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July 2010 Archives

Epilouge: D-line position analysis

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After being reminded a few names that are a part of the battle for reserve spots were left off the defensive line position analysis, I decided to insert this epilouge to my dedicated readership. To be honest, I wish we would have put all these guys in during the first run, but they never came up in my original conversation with Steve Stripling.  Still, it is great to know you are reading and actually interested in reading these.

I got back in contact with defensive line coach Steve Stripling and he gave a brief line on a few off the guys that are currently listed off the two-deep chart.

Jordan Stepp

Tangibles: 6-0, 286 pounds, RS Fresh.

Stripling's take: "He is an unknown because he has battled injuries, but camp will be important for him."

Monte Taylor

Tangibles: 6-5, 245, RS Fresh. 

Stripling's take: "Also an unknown who will be participating for the first time."

Ty Phillips

Tangibles: 6-3, 255 pounds, Fresh.

Stripling's take: "Like all freshman it will be a matter of how fast he matures. He was very talented in high school."

PDJ Projection: It would take an extremely productive few weeks of fall practice for any of these guys to break through, but as was stated in the first post, beyond the top five spots these positions are pretty much a up for grabs.  

MR. WILSON

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george wilson.jpg

(picture courtesy of UC)


     He is 68-years-old, but is probably closer to his playing weight than most of his teammates from yesteryear. He's a fixture at charity golf outings and around a lot of gyms. In particular, you usually find him at Woodward High School every summer taking in some of the Deveroes Summer League contests.

      Most that can play basketball at that level know him. If not, they should.

George Wilson has been an ambassador for UC's program for years and always has a smile on his face to greet fans and young players. For guys like me always looking for interviews,    "Big George" is always willing to talk to someone.

      "I was here when it first formed," said Wilson of the Deveroes League. "I try to make it at least once a week. What I do is I try to support the young folks. I'll stand in the stands and I'll wave at them and let them know I'm here to watch them and enjoy."

      For those that may not know, George Wilson has more career points than such semi-recent players as Melvin Levett, James White and Field Williams. Unlike some of the 1,000-point club though, Wilson's numbers came in three years as freshmen weren't eligible in the early 60s.

      Between 1961 and 1964, George Wilson averaged a double-double as a UC forward/center (9.2 ppg, 8 rebounds as a sophomore; 15 and 11.2 as a junior; and 16.1 and 12.5 as a senior). He also won two high school championships, a national championship with the Bearcats in 1962, and an Olympic gold medal in 1964.

      In other words (if you're a player) if you haven't been where George has, you best listen.

      "I slapped high five with Yancy (Gates) when he arrived," said Wilson of this particular visit to Woodward. "It's just to let them know that the old man is still around supporting them more than anything else. I just love watching basketball."

      Wilson has watched plenty of it when you factor in his post-UC years in the NBA up until 1971 (Royals, Bulls, Sonics, Suns, 76ers and Buffalo Braves/ABA). Somewhere, there are some bubblegum cards with some worthy credentials.

      "As I tell them, it wasn't by accident," said Wilson of his basketball success as a Bearcat. "Each guy did what they had to do. My job was to rebound and play defense. I didn't worry about scoring. Tony's (Yates) job was to distribute the ball and get assists. (Ron) Bonham was to shoot. We used to tell him, 'If I set a pick for you and you don't shoot, I'm going to be mad!'"

      As entertaining as a Deveroes game can be, it often lacks the finer strategies in basketball. The term, "fire drill" comes to mind and the veteran Wilson often sees what's missing.

      "That three-point line, I always laugh about that," said Wilson. "That, in my opinion changed the game. They come down one-on-one and they love to shoot that three-pointer. We had guys in my day that could shoot it, but it wasn't a three-point play, that was just their normal shot."

      Especially in a summer league game, there's often a lot of ego and sometimes a bit of selfishness which usually lands such a player on the bench come fall. The UC national championship teams were well known for NOT being selfish.

      "We played a team sport whether we played in summer league, high school, college or pros," noted Wilson. "It's more one-on-one now. It's more, 'Let's go have a good time' in there (the Woodward gym). I sat through three games, you saw me. I counted five box-outs in three games where they made an effort to box somebody out. That's the difference."

      Wilson credits his early coaches like Ed Jucker and Tay Baker for stressing the fundamentals that led UC to the title game three years in a row.

"You have to have that coach or that assistant to teach them--it's OK not to score or have a fancy pass or three-pointer, you know?" said Wilson. "It's hard to get kids nowadays. You know how things have changed. You come to college, you stay one or two years and then it's off to the pros. We knew you had to be in school four years. Even if you flunked out, you couldn't go to the NBA 'til your class graduated."

      When Wilson went to the NBA, he lasted seven years. Shorter than some, but longer than most. He averaged 5.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as his reputation as a role player continued.

      "Basically, I went to the pros because of my rebounding skills, my blocking shots and boxing out," said Wilson. "Scoring was fourth. That's why I got drafted and that's why when they expanded, I always was picked. They knew I didn't mind playing defense, rebounding and blocking shots and I could help the young guys because I had so many fundamentals from playing at UC."

      Having watched many players at UC since then, one player reminds George of George (and a statistical comparison proves this out).

      "The one that really reminds me is Kenyon Martin," said Wilson. "I was his size (6-8, 225). He's always focused on playing. He plays defense, he'll score, he'll run, he'll do whatever's necessary. That's why he's been around in the league so long. I saw he got a real nice contract last week."

      That's another thing different in today's game...big contracts for pro players.

      "One player makes more money than the whole team made back when I was playing," said Wilson. "That's the way it is. Back in those days if you made $10,000 and were working, you were doing good."

      One thing Wilson would like to see changed in the NBA (and the NFL has taken steps to do so) is to improve retirement conditions for those that played under different economic circumstances.

      "Yeah, so we get a nice raise before we leave up out of here," said Wilson. "Tom Thacker and I are going to try and talk to the NBA Players Association to see if we can get them to think along those lines."

      During his NBA career, George Wilson, along with former Bearcat great Oscar Robertson was a rep for the NBA Players Association.

      "We really had to put our careers on line just for the NBA Players Association," said Wilson.

      George Wilson always gets his message across--back then and still now. Before I wrapped up recording "Big George", he left one parting shot....

      "Just remember young folks," he said. "It's up to you to get it done. Us old-timers, we can tell you and we can show you, but you have to put it in your mind to get focused and do what has to be done to be an all-around basketball player."

      Or, as a handful of philosophers have said, "To learn about the future, study the past."

Bearcats Breakfast 7.30.10

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Well, it's Friday and a pretty fun weekend around Cincinnati, particularly with a big Reds-Braves weekend showdown between first-place teams. There is a Homer Bailey bobblehead giveaway on Saturday. You think they changed his uniform to the Louisville Bats?

Anyway, hope everyone enjoys their days off. Here are some links to get you going in the right direction.

--- Tony Pike opens camp as the fourth-string quarterback in Carolina. The Charlotte Observer has this story about his first days. It's a little fluffy, but a look into what's going on with him, nonetheless.

The best part is the writer asks him if he has ever been fourth-string quarterback obviously expecting a crazy reaction of no or some early age and Pike responds with, "Yeah, before my junior year."

Still hard to believe only three years ago, Pike was mired in complete obscurity on the Bearcats roster.

--- Mardy Gilyard is his normal outgoing self in St. Louis. At least one writer is already learning what a gem he can be in an interview. The part about Gilyard is at the bottom of this story.

I will be keeping an eye on St. Louis preseason games on NFL Network to keep an eye on Gilyard, particulary as a returner. At the very least, playing for St. Louis, he should get plenty of touches there.

--- A reader sent in a question regarding Big East expansion -- the topic that won't die -- and I can tell you that we will hear plenty about the BE brass' plans for dealing with future expansion at the media days early next week.

Commissioner John Marinatto will speak and if 35 percent of what he says isn't about expansion-related issues, I would be pretty shocked.

I will not be at the clambake, but of course you can follow all the action through Brian Bennett's Big East blog. BB has a look at some of the other storylines to follow over the two days.

--- At the paper I last worked at, I became pretty close to Dontonio Wingfield, who was from the city and one of the most galvanizing sports figures in its history. Wingfield has really turned his life around after some bad decisions and bad breaks curtailed his basketball career. He was running a youth basketball program and spent nearly every hour of his day trying to help kids not make the same mistakes he did.

Anyway, apparently he was arrested earlier this month, but claims he had nothing to do with drug charges filed against him. I would find it hard to believe Wingfield is lying. I certainly hope I'm correct.  

--- Syracuse's biggest threat may be returning to the team soon after being suspended. Somehow, I don't see the rest of the Big East petitioning to switch the Orange off of the homecoming game just yet.

--- For UC to beat Oklahoma they will have to find a way to slow DeMarco Murray. I'm still not sure how that is going to happen, particularly when his head coach is putting him in the same breath with Adrian Peterson.  

--- The embarrassing details playing out around Rick Pitino's trial are beginning to mount and always off-base Jay Marriotti thinks Pitino should resign. Not saying anything he did was moral or should even be condoned, but he is still a victim here and if the school stood by him in the beginning that stance shouldn't change now.

--- Villanova may be losing Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding, but they are plenty upbeat about their potential to win the Big East

Positional Analysis: Defensive Line

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This is the third in a series of looks at the 2010 UC football roster through the eyes of its position coaches. It continues with a glimpse at the defensive line with assistant head coach/defensive line coach Steve Stripling.

Stripling has 30 years of coaching experience and led the Central Michigan Chippewas to a 44-41 victory against Troy in the 2010 GMAC Bowl as interim head coach.

Overview:

Starters - DT Derek Wolfe, Jr., NT John Hughes, Jr., DE Walter Stewart, Soph., DE Dan Giordano, Soph., DT/DE Brandon Mills, Soph.

