at ODU."
Eisen Hardy began his college career with the Toledo Rockets, but has since moved on to return kicks for Ohio Dominican. The redshirt sophomore Eisen will try to work his way into the defensive backfield by the upcoming fall.
Eilar Hardy's good friend Zach Boren marches out into Ohio Stadium each Saturday afternoon, as backup fullback of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Hardy followed Boren's recruitment closely and dubbed it a great process. The junior DB is anything but naïve when entering into the recruitment arena.
Coaches will find him savvy, confident, and self-assured as they get to know the talented tackler.
Center Grove won the 2008-2009 5A Indiana Football State Title. Their final game of the past season was a loss to juggernaut Warren Central. Two of the better "Grovers" are Tyler Sykes and Nick Stoner. Combined the DBs hauled in seven interceptions last year. Along with teammate Joel Hale the duo visited UC's most recent junior day.
"I was very impressed with the campus," said Sykes. "The athletic facilities were unbelievable. All the educational stuff was really impressive."
Sykes plays safety while Stoner is a cover corner.
While Hardy and Grant are virtually national recruits, Sykes and Stoner are currently developing regional interest. Their team's success helps, but strong camp showings would raise their stock.
Two defensive backs, who fit perfectly into Cincinnati's future though they have not yet received offers, are Kenny Mullen and Chris Dukes.
"The coaches were real nice and friendly," said Mullen. "It is a top 5 school right now. The academics, the weight room, the training rooms."
Playing basketball right now for Fort Wayne Bishop Luers occupies much of his time. Teammate Deshaun Thomas is the sixth best 2010 PF in the country according to Rivals.com. Quick Kenny dropped his season-high 22 points on 5-star Ray McCallum's Detroit Country Day squad. Together they have big dreams for the 2A Indiana State Playoffs this year.
Within a week Bishop Luers will be battling the winner of Bluffton-Woodlan in a Sectional Semifinal.
There are recruiters and coaches that try to dissuade football players from playing any other sports. The thinking is that competing in basketball, track, baseball, etc. hampers the athlete's physical advancement, specifically muscle-building.
Bishop Luers Head Football Coach matt Lindsay, winner of seven state titles disagrees.
"I have yet to meet a college coach worth a dam who doesn't want a kid competing in everything," said Lindsay voraciously. "He is competing at a high level. I think his time on the basketball floor is important. I believe these kids can find time to lift weights and still play other sports."
At the end of the day Kenny stands 5'10", 158. His frame is anything but imposing.
"A couple of years ago I would have said that would be a hindrance," admits Lindsay. "I don't think size makes that much difference anymore. He doesn't take a lot of big shots because of his quickness."
Lindsay feels Mullen could help a top-25 program as a slot man in addition to his obvious skill at cornerback.
"UC and Purdue looked at his offensive reel and said we gotta get him on campus," offered Coach Lindsay.
Mullen gets differing opinions from each school. When push comes to shove Mullen would prefer DB.
"Most of the schools that have contacted me want me to play corner," said Mullen. "Arkansas has come to offer me as offensive player. Wisconsin has offered me as an offensive player."
Colerain produces talent every year. Their success around Cincinnati shocks no one, especially after Kerry Coombs made the Cardinals a household name in prep sports. Chris Dukes has an eye on the UC program.
Three MAC schools and Pitt have already offered the 5'10" speedster. His closing speed is tremendous. With his upper body strength Dukes often brings down bulkier opponents. Dukes should be the next area DB to get an offer from UC with his campus connections, talent, and potential.
"I got a chance to speak to Coach Jones and Coach Elder," said Dukes. "My favorite thing was learning more about the program at Cincinnati. They showed their graduation rate. The majority of their DBs are in the NFL. I am very interested in that."
His upcoming visits include Pitt and West Virginia for camps. Dukes has a long outdoor track season ahead of him. "I do open 100 open 200, 4x100 and 4x200," said Dukes.
His speed really helps him stay with blazing wide outs or dip off and close down loose halfbacks. His eyes might be looking out east to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, but the UC program would be a great fit for the hometown star.