While the Cincinnati Bearcats hardly need to turn around their program, many fans have often wondered what this team would be able to accomplish if they start recruiting with some of the major players in college football.
With Butch Jones at the helms, those fans no longer have to wonder.
Since Scout.com began keeping track on team rankings in recruiting back in 2002, Cincinnati has never finished the recruiting year with a class than ranked in the top 25. In the 2011 class, which was Butch Jones' first full recruiting class as head coach, the Bearcats managed to finish with the No. 44 class in the nation. While that ranking is not cause for massive celebration, it was a significantly better finish than UC had grown accustom to.
Fast-forward to the 2012 class, and Cincinnati currently sits with the 17th-best class in the nation. The Bearcats still have numerous top prospects remaining on the board as well, which means that there is a good possibility that their ranking will go up when the final rankings are released after Signing Day.
Of course, some people will be quick to point out that the Bearcats already have 23 verified verbal commitments in the class of 2012, giving them an edge on the competition due to the high number of future signees. However, if you take a look at the average star rating for their recruits - which many people would agree is a better way to determine the success of a recruiting class - the Bearcats have still made significant improvements under Coach Jones.
From 2007 to 2010, Cincinnati's four recruiting classes finished with an average star rating of just 2.29, with the highest class turning in an average star rating of only 2.46. While the Bearcats still did not finish with a top 25 class last year, the average star rating for their committed prospects jumped significantly to 2.72.
Looking at Cincinnati's 2012 class, the average star rating is higher than it has ever been. Currently, the Bearcat commitments have an average star rating of 2.96. Although this is still not quite at the level of many of the traditional powerhouse programs, the Bearcats have begun the process of narrowing the gap in talent differential.
Cincinnati has already shown that they can field a quality team despite failing to bring in quality recruiting classes. Just imagine how good this UC program can become if they continue recruiting at their current clip. We could be seeing the emergence of a Big East power that will rule the conference for years to come.