Reserves - Steve Hancock, Jr., Sean McClellan, RS Fr., Michael Hilty, RS Fr., Rob Trigg, Jr.

Freshman -- Camaron Beard, Brad Harrah, Eric Lefeld, Roney Lozano

Overview: A clear-cut break exists between the starting five up front and the conglomerate of players who will fill out the two-deep roster come Sept. 4. With Derek Wolfe leading the way at nose guard, this group will learn how many injuries it can handle through the three weeks of fall practices.

Biggest Question: How will the line handle another change in philosophy with the third defensive coordinator in three years?

Stripling: "It's a transition to a different style of defense. We expect more out of the defensive line. We are asking them to be more productive and contribute more as playmakers. They are not just there to occupy gaps. When you are really clicking then you can apply pressure with four down guys. They are not just there to take up space, they are looking for more aggression versus the pass more and more pressure."

Worth noting: This is one of the more experienced factions of an extremely young defense.

Stripling: "We are a very young defense, with but maybe two seniors on whole defense. Yes, we are extremely young, yet when you look up front, Wolfe, Hughes, Stewart, Mills, Giordano, they all played in the Sugar Bowl."


THE TOP TIER
Derek Wolfe

Tangibles: 6-5, 302 pounds, Jr.

Last year: 13 starts, 41 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 5 sacks (second on team)

Stripling's take: "He's evolved not only as player but as a leader. He had a great summer. He didn't put on any more weight but increased dramatically in strength. Obviously physically imposing presences and his numbers this summer were off the charts across the board."

PDJ Projection: Derek Wolfe was an impact player last year at DT and has been a monster in the offseason strength program. The Bearcats desperately need someone to disrupt the quarterback on the defensive front with their new style and all signs point to him being the man. I look for him to far surpass his numbers from last season.

John Hughes

Tangibles: 6-2, 305 pounds, Jr.

Last year: 23 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 start

Stripling's take: "He will start at the nose guard position. He is physical, big and extremely smart. He adds real stability. He is a very even keeled guy and very dependable."

PDJ Projection: Hughes will be counted on to be the rock of the defense in both position and demeanor. His 6 TFL in limited playing time last year is an impressive number and as a projected starter all year, that number should rise to the top three or four on the team.

Walter Stewart

Tangibles: 6-5, 226 pounds, Soph.

Last year: 11 starts, 59 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks

Stripling's take: "He has great athleticism. He is truly an edge presence. He will bring an extra pass rusher with a four-man rush or at OLB. A lot of times that position he will drop into coverage and the offense can't zero into anything he is going to do.

"When you have a player of his ability you can get into specific gameplanning of matching him up personnel-wise against somebody you want to see him go against."

PDJ Projection: We talked about Stewart in the linebackers breakdown and both Stripling and Co-DC/LB coach John Jancek agree time will tell how much he will line up at either position, but Stripling points out his versatility will allow them to put him in whatever position creates the biggest mismatch every single week.

Dan Giordano

Tangibles: 6-4, 246 pounds, Soph.

Last year: 0 starts, 42 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks

Stripling's take: "He's a warrior. What you will get from him is the same thing every day: 110 percent, toughness and effort. He loves football and love for the game is unparalleled. He is a treat to coach every day. Don't think anybody would love two-a-days, but he does. He loves two-a-days. He just loves playing football.

"He's maturing. He played last year, but now he in a starting role. He understands he has to get it done and understands he is the guy younger guys are watching now."

PDJ Projection: A lot of pressure on Giordano to become a playmaker on the end opposite Stewart. In his opportunities last year, he shined and if his effort and intensity translates to production he can evolve into one of the premier players on this defense. But anything in the area for 50 tackles, 7-10 TFL and 5-7 sacks would be a big win at the position for UC.

DT/DE Brandon Mills

Tangibles: 5-10, 266 pounds, Soph.

Last year: 0 starts, 25 tackles, 8 TFL, 3.5 sacks

Stripling's take: "One thing we really need out of him is some personality and juice and some energy. That's going to be real important. We are looking for sparkplugs.

"He has experience playing inside, though he's not the biggest guy. He is the changeup guy but with technique, toughness and leverage, he is capable of playing inside. But he has the ability and quickness and athletic ability to play outside. His is not typical inside, but a lot of times that is to his advantage. With he used his leverage he was able to thrive.

PDJ Projection: Stripling admitted he rarely cross-trains a player to play both inside and outside on the defensive line, but Mills fits those rare requirements of savvy despite being undersized inside and speed to work the perimeter. He will see plenty of playing time and the moment anybody goes down he will be the first to take over.

THE NEXT TIER

DE Rob Trigg

Tangibles: 6-3, 264, Jr.

Last year: 2 games, 0 starts, 10 tackles, 2.5 TFL

Stripling's take: "He is mature and is really starting to develop physically."

PDJ Projection: Trigg will hold down the backup end position, but how much playing time he earns will be decided by how well he performs in the fall. With Brandon Mills already filling some gaps, the rotation could close off to him if he struggles.

DT Michael Hilty

Tangibles: 6-4, 242 pounds, RS Fresh.

Last year: Redshirted

DT Sean McClellan

Tangibles: 6-4, 265 pounds, RS Fresh.

DT Roney Lazano

Tangibles: 6-3, 265 pounds, Fresh.

Stripling's take: "They are a youthful group. It will be fun in two-a-days to see who will emerge. We will see how (Lazano) can handle the situation. As a whole we are looking to develop the depth. We feel strong about the first five guys."

PDJ Projection: These three will be at the center of the group of young lineman to keep an eye on as fall progresses. McClellan shined in the spring game with an interception he ran back to set up a score and Hilty will receive plenty of looks as well. Of all the freshman, Lozano is the most physically ready to step in and play now. As Stripling said, the first five look great on paper, but if injuries occur, they need somebody to step in and not allow a huge drop off.

THE FRESHMEN

DE Camaron Beard

Tangibles: 6-6, 235 pounds, Fresh.

DE Brad Harrah

Tangibles: 6-7, 245 pounds, Fresh.

DE Eric Lefeld

Tangibles: 6-7, 230 pounds, Fresh

PDJ Projection: All three of these freshman will have something to prove in order to earn playing time this season. Redshirts are a possibility.

SLATS/POSTSEASON GAINES?

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kelvin gaines hs team.jpg
(Courtesy Martinsville Bulletin--Kelvin Gaines is dead center right below rim in background)


      Every year at the Deveroes League, there's a game between McCluskey Chevrolet (typically the NKU squad) and another team full of Division I players that either goes to the wire or McCluskey wins. In past years, it's been Shannon Minor or Mike Kelcey, it doesn't matter. Every year, NKU has a few guys who can put the ball in the hole.

      Problem is, in the lay-up line, it looks like David vs. Goliath.

      This year, it's been no different and I recently witnessed such a game when McCluskey took on the Slats team featuring UC's Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, former Bearcat Steve Toyloy, and Xavier's Terrell Holloway. The McCluskey/Norse were outsized and not as fast, but they played smart, moved the ball and buried threes---the formula for knocking off more physical opponents.

      Early in the second half, McCluskey had an 11-point lead when Xavier's Holloway called a timeout and gathered Kilpatrick and the others. Previously, NKU's Dennis Gagai had been lighting up Slats from the three-point arc.

      Gagai is a West Virginia transfer that's played a couple years with the Norse and looks like he could help any Division I team in the area. In the end, he finished with 26 points and at one time was matching Holloway and Kilpatrick shot for shot.

      But, in the end, depth and defense gets you wins and Slats was able to pull it out 75-71 as Holloway poured in 32 and Kilpatrick finished with 24 (after just a bucket in the first half). Slats also was led underneath by Steve Toyloy and newcomer Justin Jackson contributed with five blocks and seemed to have his long arms in the right place several times.

      The side story to this is it was the first Deveroe's appearance for new UC center Kelvin Gaines. Coming off a jaw injury (an inadvertent pop from Yancy Gates to the mouth) Gaines was more of a spectator in this one, but did have a basket and a couple of boards in a brief cameo.

      Gaines is trying to get his legs back after missing time initially with the jaw injury, then reaggravating it once he got to Cincinnati in the open gym with Gates.

      "Yeah, I had it done before I came, but he did it again," Gaines said.

      Asked if he popped Yancy back, Gaines said, " No, I'm good."

      On first look, Gaines looked rusty, but that's to be understood after missing time. Advertised as a shot blocker, he does have the length and leaping ability to do so, it just appears to be a matter of time before he's in to "running the floor" shape. The one thing I did notice right away is Gaines looks to be one of the few recruits that lives up to his measured billing.

      Best I can tell, he's a legit 6-10 which always helps in the Big East. Now, he just needs to add about 25 pounds or so onto his 225 pound frame. Much like Justin Jackson though, Gaines knows his UC role.

      "Oh yeah," said Gaines. "Defense and blocking shots."

      Adding a long-armed 6-7 guy (Jackson) with another blocker in Gaines to the frontcourt of Gates, Thomas, McClain and Wilks, gives you a pretty good crew in the "hops and swats department".

      Gaines has been in town about a month now and credits his parents for guiding him to UC because of their relationship with the Bearcat coaches. Needless to say, a defensive player of his stature had numerous offers.

      "I had a lot," said Gaines. "UConn, Miami, Memphis, Oregon, everybody."

      While on first glance, you might not be overwhelmed with Gaines, the body-type and potential are there for a quality Big East defender. Offensively, much like the particular game that Gaines watched from the bench, UC's fine with the ball in the hands of the shorter guys.

      "I could've played today, but they really didn't need me," said Gaines of the guard-oriented game that transpired.

