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A Bearcats NFL update

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As the NFL's conference championship games loom this weekend and with the emergence of the Cincinnati Commandos pro indoor team that features a myriad of former UC football players, I figured today would be a good day to update you on how last year's Bearcats seniors fared in their first season in the NFL ranks.

 

Some, like Bengals punter Kevin Huber, you got to watch every week. Some, like Brandon Underwood, you saw every once in a while. Some, you didn't see at all.

 

Let's take a look at the Bearcats seniors who helped UC to the Orange Bowl and how their lives have changed post-college.

 

<b>P Kevin Huber: Bengals fifth-round draft pick: The Bengals thought so much of him that they cut longtime punter Kyle Larson before the season, and he rewarded them with a pretty decent years playing for his hometown team. He struggled with inconsistency, and after transforming himself into of the country's best collegiate punters his final two years at UC, he certainly wasn't one of the NFL's elite punters. But he was solid

 

He was 11th in the league with a 43.2 average, though he drops to a tie for 30th with a 36.7 net average. This is what Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis had to say about Huber in his postseason presser: "I thought Kevin had a good year. Kevin has a lot more to do; he can be a lot better, but I thought he gave us some consistency. He wavered a little bit, probably Games 8-12, but he came back strong at the end. I think Kevin is everything we expected him to be, and probably a little bit more solid as far as other parts of the game. I think he's more solid in the mental stability part, as far as being a rookie punter in the NFL and the things that you deal with."

 

<b>DL Connor Barwin: Texans second-round pick: He didn't get much playing time at the beginning of the season - after all, he was still in only his second year of playing defense, and he still had much to learn, especially at the pro level - but you might remember him earning his first career sack at Paul Brown Stadium in a Houston victory against the Bengals.

 

By Week 12, he appeared more comfortable, recording 3 ½ sacks and two passes defended in the final six games of the season. His 4 ½ sacks on the season were third-best among all NFL rookies.

 

He also managed to draw the wrath of New England quarterback Tom Brady when the Texans beat the Patriots in the last week of the regular season.

 

"I think I was just frustrated that we didn't convert on third down and he happened to be the guy standing there next to me," Brady said afterward. "He pushed me down, then I said something and he said something. I was more frustrated that we didn't convert on third down than at him. That's the way it goes."

 

<b>DL Adam Hoppel: undrafted, signed with Cleveland as a free agent: It doesn't appear Hoppel has much of a future in the NFL. He was cut by the Browns in the preseason and signed to their practice squad in December.

 

"I pretty much wasn't expecting (to be resigned) when it happened," Hoppel told the East Liverpool Review. "I wasn't really expecting to play football again."

 

A week later, he was cut again.

 

<b>CB Mike Mickens: Cowboys seventh-round pick: A topsy-turvy season for Mickens. He still wasn't fully recovered from his late-season knee injury as a senior Bearcat that caused his draft stock to fall. Then, he was afflicted with a few more dings this year and never saw any action on the field.

 

He started in Dallas before Tampa Bay plucked him off the Cowboys practice squad. He was on the Bucs' 53-man roster, but he was inactive for three weeks before Tampa released him. The Bengals picked him up for the practice squad, which is where he ended the season. Mickens was so good in college, but I wonder if that ability will translate into the NFL.

 

<b>CB/S DeAngelo Smith: Cowboys fifth-round pick: Smith certainly got his tour of the NFL. Drafted by the Cowboys, cut by Dallas and then placed on its practice squad, picked up by Cleveland, traveled to Chicago and then finished the season with the Lions.

 

He actually played the final seven games of the season in Detroit and finished the year with 16 tackles and a pass defended. In the only game he started - a 31-24 loss to Arizona - Smith logged a career-best seven tackles.

 

<b>DB Brandon Underwood: Packers sixth-round pick: Of all the former UC defensive backs, Underwood had the most stability this season, playing in 11 games in one place. He and Huber also were the only Bearcats rookies to make the postseason.

 

It'll be interesting to see how Underwood's role with Green Bay develops. The Packers secondary was not a strength this season, and it's an aging, injury-laden group. Underwood seems to have some potential as a nickel back, but it's unclear how heavily the team will invest in him. He did do some nice things on special teams, though.

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