Doc Gamble, the head football coach at Withrow High School, has quietly built one of the best programs in the city, and his strategy has been a simple one. "I've just asked kids to play. I think a lot of kids want to be asked to do something. Now we've gotten to the point that we have to make sure that we're getting a good quality person. We get a lot of guys now that want to come out for the team. Actually I've started doing background checks on guys because our numbers are up there. We have 150 guys in our program now. I'll never forget where this program came from with having only about 35 guys, but we want to be more selective now."
Withrow's junior class is an excellent one, and Doc believes a number of his guys will play Division I college football. "There are nine I consider to be Division I players, and I consider Division I guys to be either a IA or IAA kid. Those are the guys that were Cincinnati middle school kids when I first got the job, and then they enrolled at Withrow as 9th graders, and they've been in our program now for three years going into their fourth season. They were big contributors when we went 10-0, and next year it's their turn to be the leaders of the pack."
Brandon Miller - UC Recruit 2006
One of Doc's kids, Brandon Miller, signed with Cincinnati this year so Doc was asked about Brandon's future as a Bearcat. "He'll do well. He's been coached at a high level where he'll be able to make the transition to the college game fairly well. I get calls back from colleges now with the coach saying, ‘Hey, this guys knows how to practice.' I did try and mention to Brandon that the strength and the speed of the game was going to be different. Once he gets adjusted, he's going to stand out. He can play corner in college, but I think he's going to grow into a safety or outside linebacker."
Brandon Miller already possesses good size (6'2"/185 lbs.) so Doc was asked to project just how big Brandon might get. "I think he can be a 205-210 (pound) kid, and a kid that can still run. He has the frame, but he's never just lifted weights. He's a great athlete with outstanding leaping ability. He's going to grow especially when he gets around a strength program, and I know they have a good one here (UC). He's pretty chiseled now, but he'll put on even more weight."
Another Withrow Tiger that has shown interest in joining Brandon Miller at Cincinnati is Doc's junior quarterback, Bryant Thomas. Doc was asked about Bryant, "He's a talented athlete, and he's getting recruited as an athlete. Schools haven't pulled the trigger (scholarship offer) yet because they're not sure where they'll play him, but they definitely want to recruit him. Recruiting is based upon need, and I tell people he can play anywhere you need him. When I first started, we had a kid named Brandon Rogers who went to Indiana. I believe he ended up starting three years at linebacker. I think Bryant is from the same mold, but I also believe Bryant can play quarterback at the college level. We had Dante Love who went to Ball State last year, and he seldom comes off the field for them. Bryant is also like Dante only in a bigger body." Northwestern, Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati among others are all showing early interest. Bryant carries an estimated 3.0 GPA, and I believe he recently took an unofficial visit to Northwestern. However, Cincinnati may have an edge in Bryant's recruitment since he reportedly would like to stay close to home and already favors UC.
Cincinnati has not gotten many of the top players from the Cincinnati Public Schools so Doc was asked why. "I beg to differ with you. The last few years I think they've gotten the best of the crew with Andre Frazier. Before I got the job at Withrow, they got a great one in Derrick Jeffries, a Big 33 participant. I think it's all about being visible. From the look of things, they're going about it the right way. Plus they've got the Big East now."
Doc was asked what role he plays in the recruiting process. "I never tell my guys where to go. I just try to provide opportunities for them. They can pick and choose where they want to go. I've not told one guy where to go to school. They're the ones that have to go there and live and get adjusted to the coach. I'm not going with them, and their parents aren't going with them. I'd like for all the guys to stay close by so I could see them play. That's my reward, but it's their choice."
Getting to the playoffs is the goal of every high school team, but once again, Doc's scheduling philosophy seemed pretty simple. "We want to play the best teams we can. We played Moeller down here (Nippert) last year in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown, and even though we had some great athletes, our kids had some stage fright playing in that kind of atmosphere. We need more opportunities like that so we'll play the best teams we can when we have an opening in our schedule."
Doc Gamble likes to keep things simple, and so far simple has worked quite well.