      Again, similar to Jackson, if Gaines can come in and spell Gates and/or Thomas for a while, the Bearcats shouldn't lose out in terms of size and athleticism. Both young players specialize in swatting shots away--the more shots redirected toward the stands, the better UC's chances of winning become.

      For more of a look at some of UC's new guys on the court this fall (Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines) "live", postseason action takes place at Woodward High School Thursday night, July 29th.   Slats (their team) is scheduled on the floor at 7:30.

Bearcats Breakfast 7.29.10

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Sorry about the lack of breakfast yesterday. A couple of bad breaks caused a lapse in the space-time continum and my morning post was sucked somewhere next to rich Biff in the alternate 1985.

But, we're back today and I have a hold of the sports almanac.

--- I wonder how a team could be on a list as one of the Top 10 Underachieving teams and also be on a list of the top overachieving teams....BY THE SAME WEBSITE!

It may be time for Bleacher Report to start curbing the number of lists they publish.

--- Rivals picked UC at No. 24, much higher than some other services have placed the Bearcats around the late 30s, early 40s. The preview is nothing fans paying attention don't know, but it is always to read somebody else's opinion. Or at least, I assume that is why you are here right now.

NY Times places UC at 43.

Paul Myerberg details why. 

--- All the attendees for the Big East Media Days was announced. UC will be sending Zach Collaros, Armon Binns and JK Schaffer. They all make sense, but undoubtedly the biggest crowds will be surrounding Collaros. Here is the list of everyone attending from Brian Bennett.

I put the over/under on Brian Kelly questions during the event at 7.  

I also put the over/under on Tim Tebow questions during the event at 7. But that is standard for any media function anywhere.

--- Dominick Goodman was named Offensive Player of the Year in the CFL after racking up 473 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Cincinnati Commandos.

Oh, and he's now on Twitter. So, I say congrats, but you also can do it yourself. 

And apparently he is now playing for the Dresden (Germany) Monarchs. I have heard Dresden is beautiful this time of year.

--- On the same note, Ben Mauk was named CFL MVP. Lot of Bearcats love in the arena league.  

--- Good news for Pitt fans. Incredible news for Jabaal Sheard. Bad news for the rest of the Big East.

--- Bob Huggins was released from the hospital.

--- Somedays you hear good news, like you just hit your 10th Sub Club Sandwich and you can eat lunch for free. Sometimes you hear great news, like your wife's copy of Must Love Dogs was ruined in a tragic Franzia incident. And then you get unbelievable news, like this.

I can't properly voice my excitement for this revelation. And I cannot properly voice how hard I laughed reading this quote (mind you Alphonso Ribeiro played Carlton and James Avery Uncle Phil, let's just say their careers haven't quite launched like Will Smith's):

"Will [Smith] and Tatyana [Ali] crossed paths a while ago and were chatting and joking about the idea of getting everyone back together. A couple of the old writers including Andy Borowitz caught wind of it and started putting some stuff together... Alfonso [Ribeiro] and James [Avery] are also said to be 100% interested in doing it,"     

Uncle Phil and Carlton are on board? You think? They would settle for Will to just return their calls.

The emergence of Ibrahima Thomas

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Ibrahima Thomas looked lost. Worse, he looked overmatched. Even worse, he looked out of control and destructive.

The first game of Thomas' UC career came in the blazing, hot fire of the Crosstown Shootout. And the Bearcats' transfer center burned.

His first shot was an airball. Six more followed in only seven minutes and only one dropped in. He drew two personal fouls and found himself in the middle of a brouhaha at midcourt.

For UC fans who edged to the front of their recliners at the first view of this hyped transfer from Oklahoma State it brought a disappointing sigh.

In the proceeding games, his awkward moments became less and less commonplace. He began to finish around the rim. He began to drain 3-pointers. He began to utilize his 6-foot-11 frame.

Thomas averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds over the first 15 game last year. 

In the final 13, he scored 6.5 points and pulled down 7.3 rebounds.

By the end of the season, he was undeniably the most improved player on the Bearcats roster. Though, it's an award that was his to lose. The native of Dakar, Senegal didn't play in many games before coming to the U.S. and ending up at Oklahoma State.

Shockingly, pickup games are hard to find on the eastern tip of Africa.

"They just did drills," Mick Cronin said. "Thomas just needs live game play as much as possible."

He's getting that as he spends time this summer as a counseler at an Adidas Elite Camp where he'll take part in games along with some of the best players in college basketball.

After a year of watching the Thomas project mature and learn the ropes, the senior is ready to make the time spent watching him fail last year worth every second.

Despite all the talk of the necessary emergence of Yancy Gates, the continued evolution of Ibrahima Thomas is more certain and nearly as impactful.    

Take a look at some of the biggest wins of last season for UC. Start with the Big East tournament against Louisville: Thomas chipped in 8 points and 8 rebounds. A win at UConn in February: 10 points, 11 boards. Two home games where UC played well but eventually fell to Syracuse and Marquette, he averaged 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.

The games where Thomas figured out his way to contribute were ones where UC was at its collective best. Another offseason of work, season of games in the pocket and expanded role as a starter next season would infer consistency is on the horizon.  

Evidence of Thomas' cognitive ability regarding the game thus far would assure it.

"Thomas was 185 pounds when he came over here," Cronin said. "He thought he was going to make it as a jump shooter. He now understands that he can make it as a guy who is 6-11, can run like a deer, can block shots, rebound and become a better finisher around the rim and knock down the occasional open shot."

Cronin went on to point out Thomas will never own the body of Gates and nobody should expect him to be playing at 200 pounds next season. But they should expect Thomas to be playing well above the level at which we last left him.

If combined with a parallel emergence from Gates in a Big East heavy on guards and weak on big men, they could be among the top interior combos in the conference.  

"I am really optimistic about the season he is going to have," Cronin said. "He has tremendous aptitude. You talk to him about things, he understands."

There will be no erasing the tape of that first game against Xavier. There is no misremembering those feelings of disappointment from UC fans in the first glimpses of this anticipated transfer. 

But, little by little, Thomas is turning that game into an example of how far he has come rather than a statement of where he will be. 

"My guess is," Cronin said, "by next March we are all going to wish we had him for another year."

'Til We Reach Higher Ground

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That quote always reminds me of the Stevie Wonder song and is about working until you reach the pinnacle of your goals. Every year the UC football team heads to higher ground to symbolize dropping the gauntlet and signaling the season is now priority 2 (academics first right?).

The time these young athletes spend away from everyone is very important in determining the course of their season. It's where you let go of hang-ups and beefs with the guy next to or across from you. It's where you focus on a singular goal and your role in it, even if it's not the one you had in mind. It's the ultimate sacrifice when going into competitive battle to place team goals ahead of your own. I don't think any one truly knows how this season is going to end up but I think we all know how we hope it does and it's probably similar to them. Either way the start of the season is closer than you think and these guys need to be closer than that. Higher Ground means something special to this team and if everyone "buys in to win" the first goal to winning a championship has been accomplished. If they stay that way throughout the season, the chances improve greatly.

We who are older and we who have played on teams realize now looking back how special winning teams were in our lives. You forever remember the snap shot of time and the people who were a part of it. You remember what you did to contribute even if not getting in the way or being toxic; and you remember when it culminated in victory because everybody gets the same ring, trophy or award. I've always said Michael Jordan's ring is the same style ring as the last guy on the bench's ring because it's all about the team. And when anybody on the Bulls team is introduced, its as a member of the World Champions.

So head on up to the Higher Ground and begin your quest for Big East domination and BCS redemption. The fans are waiting to cheer loudly and proudly; the media is ready to cover you like an all pro defensive back and youngsters are ready to dream of becoming you one day if you show them team work works.

That's the way I see it sitting in The Box Seat...

Bearcats Breakfast 7.27.10

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The Breakfast is full of protein today, we are only 13 days from the first UC football practice and Mike and Mike won't be broadcasting an opening weekend Monday Night Football game instead replaced by a guy who looks just like me. Life is really turning for the better.

--- UC announced yesterday that the first official practice for the Bearcats would be Aug. 9 at Nippert Stadium before moving to Higher Ground Conference Center in Indiana on Aug 12.

A few of my followers on Twitter (you can follow me here) were asking if the practices at Higher Ground were open to the public. The answer I received from the athletics department was that they typically are not, but if one of them is opened up, there will be a post as soon as possible on GoBearcats.com.

Know that as soon as I hear anything I will be alerting the world via morse code much like the soldiers did in Independence Day when Randy Quaid figured out how to take down the alien aircraft.

"We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! Today is our Independence Day!"  

--- AOL Fanhouse breaks out the 12 Heisman candidates to watch in the Big East. Is AOL Fanhouse playing the "let's be good coaches by giving everyone a trophy" routine? It sure was cute how they let Syracuse feel like they count, too.

Outside of Dion Lewis, Noel Devine and Zach Collaros, it's hard to imagine anybody else being mentioned for a trip to NY in December. I leave out Jordan Todman and Tom Savage because UConn and Rutgers probably don't have enough firepower to warrant the kind of season that would put them in the running. Jonathon Baldwin will only get the credit if Lewis gets hurt and Pitt still wins the conference.

--- Expansion talk never stops, particularly when we have nothing else to talk about. ACC commish John Swofford says his league looked at some 14- and 16-team scenarios and understands the pros and cons

"There's a reason it hasn't happened," he said. "But that doesn't mean it won't happen."

If a second round of craziness were to be launched by the Big Ten, the ACC would be the most likely big-conference landing spot for UC. But let's worry about Doomsday some other time.   

--- For those of you interested in this type of thing, Rashad Bishop apparently knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer at the Deveroes league this week, according to Bearcat Report. Mick Cronin has made his stance on the Deveroes league pretty clear, as he said last week, "nobody guards anybody over there."

