November 22, 2012

What is your team thankful for?

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.



According to the American Automobile Association, 43.6 million Americans will make at least a 50-mile trip to be home with their families for Thanksgiving.

College football teams can relate; there's no place like home.

Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones believes that his student body presents a major advantage for the Bearcats. His team is 5-1 at home and will close its regular season against South Florida on Friday.

Since entering the Big East for the 2005 season, Cincinnati has a cumulative home record of 38-10.

"I believe Nippert (Stadium) is one of the best venues in all of college football," Jones said.

"Our student body has been amazing and our fans have been outstanding, but (the reason for) going back to really supporting this football team is having an opportunity to win. ... Our fans dictate a lot and help us win and provide momentum, energy, spark, great home-field advantage."

Cincinnati has evolved from a Conference USA program to a legitimate Big East power, and it is a consistent threat to win the conference title.

Jones thinks that it is just the beginning of something special. This is a program that took its first steps under Mark Dantonio, now at Michigan State, and then major leaps with Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, but it is Jones who is charged with continuing the process.

"The great thing about being the head football coach is you get to paint the vision of everything," he said. "Playing in front of sold-out crowds as we continue to grow and elevate this program, that is one of my visions and we will get it done."

Winning the conference for the fourth time in six seasons will add to the excitement.

"Right now, we are embarking on the greatest era of Cincinnati football, and that is what people need to realize," Jones said. "Ten to 15 years ago, we may not have been having this conversation, but looking at the era we are in surrounding Cincinnati football, we are on the national stage."

The next step in giving thanks will be filling the stands, because Cincinnati finished last in attendance in the Big East in 2011.

Here is a look at what other programs around the country are thankful for:

BOSTON COLLEGE
Boston College is thankful that Middletown (Conn.) Xavier quarterback Tim Boyle gave his verbal pledge to the program even after receiving an offer from Florida -- and that he has held firm, at least so far, in spite of the team's struggles. The three-star player has all of the tools to be the program's quarterback of the future. As the No. 2 prospect in the state and the No. 23-ranked pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013, he could be a Christmas present as well for holding his commitment.
COLORADO
The University of Colorado is thankful that it has Tad Boyle leading its men's basketball program. While the Buffaloes football program has foundered in recent years, Boyle's squad has given CU fans reason to cheer. The Buffs won 48 games in their first two seasons under Boyle and enjoyed a Pac-12 tournament championship last season. Boyle landed a top-30 recruiting class last cycle, and optimism around the hoops program has reached unprecedented heights in Boulder. This probably isn't what Buffaloes fans want to hear, but as football season winds down there is something positive on the horizon.
IOWA
The Hawkeyes program is thankful to have Eric Johnson on the recruiting path. He changed responsibilities this past year -- no longer coaching tight ends and instead moving to an assistant defensive line coach, but mainly he's a full-time recruiting coordinator. He's the guy who stays in touch with all of Iowa's recruits on Facebook and works on getting them on campus. Iowa had its first preseason barbecue in late July, mimicking what Michigan and others do, and got all of its early commits and some top 2014 prospects on campus at once. Johnson, in his new role, helped Iowa get the most commitments before the season that the school has ever had, and he's the lead recruiter for several of them.
IOWA STATE
Iowa State is thankful for its new $20 million football complex. The Cyclones moved all of their football operations into the new building in early November and can showcase it in all its glory on important official visitor weekends from now until National Signing Day and into the future. The 60,000-square-foot addition to ISU's existing indoor practice facility gives the program plenty to sell when it comes to showing prospects that it is serious about being a player in the Big 12.
MARYLAND
The University of Maryland is thankful for new coordinators: defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. Stewart has not only rejuvenated the Terps defense, but he's given them a recruiting foothold in northern Virginia and Florida -- two places where Maryland had been lacking in recent years. Locksley has been Maryland's ace recruiter in the Maryland-D.C. area and landed four prospects out of powerhouse Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy, including Rivals250 OL Derwin Gray, as well as star JUCO receiver Deon Long.
MISSISSIPPI
The Rebels are thankful that Denzel Nkemdiche is having a solid season as a redshirt freshman and that his mother, Beverly, wants her son Robert -- the No. 1 recruit in the country -- to play alongside him. Having the immediate recruiting edge for the top player in the country is something that didn't figure to happen in many cases for the SEC program, but that is where coach Hugh Freeze finds himself. While Robert Nkemdiche is uncommitted, it is appearing more likely that his signature will wind up on a National Letter of Intent with an Ole Miss logo at the top.
NEBRASKA
Nebraska is thankful to have received commitments from in-state linebacker Josh Banderas and California quarterback Johnny Stanton. Both have taken it upon themselves to step up as leaders in helping recruit additional top prospects. Banderas, from Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest, is the top player in the state and No. 196 in the Rivals250. He is a U.S. Army All-American and can get into the ear of uncommitted players at the game in San Antonio. Stanton has missed the second half of his season at Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita with a knee injury, but he is expected to get back to full strength and has not wavered from his commitment.
PITTSBURGH
The University of Pittsburgh football team is thankful that, after nearly a full year on the job, Paul Chryst is still the Panthers' head coach. His on-field success may or may not come; that will depend on how he recruits, and it's a lot easier to recruit future Pitt players when you're still the head coach. The continuing commitment of four-star quarterback Tra'von Chapman from Kent (Ohio) Roosevelt is gravy right now. While Pitt has struggled this season and lost two commitments in the last six months, Chapman has stayed strong, and the presence of a top-level quarterback can help lure other high-end recruits as the team looks to finish the class.
TEXAS TECH
Texas Tech is thankful for an early start to its 2014 recruiting class. Jacksonville (Fla.) Eagle's View Academy quarterback D.J. Gillins gave his verbal pledge to the Red Raiders about a week ago. The Rivals250 to Watch player joined Princeton (Texas) wideout Jakari Dillard as an early commitment. Both prospects are very highly thought of, with Gillins' four-star status to go with Dillard, who many view as a top-25 player in Texas.
WASHINGTON
Washington is thankful that commits such as Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde wide receiver Demorea Stringfellow and Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande defensive tackle Elijah Qualls have stayed on board. The four-star players have received heavy interest from other programs, but each has stayed true so far. The Huskies had some struggles against top-15 teams, but they have notched some big wins and are poised to finish the season strong. They should be thankful these recruits have been patient.




 

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