Regardless, it's good to see Rashad playing and hitting some big shots. He will have his fair share of opportunities to hit them this season as this team searches for offense -- assuming he successfully completes his program.

--- Lance Stephenson will be making $700k next year, according to IndyStar.com.

I will not be, according to my tax receipts.

--- Xavier is adding a transfer from Monmouth that averaged 17.8 points a game last year. According to Gary Parrish, his final list of schools might interest those who read this blog.

--- This came out last week, but apparently the Big East-SEC Invitational is "on life support," according to Fanhouse. The rumor is the games this season -- which don't include UC -- will be the farewell tour for the event.  

-- A quick Bob Huggins update: his assistant coach is saying he broke seven ribs and not four. He is still in a Las Vegas hospital.

--- Samuel L. Jackson is yelling at Falcons fans. It makes me want to order a Samuel Jackson beer. (Warning: Explicit language) No, I can't stop yelling! That's how I talk!

--- You thought all the nerds converged on San Diego for Comic-Con this past weekend. No, they just love Dawson's Creek. Do-do-do dodo. Do-do-do dodo.

--- Not sure what is more ridiculous: a) this ultimate frisbee catch at the Ultimate Frisbee World Championships, b) the fact that there are Ultimate Frisbee World Championships, c) the fact that it appears there are more people at the Ultimate Frisbee World Championships than Marlins games.

--- Let me guess: Catcher and cleanup?  

Bearcats Breakfast 7.26.10

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Nobody wants to be at work today. Hopefully reading this will make you forget about that for five minutes. Remember, NFL camps are opening, UC camp opens in two weeks and the Bearcats invade Fresno State in 41 days.

Look at it this way, it could be worse. At least you didn't literally get crapped on at your job today. Well, at least I hope not. 

--- Concerning news on the Bob Huggins front. Huggins fell in his Las Vegas hotel room late last week and broke four ribs. He was expecting to be released from the hospital on Saturday, but is still be being held there for observation, according to a WVU spokesperson.

Not a lot of details on exactly what happened or if there are complications, but sure hope this incident turns out to be a minor bump in the road on all fronts.

--- Not surprisingly, Zach Collaros was added to the Manning Award Watch List. He was the 12th player unveiled. As I broke down in an earlier post, if you extrapolate his numbers out over an entire season he could be considering the top quarterback returning in the country, by the numbers, at least.

--- Continued low expectations from the national folks. This time from the Sporting News who place UC at No. 41 on their list. They claim 8-4, 4-3 as a final record. This falls in as about the general consensus average from all the predictions I have seen.

Of course, these expectations would change with a win against Oklahoma at PBS (I smell a segue....) 

--- Tickets for the Oklahoma game went on sale this morning. As I have said before, this is a great deal for one of the biggest non-conference regular season games this program has seen. Tickets are reasonable and Phil Steele ranked Oklahoma No. 1 in his preseason poll. 

--- I've heard many UC fans rave about how much they enjoy Kings Island Day with the football team. It is a great opportunity to interact up close and personal with the players and even coach Butch Jones. This year's event will be Aug. 22 from 12:45 p.m.-3 p.m. at the park under the Eiffel Tower.

Players and coaches will be signing autographs and such. If they are like me, you will probably find a few of them sneaking off to Hannah-Barbara Land for some Smurf Ice Cream. Why does it taste so much better just because it's blue? One of life's great mysteries.

--- The NY Times reopened the conversation on a topic that may have slipped the mind of a lot of UC/Big East fans when the expansion uproar came to a temporary halt a month or so ago.

Yes, the Big Ten could very well still pluck some teams from the Big East and desires a NY/DC presence.

The Big East appears to have avoided the complete catastrophe when the Big Ten took Nebraska and the fact the 16-team superconference model was staved off for now should be enough to keep the conference safe from being plucked into extinction.

--- Can't help but comment on this story about Adam Dunn going up to see Bob Uecker during the Nats game against the Brewers this weekend without permission from manager Jim Riggleman. Dunn's attitude in this story is exactly why you loved him as a Reds player but wanted to see him go at the same time.

It's sort of the same way I feel today about Johnny Bench as he drives deeper and deeper into Crazyville. 

Bearcats Position Analysis: Linebackers

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This is the second in a series of looks at the 2010 UC football roster through the eyes of its position coaches. It continues with a glimpse at the linebackers with co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John Jancek.

Jancek spent the last five seasons at the University of Georgia, including the role of co-defensive coordinator last season. He also served as a defensive coordinator at Central Michigan and Grand Valley State.

Overview:

Summer two-deep: Starters - JK Schaffer, Jr., Ricardo Thompson, Jr., Walter Stewart, Soph. Reserves - Maalik Bomar, Soph., Robby Armstrong, Jr.

Newcoming contributers: Robert Martin, Jr. transfer, Solomon Tentman, Fr.

Other freshmen: Corey Mason, Fr., Josh Russ, Fr.

Overview: There are more questions than answers at this position group as the Bearcats open camp. The summer two-deep starter at MLB, Dorian Davis, is not longer with the program and a host of inexperience funnels in behind JK Schaffer and Walter Stewart on the edges. As is the case with the entire defense, there is not a senior in sight on the two-deep.

Biggest Question: What is going to happen at middle linebacker?

Jancek: "I think JK can play both Mike and Will. It's a next-man-in mentality, whoever the next best linebacker is that is who is going to be in the game. If that means moving Maalik up to Will and JK over to Mike, then we will be in a position to be able to do that. It is going to be interesting to see how guys progress when they start camp."

Worth noting: Leadership is as big of a variable as playing time.

Jancek: "Absolutely, we need some guys to step up in that area, lead and be demanding of the linebacker position and defense. Especially the linebacker area, those guys are so instrumental in the rushing and passing area they have to be instrumental in the leadership area."

THE TOP TIER
JK Schaffer

Tangibles: 6-1, 223 pounds, Jr.

Last year: 100 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions

Jancek's take: "He's a natural leader of our defense. He's one of the guys that is doing a great job of leading right now. His strengths are he has great vision, he understands football and functions at a very high level. He is getting better and better, his strength and ability to move has all improved over the summer.

"We've concentrated on getting him a little bit stronger, but not necessarily bigger. We want to keep him progressing in terms of his speed."

PDJ Projection: Schaffer has the tools to become the top player in the back seven of this defense. And the Bearcats need him to be. A second-level defense short on game experience must have Schaffer lead and contribute. All indications are he will have no problem stepping into that role, whether it be at MLB or his natural WLB position.

Walter Stewart

Tangibles: 6-5, 226 pounds, Soph.

Last year: 59 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks

Jancek's take: "He is going to be rush end and an outside linebacker. He will be bouncing around a little bit. I think he adds a dimension to our pass rush as a defensive end. He has done a good job coming off the end. He can bend, is athletic. Worked hard to be bigger and stronger. He is also smart enough to play sam and rush end and move back and forth between the two. He brings some real assets to our defense with his playmaking ability."

Handling two positions: "It's a concern, the coaches have to determine whether a particular player can do it, but I certainly feel confident in Walter that he can do it. He played a lot of football for the Bearcats last year and done everything to this point to show he will be able to do both."

PDJ Projection: Add Jancek to the long list of believers in Stewart. His play has been as remarkable as his story, which my colleague Scott Priestle documented in this excellent piece on CNati last season. The Bearcats are asking a lot of last year's breakout freshman. His role in two positions will keep offenses off balance and Stewart in a play-making role. I expect him to win at least one game for the Bearcats this season and be viewed as the biggest pro prospect on this defense by the time the year comes to an end.

THE SECOND TIER

Maalik Bomar

Tangibles: 6-1, 215 pounds, Soph.

Last year: Seven tackles in nine games.

Jancek's take: "Maalik, his focus this summer is on getting bigger and stronger. He has put on a lot of weight. He is up to 215 pounds (from 195), he is moving well. It is a matter of him learning the defense and becoming comfortable at the inside linebacker.

"He's going to have to earn his playing time but he is one play away from being a starter. He has to prepare like he would running with the first group. We don't have any time to waste for him to come along. He's got to come out when he returns to camp and continue to improve every day."

PDJ Projection: Bomar will surprise many people this season. His dedication to the offseason workout program has him physically able to compete and a second season with the program has him mentally able to keep pace with defensive schemes. Considering the possibility Schaffer moves to the middle and the lack of depth at the position, Bomar will start some games at linebacker this season.

Robby Armstrong

Tangibles: 6-2, 222 pounds, Jr.

Last year: Four games, 15 tackles, 1 sack (Knee injury in Week 4)

Jancek's take: "He didn't do much in the spring. Rehabbing an injury he suffered during the season last fall. He's a dedicated worker. He's smart. I'm intrigued by what he can do once he comes to camp."

PDJ Projection: Armstrong played well in a limited role last season before suffering a knee injury. He should be back at full strength in the fall and will seeing playing time. Also, with Stewart drifting between end and SLB, Armstrong will likely be on the field as much as any player in the second tier. As one of the more veteran members of the defense, his leadership and playmaking will be instrumental in the evolution of this defense.

Ricardo Thompson

Tangibles: 6-0, 235 pounds, Jr.

Last year: Only played in five games without a stat

Jancek's take: "He's got a lot to learn in terms of defense and learning what they learned last year. He is really working on his flexibility. His change of direction has gotten much better. He just needs to continue to grow within the defense."

PDJ Projection: Because of the wide-open nature of the middle linebacker position Thompson will get a shot. But he wouldn't be considered a front-runner to be a starter in Fresno on Sept. 4. He still has a long way to go in terms of grasping the defense, but if he can start to pick up the schemes he may be a surprise impact player.

NEWCOMERS

Robert Martin

Tangibles: 6-1, 230 pounds, Jr. transfer

Last year: 57 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 2 interceptions for Arizona Western CC

Jancek's take: "He will be in the mix right away. We are going to see what he can do. He looks good. He just reported so he is a little bit out of shape, but I know our strength coaches are doing a lot with him.

"He has some experience at the JuCo level. He is physically ready to step on the field for us. It is just a matter of if he can pick up the system."

PDJ Projection: AWC coaches praised Martin's speed and he was a major part of that team's push to finish the year No. 7 in the country in Junior College ball. Still, he only started three games there last year and is now moving into a major Division I program. The learning curve will likely be steep, but by the end of the season he should be somebody the Bearcats rely on.

Solomon Tentman

Tangibles: 6-2, 230 pounds, Fr.

Last year: GCL Defensive Player of the Year at Roger Bacon

Jancek's take: "He's been doing a great job this summer. He is a smart young man. He has a great body on him. He's strong. It's a matter of whether or not he can pick up the system. He's physically going to be able to compete right away."

PDJ Projection: Tentman has the most immediate potential of any of the freshman linebackers. With the wide-open nature of the middle linebacker position he could very easily slide in as the backup or even see some starting time if he overachieves or injuries occur.

THE OUTSIDERS

Corey Mason, Fr.
Josh Russ, Fr.

PDJ Projection: Neither were mentioned when Jancek was asked about newcomers expected to make a contribution, but as is always the case, that is nothing a solid fall can't solve. Redshirts are a possibility.

Bearcats Breakfast 7.23.10

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Happy Friday, hope you have some big plans this weekend. And I really hope they don't involve your mode of transportation being crushed by a whale.

Plenty to get to so you can embarrass your friends with all kinds of interesting nuggets this weekend. Here you go...

--- The inaugural 1200 Club event will be tonight at the Lindner Center in the Varsity Village. It's the kick-off the for the season of the new club and will include a chance to get inside the brain of Butch Jones and UC football.

Should be pretty neat for anyone who has the opportunity. Here is a link to how you can join the 1200 Club.

--- Pre-snap Read gives an in-depth preview of UC -- but ranks the Cats at No. 43. He acknowledges himself he's playing into the hands of the program who has fed off of disrespect over the previous years.

And, to be fair, this team belongs among the most difficult to predict because of the coaching change and unknown parts on defense. Still, 43 overall and 4th in the Big East is a significant slap in the face.

--- Thanks to ACMazzaro for bringing this up on Twitter (you can follow me here) and I wanted to specify one thing from my WR position analysis: Kenbrell Thompkins has not yet been cleared by the NCAA.

--- Our old pal Josh Katzowitz reported bad news that the Ravens cut former Bearcat Digger Bujnoch.

--- Rush the Court ranks the Top 20 basketball players in the Big East. It's a little top heavy with nine of the 20 coming from Villanova, Pitt, WVU and Georgetown.Yancy Gates slips in the back door at No. 19 as the lone UC representative. 

RTC points out what any Bearcats fan paying attention already knows:

"Gates is a strong, physical specimen in the post with an NBA body that isn't afraid to get dirty. The problem with Gates is that he does it 70% of the time. Conditioning and effort question marks have lingered over Gates during his college career, but there's reason to believe the light bulb could go off as a junior." 

No other UC players even made the honorable mention list and, that probably makes sense for now. As Mick Cronin said on Monday, they are "going to lie in the weeds and win games."

--- Lance Stephenson signed with the Pacers yesterday. Terms were undisclosed. The question isn't if he would earn the first contract, but will he develop enough to deserve the second, more-lucrative one? Stay tuned.  

--- Pretty much everything Dana O'Neil does is pure gold, but this latest effort is a game-changer in taking a look at the true, ugly underbelly of college hoops recruiting. She surveyed 20 major conference college coaches and provided them complete anonymity and in return received brutal honesty about cheating and trust. Hint: There's a lot of one and very little of the other.

It's a must-read if you are a college hoops fan and interesting even if you aren't. Here it is.

--- Sad to see The Sporting Blog breaking up, they were always one of the most entertaining spots in my bookmarks. Plus, Chris Littman is a fellow Bobcat, so you know its good. He did manage one last post about the best conference in college basketball next year and it isn't the Big East.

--- CBS Sports thinks Pitt is one of the Top 5 football/basketball combo schools in the country. Both programs are solid, though, I hate to the be one who continues to point out that Dave Wannstedt still hasn't won anything.

--- Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee of the NJ Nets are jumping in on the three-player nickname act. At least, in the world of fake sports news at Sports Pickle.

--- I have a couple of trips planned over the coming few months and can't wait to add this sticker to my luggage. Though, I will certainly have to leave an hour earlier to account for the added time trying to get through security.

--- Anchorman: The Musical. Please come true.

--- Breakfast tip of the day: If stumble upon a Bison, you should probably keep your distance.   

That's the Ticket(s)

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UC Football fans have spoken and they have shown their resiliency post Brian Kelly regarding their support of UC football. Student season ticket sales have exceeded last year and that speaks volumes about the Cattitude' of the fans and their belief in the new leadership of Coach Butch Jones.

Basketball will once again regain its foothold on the campus but we all have to be amazed, even a little, at what is going on gridiron wise when you think Dantonio, Kelly, Jones combine for less than 10 years of leadership among them. That's not consistency by any definition and that typically leads to fan apathy and lack of attendance. But winning is the great equalizer and while Coach Kelly will get a lot of the credit, and deservedly so, it was Coach Mark Dantonio who turned the corner with the perception of this team. he being a former Ohio State coach who brought "cred" here and now with Coach Jones the winning and belief continues and that means anything less than a Big East title could be disappointing if you choose to be unfair. I want them to win and expect them to compete but when we lose seniors and other teams juniors' now become seniors they have a legitimate shot as well. Please keep that in mind...

Either way its nice to see a consistent product and response to that product by the fans because it was earned. It also a reminder of what will happen in basketball now that they have emerged from the shadows of Huggins, Kennedy and a player-less roster and into Big East tournament game winners and NCAA bubble-ers. If they keep growing then this will be their year and we will have what we all desire; winning sports year round as it relates to the revenue producing sports. Nothing against baseball, track and field or even swimming but the money these 2 sports potentially generate fund the others.

For the sake of the student athletes lets hope both these programs have stellar years and go into the post season with lots of success and momentum. The fans have spoken for the football team and to roll that over to basketball might be what they need to get over the hump. So here's to a great 2010-11 season for UC football and basketball. A hard to find ticket means an easy to find winner.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

Bearcats Breakfast 7.22.10

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For those of you who didn't see it or actually chose to work during the final few hours of the day yesterday, I opened the first in a series of positional analysis as viewed through the eyes of the position coach.

I started with T.J. Weist and the wide receivers. T.J. was outstanding and really broke down the strengths, weaknesses of individuals and big picture of the position this year from the top of the depth chart to the bottom.

Bearcats fans should be excited about what he said about Dyjuan Lewis.  

Of course, the depth will only improve. I am not allowed to comment on rumors about players that are not officially a part of the university yet. That's all I have to say about that. 

--- Another day another piece of encouraging ticket sales news from UC. This time it's that the student season tickets have sold out for the season. The student convenience program rolled through 2,500 tickets and 500 student guest tickets with more than a month until the season begins.

Here are the details from UC Athletics:

CINCINNATI - The countdown to the 2010 University of Cincinnati football season continues with the opener just over 40 days away and the UC student convenience season ticket package, created in 2009 with the support of the UC Student Government, has sold out for the second consecutive season.

Students have exhausted 2,500 advance season tickets and 500 student guest season tickets in the south end zone for the upcoming year.

"This is the second year that the student season ticket package has been offered, and just like last year, it is very apparent how much pride our students have for this football team and the University," Student Government President Drew Smith said. "Last year's explosive season drove UC pride to an all-time high and we are seeing the results of that now.  Students believe in Bearcats football.  Outside of selling out of the season ticket package, there is an increase in attendance to away football games. The student support is outstanding."

Students who were unable to purchase the convenience ticket package before the sell out can still acquire tickets in the student section for 2010. The remaining 3,000 FREE student tickets will be available 10 days prior to each game. Students can pick up their tickets at the Richard E. Lindner Center with a valid student ID or print from home for $1.50 at www.CATSTIX.com. Students who purchased a season ticket package are NOT eligible for an additional FREE ticket.

With the way tickets are flying out the windows, UC may want to keep an eye on what happened at the University of Colorado.

--- Brian Bennett takes a look at the key stretch for the Bearcats this season which will be the final four games.

While I agree with BB that beating these four teams for the second year in a row is a lot to ask, doing it at the end of the season when not only Butch Jones' system is running on all cylinders will be beneficial, but this young defense should be starting to play more on instinct rather than thinking about where they are supposed to be. 

---  I am not one to throw stones here, but we will just call this self-defense. Does anybody see the irony in an Ohio State blog running a list of the Five Most Annoying Fan Bases?

Does anybody think the arrogance of an Ohio State blog running the Five Most Annoying Fan Bases is pretty much why they belong on their own list?

Yeah, me too.

--- There are plenty of Cincinnati HS football fans that follow UC closely, so word that the state finals will be moving out of Canton in a few years should bring a smile to your face. Finding a more central location only seems fair and while the facilities in Stark County are fine, they are no Horseshoe.

I remember going up there when I was at Moeller in 1997 and we played Canton McKinley in the championship. We brought a solid contingent on the 3 1/2-hour drive, but it was almost unfair as we walked into the home stadium for McKinley and they were overflowing over the other 80 percent of the stadium that wasn't our ticket allottment.

Personally, a rotation of PBS, Browns Stadium, The Horseshoe and Canton would seem fair to me, but OHSAA isn't always the most forward thinking crew. Apparently, that is pretty far off, according to the DDN.

--- Some people both inside and outside the Big East didn't like Bobby Gonzalez. Those people probably will like this photo gallery.

--- As my Bearcats Breakfast Tip of the Day, if you are going to break into a closed bar, open it, and start selling drinks to unwitting customers -- you may want to pass on doing a story about it in the local newspaper. (Wait, newspapers still exist?)  

 

Bearcats Position Analysis: Wide Receivers

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This is the first in a series of looks at the 2010 UC football roster through the eyes of its position coaches. It opens with a glimpse at the wide receivers with WR coach T.J. Weist.

Weist, a 22-year coaching veteran, is in his first year with UC after spending the past eight years mentoring receivers at Western Kentucky.

Overview:

Summer two-deep: Starters - Armon Binns, Sr., Vidal Hazelton, Sr., D.J. Woods, Jr., Marcus Barnett, Sr., Reserves - Kenbrell Thompkins, Jr., O.J. Woodard, Jr., Jamar Howard, Sr., Danny Milligan, Soph.

Freshmen: Dyjuan Lewis, Anthony McClung, Montreal Robinson

Outlook: This could arguably be the deepest position on the Bearcats roster. Binns and Woods both put up big numbers last season and USC transfer Vidal Hazelton has looked as good if not better than anybody during his practices in the spring. Injuries wouldn't set this group back, however, with players like JuCo transfer Kenbrell Thompkins and highly-touted freshman Dyjuan Lewis lurking behind, there is talent abound.

Biggest Question: Is it fair to place the pressure of being the No. 1 guy on Armon Binns and will there be enough footballs to go around for this dynamic group?

Weist: "It is kind of unfair, we are not really focused on who is our No.1, who is our No.2 because we feel like our offense can spread the ball around fairly evenly and we have a lot of talent. So it is not like we are going in saying we are going to get this many balls or plays or catches to this guy and this guy and this guy. That kind of develops naturally as you go during the season. Obviously, Mardy (Gilyard) was the No. 1 guy last year with the most catches, but with as much talent as we have and everybody working hard this summer it is hard to say who is going to end up being the top guys from that standpoint.

"You want the receivers to want the football, if they don't want the football then it is a problem. We are going to have to deal with that. We are not in the business of making people happy. We are in the business of winning football games...I would love for everybody to catch 100 footballs this year. Is it going to be possible? No. But I can't tell you who our top guys are going to be in terms of producing. We plan on spreading the ball around a lot not to just one guy or two guys."

Worth noting: Weist on how this year's group will look in comparison to last year's receivers that worked the edges at Nippert Stadium.

"Last year...they almost always had a tight end in the game, we will go a little bit more four wide receivers," he said. "We will still use the tight end a lot in a lot of formations. We probably will use more formations. It will be a very similar tempo because they had a very fast tempo. We can be faster, but I think our guys are excited about that. The variety of our offense from a formation standpoint, from a play standpoint, we probably are more balanced. It is hard to say watching film, I didn't study Cincinnati's offense all that much. You look at what the receivers did, they were productive with Mardy, D.J. and Armon, they were all productive and we are looking to get more out of them this year."

THE TOP TIER
Armon Binns

Tangibles: 6-4, 200 pounds, Sr.

Last year: 61 receptions, 888 yards, 11 touchdowns

Strengths: "He won some ballgames with big catches in clutch situations," Weist said. "It is hard to teach that. He's got experience, game-experience, clutch play-making experience. That is something really hard to teach. You don't get those scenarios in practice or spring ball, something like that...He gives us a guy that has respect because of the play that he made last year and gives us leadership from that point."

Next level improvement: "Probably just being a complete package player; a guy that plays fast all the time and is consistent in his play-making ability. You go to the next level and everything is so fast. It's much different than a college game. From that standpoint, all these guys are going to have to realize that."

PDJ Projection: Last season, Binns showed a flair for the dramatic and ability for the NFL. He was rated among the top five returning senior receivers in the country by Mel Kiper. With Hazelton, Woods and the threat of a running game to keep the defense from keying on him, he should be the top receiver on this team.

Vidal Hazelton

Tangibles: 6-2, 210, Sr.

Last year: Sat out transfer season; 2008 injury, 2007 had 50 receptions, 540 yards, 4 touchdowns at USC.

Strengths: "Very similar to Armon, just play-making ability," Weist said. "He has great awareness of playing the position, a natural feel to run routes and get open and make big catches in clutch situations. He has experience, even though it has been a couple years. He gets respect because of the success he had at USC in big ballgames and bowl games. Things like that. He has that experience. It's just the things he has done on the field, how hard he has worked."

Next level improvement: "Just a matter of him getting back on the field, in play-making mode and getting in the groove, getting in game shape. It has been so long since he really played and gone out on the field and competed. He is so hungry to do that, that is really what it comes down to. He had a good spring and a good summer, now he is ready to play."

PDJ Projection: Hazelton is almost a Binns clone with his size and play-making ability. Making defenses decide whether to cover him or Binns with their top DB will be a difficult choice. He should be neck and neck with Binns for the most yards and touchdowns.

D.J. Woods

Tangibles: 6-0, 175 pounds, Jr.

Last year: 51 receptions, 640 yards, 4 TDs

Strengths: "He has a great natural feel for playing the inside receiver position," Weist said. "He takes a lot of pride in running his routes sharp. He can make clutch catches down the middle. He knows what to do with the football, once he catches it he gets north. He's got a keen playmaking ability that is hard to teach. Plus, he's in great shape."

Next level improvement: "More about route technique than anything. Defining his routes, making him show the DB that he is going deep every time. But he is in great shape. Just a matter of being consistent on his routes and he will make plays.

"And his blocking. He's a little lighter than the other guys. The others are 200 pounds and above. At the 170 range he needs to work on his blocking."

PDJ Projection: Woods will be the man in the slot and few people on the team own his field vision and ability to snake upfield, particularly off WR screens. His numbers should be similar to what they were last year, if not a little higher in Butch Jones' system.

THE SECOND TIER

Kenbrell Thompkins

Tangibles: 6-2, 185 pounds, Jr. JuCo transfer (originally signed with Tennessee, then changed to UC when Lane Kiffin left)

Last year: 69 receptions, 1,020 yards, 9 TDs (at Camino Community College)

Strengths: "Kenbrell Thompkins was one of my most dedicated blockers," Weist said. "You have to take a lot of pride in blocking. They have to work at it. They have to believe in it...Kenbrell really stood out to me from a blocking standpoint because he takes a lot of pride in it.

"I think he is a very fast player, very smooth. He takes a lot of pride in technique and is very competitive."

Why he'll improve: "He got a lot of reps when Armon got hurt in the spring. He did a great job because he is one of our fastest players, one of our most explosive players and he plays like that, too. He catches the ball with his hands very well. He takes a lot of pride in everything he does and that is why he gets better every day. Not everybody gets better every day. He really works at it."

PDJ Projection: Nobody doubts his ability and Weist specifically spoke about him in regards to blocking -- that will be a major part of his role as the season progresses. With more four WR sets expected, he should find a way onto the field in spurts. At the least, if Binns or Hazelton go down, there will be a dynamic replacement available.

Dyjuan Lewis

Tangibles: 6-2, 190 pounds, Fr.

Last Year: Four-star (Scout and Rivals) recruit from Indianapolis Pike

Strengths: "He came in and has been working hard all summer," Weist said. "We are always going to play the best player I don't care if you are a senior or a freshman and Dyjuan has come in and really been impressive. Knowing his past he is a guy to look for in the future. He is a guy that is going to compete this fall because physically he is very similar to the other guys."

Difficulty for a freshman: "Physically is not the hard part, it is the mental part and really developing in the offense. When they are not in a position where they are a starter and gaining reps all the time then it is hard. That's the thing, it is hard because those guys have to learn despite getting reps. It is hard to play true freshman unless you make it simple for them. But guys are doing it because they have been here all summer. They have been learning the offense all summer."

PDJ Projection: Lewis is the wild-card of this bunch. His athletic ability is on par with that of his teammates, but the question will be how fast he can grasp the system. Regardless, his playmaking ability will demand some playing time. What he does with that will determine his contribution come November.

Marcus Barnett

Tangibles: 6-2, 175 pounds, Sr.

Last year: 10 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD (62 receptions, 862 yards, 13 TDs as a freshman)

Role: "He is going to play some inside receiver. He played some DB this year. He had a good spring and a good summer so far. He is going to be a dependable player for us this year."

PDJ Projection: Barnett produced on of the greatest freshman receiving seasons in UC history, but he hasn't been able to beat out Woods at the slot position. He always will benefit from more 4 WR sets this year and represents a nice commodity to have backup slot receiver who was a Freshman All-American. It's certainly not out of the question he could overtake Woods, but that would take a remarkable August.

ROLE PLAYERS

O.J. Woodard

Tangibles: 6-2, 214 pounds, Jr.

Last year: No receptions

Role: "I think he is going to be a good role player for us," Weist said. "Solid, he is dependable. Needs to work on his route techniques. I think he is going to be a good player for us, he has always been a good special teams player on the team. He's done a good job this summer and he is ready."

PDJ Projection: Woodard will mostly contribute on special teams with his shot at a serious contribution likely coming during his senior year when Binns, Hazelton and Barnett clear out.

Jamar Howard

Tangibles: 6-4, 210, Sr.

Last year: 3 receptions, 50 yards

Role: "His main thing is he needs to get healthy. His injury in the spring really put him behind," Weist said. "He took the first part of spring and was productive, but once he got hurt he hasn't come back. I will be anxious to see how he does. He only has one fall left. He has to come out healthy.

 

Where he's at now: "Still not running full just yet. Not working out from that standpoint yet. Hard to say when he is going to be ready this fall."

 

PDJ prediction: Howard has the talent to play a significant role on this team, but it will be an uphill battle between himself and his health.  

 

Danny Milligan, Soph.,

Anthony McClung, Fr.,

Montreal Robinson, Fr.,

 

PDJ Projection: These three aren't likely to see much playing time and McClung and Robinson would be candidates to redshirt unless they break out at fall practice.

Bearcats Breakfast 7.20.10

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Packing quite a bit in today, so will have to give a slightly abbreviated breakfast. Eggos and a banana on the go.

On to the links...

--- More information than expected came out of Mick Cronin's mid-summer press conference yesterday. The biggest news was on the status of Rashad Bishop. I have that information in my post from yesterday, right here.

Bottom line is this: If Cronin sees the committment level from Bishop has continued and he doesn't slip up between now and early August, it would be a strong possiblity he would take part in team's practices for Canada and be with the team this season.

As Cronin said, "nobody wants him on this team more than me, and probably Rashad." Considering the lack of offense returning and what Cronin said yesterday will be more of a pressing team, having his best defender and second-leading scorer return for a senior season could be a difference-maker in the long run. 

In the same vein, you have to believe there will be little tolerance for any off the court missteps if he does.

--- Florida could be forced to vacate its Sugar Bowl victory against UC. Vacating the win is much different that forfeiting. If they vacate, neither team would earn a win and UC would still technically finish the season 12-1. If it were forced to forfeit (highly unlikely) then UC would be awarded the victory.

Question: Would that make you feel any better about what happened in New Orleans? Would you even want to hang a banner that said 13-0 if that was how it was awarded?

I wouldn't. It would feel disingenious and I would never be able to look past the giant asterisk next to it.

--- Much was made last season about Cronin's rotation of players. Particularly that there were too many in said rotation. The folks at Yet Another Basketball Blog looked at the percentage of playing time for reserves for every coach in the country.

Cronin landed 107th overall and 5th in the Big East. Not exactly the land of extremism.

The intersting thing I find about the list in the Big East is so many of the younger coaches in the league playing deep benches. The more tenured all appear to be playing starters. There may be other factors into that considering all the math and variables that accrue over the course of a 20+ year coaching career (Boeheim, Calhoun), but just an observation.

--- Pitt may have suffered a significant blow to their team when Jabaal Sheard allegedly tossed a guy through a glass door, got maced and was suspended by the team. In his defense, if I had to spend any amount of time in an art gallery I would probably want to throw somebody through glass, too.

Pitt Blather is, of course, all over it, even with a catchy headline.   

Sheard had five sacks in his 13 starts last season and was seen as one of the premier players in the Big East. Depending on how many games he misses (and possibly the whole season considering the severity of the crime) this could be a significant blow to the preseason favorites to contend for a BE title.

--- Hope everybody has a productive day and successfully keeps the clowns from attacking their house.    

 

The latest on Rashad Bishop

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A shroud of questions hovered over the status of Rashad Bishop ever since his indefinite suspension from the University of Cincinnati Bearcats team just before the start of the Big East tournament in March.

UC head coach Mick Cronin shed light on Bishop's situation at a mid-summer press conference Monday and it appears Bishop is only weeks away from possibly returning to the program.

Cronin said Bishop's scholarship was not renewed and he was given the choice to stay in Cincinnati and attempt to earn it back or move elsewhere. Bishop chose to stay at UC and is currently in the middle of a six-week "commitment program" where he must prove he is dedicated to being part of the team.

"Moreso showing myself, (Athletic Director) Mike Thomas and his teammates that he is willing to do the things we want him to do off the floor to be on the floor," said Cronin, stating he can reward a scholarship to Bishop at the completion of the six weeks. "To me, you have to have a level of integrity in your program, it is one of the reasons I was brought here. Another thing is you have to have a commitment level to your teammates. I love Rashad, he is a great kid. He has worked really hard at it. He is close, he's got a few more weeks on his commitment program. Nobody wants him on our team more than I do. Probably other than Rashad."

Cronin said Bishop is currently enrolled in school, but would not specify if the rising senior is paying his own way.

Bishop was widely regarded as the top defender on the Bearcats last year while averaging 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. He showed flashes of brilliance including a 19-point breakout against Villanova and 17-point surge against Marquette. Both games ended in close defeats.

If reinstated he would be the second-leading scorer returning, behind Yancy Gates.

Cronin said a decision on Bishop's status will come in early August, prior to when the team begins its practices for an exhibition trip to Canada.

"He and I will sit back down again," Cronin said. "There are monitors on him every day as far as what he is doing from a commitment standpoint, on and off the floor.

"He wants to be here and I commend him for taking the risk to doing what he has to do to be on this basketball team and help us finish our process of getting it back to what we want it to be."

Bearcats Breakfast 7.19.10

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Should be a busy day with Mick Cronin holding a mid-summer press conference in the afternoon and I will be tracking down some other interviews before that.

All the football coaches officially return to campus today. Mark this off as the latest checkpoint to Sept. 4. Almost there.

In the meantime, I am going to start running a couple of different features as we lead up to camp. The first is a game-by-game rundown of the schedule where we'll talk to the beat writers for the opposing team and get an insider's view of what the Cats have in store in for them. Fresno Bee beat writer Daniel Lyght will kick off the proceedings as we break down the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Also, over the next two weeks I will be sitting down with all the assistant coaches on the team and delivering a complete roster breakdown. Know the strengths, weaknesses and roster battles that will be going on during preseason. I think this should be an enlightening process for all of us that are trying to get a firm grasp on the makeup of this year's Bearcats. Many positions are pretty locked in, like QB, but others, like MLB, will be much more interesting to hear the analysis from the mouths of those making the decisions.

Anyway, you can just call that my movie trailer for the coming weeks (In a world, where a writer previews his material...).

Let's move on to the breakfast..

--- I put together my official preseason rankings and sent them off for the Big East media poll yesterday. Before I show my list to you, I would love to hear how you guys would rank the eight teams.

I imagine most of you would put UC at the top spot, but let's try to be slightly objective. 

Send your rankings over to my email with some reasoning behind your primary choices (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com) and I will publish and debate some of your thoughts in the breakfast later this week along with what I sent in to the Big East.   

--- Scott Springer at GoBearcats headed over to Deveroes (the league, not the store, though I would like to see Scott in a bubble coat) and put together a piece featuring Sean Kilpatrick.

He makes an interesting comparison to last year when the Slats team Kilpatrick helped lead to the championship saw Lance Stephenson come in and wow the crowd in that game. But, they lost. When the show was all about Lance, the team lost some of the effectiveness of the distributing Kilpatrick.

It was the Deveroes league, so we can probably stop reading into it there, but an interesting thought nonetheless.

--- On Friday, UC sent out a release announcing season ticket sales exceeded 20k for this season. That marks the fourth consecutive season of ticket sales growth for the program. 

Tickets go on sale for Oklahoma vs. UC at PBS on July 26. At $50 for the lower level, $40 for second and $25 for upper bowl, it's not a bad deal at all for such a huge game. Having sat in the upper level at PBS a few times, I can tell you the bottom rows of the upper deck are some of the best seats in the house. Those would be a steal at $25.

--- Also on Friday, Tommy G caught up with Connor Barwin, who gives another great interview. Barwin gets into why he thinks his second year will be better than his rookie year while also talking a little bit about this year's UC team.

Easy to believe Barwin when he talks about building on last year because he played so much better as the season went along last season. He recorded 3.5 of his 4.5 sacks in the final six games of the year. The final four of which were wins for the Texans.

--- While Sunday was UC Day at the Reds game, Saturday night probably more illustrated the reason people are excited about the direction of the program.

Butch Jones and his family settled into Diamond Club seats right behind home plate when Jeff Brantley and the FSN crew wanted to place Cowboy in those to give observations about the stuff of Edinson Volquez along with almost certain ramblings about ice cream and honey holes.

Well, according to Jones' blog, he gladly gave up the seats of the sold-out game for the FSN crew to do their work.

The Reds found his family some other seats, but obviously not as sweet as those.

Is this the type of guy you want running your program? Yep.

--- Matt Hayes at The Sporting News ranked the Big East non-conference schedules from first to worst. UC lands at No. 3 behind Pitt and USF. You can make an argument for UC being ahead of USF (at Florida, at Miami), but having to go on the road into both hostile enviornments, whereas UC gets Oklahoma in town, probably is the difference-maker.

Elsewhere on the list, UConn needs to be moved down at least two spots. I give them respect for scheduling the Big Ten and SEC, but does it really count if you schedule Michigan during its worst run in decades and Vanderbilt?

--- Notre Dame's top returning scorer was arrested, along with 10 other athletes. I wouldn't expect much to come of it, though. Apparently, kids are drinking underage on college campus'. In related news, people are driving faster than the posted speed limits.

---  Mo Egger is as loyal a UC alum as there is. And damn entertaining. And it's good to have him back from vacation. His first blog back only wished death on two people, hitting the under on my bet of 7. However, it did contemplate the drowning of an entire cruise ship, so I'm not sure if I won or lost. Regardless, good stuff. Here it is.

KILLA AND THE X FACTOR (Coming to a screen near you!)

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      Two additions to the UC Bearcat basketball floor can be seen for a few more weeks at the Deveroes Summer League at Woodward High School. One actually became a Deveroes favorite last year in Sean Kilpatrick.

      "Killa" as PA man (and former Xavier Musketeer) Jamal Walker calls him, was one of the main scorers last year for the Slats entry that typical showcases new Bearcat talent. The 6-4 guard from New York showed a variety of playground moves and the ability to score from all over. Then, in came Lance Stephenson.

      Stephenson watched a few summer games last season, then played in the championship and was phenomenal. Thing is, the team (in my opinion) had developed a chemistry around Kilpatrick and suddenly what was usually a fairly even distribution between Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates became "The Lance Show".

      Sure, it was entertaining and enlightening, but the focus was on "Born Ready" and eventually things didn't jive and it resulted in a loss.

      (Read into that what you want.)

      Now, "Killa" is back with a green light and is anxious to show Bearcat fans what they missed last year when he was advised to redshirt.

      "I'm a lot ready for this year," said Kilpatrick after racking up 31 points unofficially in a Slats defeat against Raeshon Mansoor Law Office. "I feel like everything has basically come to me. I've been working on my game a lot more and I've been working on my perimeter shot a lot more."

      Sitting does not come easy to Sean Kilpatrick. Neither does losing. Last year, he had more than his fill of both.

      "Very hard," said Kilpatrick of the ordeal. "Wanting to play next to Lance (Stephenson) and seeing my team struggle like that. It hurt a lot."

      The ironic thing is it was Stephenson's presence that led to Kilpatrick's redshirt, as it was deemed there were only so many minutes for a New York shooting guard. The one with the headlines won out, although you shouldn't consider Kilpatrick "back page" material for one second. It's water under the bridge, but he believes he could've assisted the Bearcats last season.

      "Yes, yes I could've helped," said Kilpatrick emphatically. "I've just got to move on and worry about this year."

      Moving on means moving into the weight room to take advantage of year one of his remaining four years of eligibility. He looks thicker already, as does Darnell Wilks and Biggy McClain. Yancy Gates always looks thick. Those that might not look thick, are probably deceptively strong and it's all so UC can compete in the rugged Big East.

      The taskmaster for these body changes is Dave Andrews, a former Ohio State football player and the basketball strength and conditioning coach. Dave Andrews can dress an athlete down with one stern glance.

      "I love Dave," said Kilpatrick in defense of his coach. "He keeps us going. If it wasn't for Dave, I don't know where this program would be. He's a big help in the weight room."

Adding strength is one thing, adding wins is another. With two top scorers gone (Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson) there's plenty of room for Sean Kilpatrick to step up and take charge (along with Dion Dixon, Larry Davis, Rashad Bishop, Jaquon Parker, Cashmere Wright, etc.).

      That's a lot of perimeter talent waiting for their moment. However, Kilpatrick thinks the strength of the Bearcats might be inside.

      "I think with the team this year--we work a lot more," said Kilpatrick. "Especially, Ibrahima Thomas and Yancy Gates. Our 'bigs' have progressed. I feel like they're working a lot more in the weight room. We're getting a lot of work done in the weight room. We should be OK this year."

      To complement the veteran power players, Mick Cronin had added Justin Jackson, who can also be seen on the Slats team in the summer league.

      Upon signing Jackson out of Jacksonville, Florida, Coach Cronin compared him to Eric Hicks, Jason Maxiell and Erik Martin. Having seen him, he's taller than Hicks and Martin and is probably closer to Maxiell's height (6-7). That's only one inch shy of his listing, which I've come to find out is pretty good in college circles. In past years, recruits seemingly "shrunk in transit".

      What he lacks in stature, Jackson makes up for in wingspan as many have agreed that Jackson has the longest arms on the team. While raw, he's very active, and for a team that keeps count of "deflections" that's very good.

      "I try to do all of the dirty work, really," said Jackson.

      What Bearcat fans will notice is his ability to change shots, if not block them with his leaping ability and reach. He's also not afraid to dive on the court, even if it's a summer league game.

      And obviously, he can sky as he ferociously attacks the rim with his great leaping ability. Even though he admittedly is a "bit behind" Darnell Wilks in that category, Jackson looks like he's flying because of what basketball coaches refer to as, "great length".

      Next on the agenda for Jackson is some serious time with the aforementioned Dave Andrews who would like to pack another 15-20 pounds on Justin's 210-pound frame. Putting a little "definition" onto a vertical player, could be the key to UC's equation in 2010-11.

      Or, as Jackson likes to say....

      "They call me the 'X Factor'!"

      Where else would an 'X Factor' be needed than at the University of Cincinnati?

     

killa.jpegjustin-jackson.jpg

When is that Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout again?


Bearcats Breakfast 7.16.10

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Happy Friday to everyone. It's a special weekend for me because, as a child of the late 80s and early 90s it's impossible to contain my excitement for MC Hammer night at Great American Ballpark tonight.

I owned the cassette tape of "Let's Get it Started," and like every kid in America in 1990, knew all the lyrics to "U Can't Touch This." (Thank you, for blessing me with a mind too much and two hype feet) I still don't claim his Funky Headhunter era, but do know the hook to Pumps and a Bump is one of the catchiest he ever put together.

That said, this will be a special night as the Hammer is going to hurt 'em with a concert before and after the game and even do some spots during. I will be there, and I am assuming the entire stadium will be filled with 28-32 year-olds. Plus, a ton of 1990 Reds will be in the building for HOF weekend and the 20th anniversary celebration of that team. Chris Sabo bobblehead night on Saturday.

Just when you thought this was a completely selfish rant without any UC significance, I prove you wrong. Sunday is UC Day at the Reds. Mike Thomas and baseball coach Brian Cleary will be recognized and President Dr. Gregory Williams will throw out the first pitch. You can buy discounted tickets here. Can't beat it. Hope to see you there.  

Moving on...

--- When the Bearcats face Indiana State in the home opener on Sept. 11, there will be a familiar face on the opposing sideline as the Sycamores hired Rick Minter as a linebackers coach.

For those who hadn't been paying attention, Minter was defensive coordinator for the Marshall Thundering Herd the past two seasons. He even took over the role of head coach the The Herd's 21-17 win in the Little Ceasers Bowl last year...against my alma mater Ohio Bobcats. (cue Price is Right loser horn)

--- Tommy Gelehrter interviews Jefferson Ave. construction project manager Barrett Bamberger about the progress there. Beyond their matching hard hats, vests and stubble, it is a nice look at what is going on inside the fences on campus. They are about a month away from laying down the field turf.

Tommy G doesn't stop there -- MONTAGE! 

--- UC-Pitt makes yet another Games to Watch list for this season. This time at USA Today's college sports blog. I don't care what you say, I know Bearcats fans will at the very least be checking the phone for the score to the first game on that list.

--- The folks at Bearcat Report are pitting this year's hoops team against those of the past. This edition has the 2002-03 squad. I sure do miss Leonard Stokes. (Subscription required)

--- The Bleacher Report placed Lance Stephenson on its list of the most impressive players from the NBA Summer League. Of course, so is Reggie Williams, who spent most of last year in the D-League, so draw your own conclusions.

--- You can almost feel the angst humming off the computer screen when you read Card Chronicle's Least Cool Person of 2009 tournament.

--- The spring and summer for the Providence basketball program has been almost as bad as its defense last year. And that is saying something. 

--- Technically, the Bearcat is the defending national champion of mascots, but we will let BR have their top college football mascot rankings anyway. Even if it doesn't include the champ.    

--- I loved the Ultimate Warrior. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka was a close second. Wrestling was a way of life growing up.

That's why when something like this shows up documenting the LeBron debacle and Mean Jean Okerland can play the role of Dan Gilbert, well, it holds a special hillarious place in my heart.

If you weren't into wrestling, rather loved a long day at the library, I imagine you might enjoy this fake-commerical from the folks at BYU.  

Bearcats Breakfast 7.15.10

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Quick bookkeeping, I received an email yesterday asking if there was a way to view the blog as it is posted without having to check in to the site looking for it every day and the answer is yes.

You can subscribe to the GoBearcats.com RSS feed and any blog posted here will feed to you. Just go here to set it up.

--- The Enquirer is reporting that Winton Woods head coach Troy Everhart has stepped down and will be joining the UC staff.

Plucking a talented local high school coach as a local recruiting wizard who obviously can coach 'em up sure worked out well before with Kerry Coombs. Why not try it again?

I remember talking to Winton Woods product Chris Williams during the spring and all he talked about was how himself and high school teammate Maalik Bomar felt just like high school again as they both were working their way up the depth chart. This will probably help their comfort level even more.

UC is still working on winning the battles for the blue chip recruits in the city. They are as close as they have even been to holding on to the Kyle Rudolphs and Jordan Hicks'. Maybe Everhart can be an addition to put them over the hump.

--- Zach Collaros ended up on the Davey O'Brien Watch List yesterday. His spot on there got me wondering how his numbers would compare to the best in the country last year if they were extrapolated out over the course of an entire 12-game season.

First off, let's do the math on Collaros.

Taking the four games he started, he was a combined 83 of 106 for 1,233 yards and 8 TDs to one interception through the air. He also rushed 43 times for 193 yards and two more touchdowns. Multiply all those numbers by three and you have a full season:

Zach Collaros: 3,699 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 3 INTs. Add in 129 rushes for 579 yards and six more scores and that's a total of 4,278 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns to three interceptions.

Now, let's take a look at the top half of the DOB Watch list:

Case Keenum, Houston: 5,671 yards passing, 44 TDs, 15 INTs

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas: 3,627 yards passing, 30 TDs, 7 INTs

Christian Ponder, FSU: 3,623 yards passing, 19 TDs, 9 INTs (projected over full season)

Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: 3,579 yards passing, 30 TDs, 8 INTs, 506 yards rushing

Kellen Moore, Boise State: 3,536 yards passing, 39 touchdowns, 3 INTs

Taylor Potts, Texas Tech: 3,440 yards passing, 22 touchdowns, 13 INTs

Jacory Harris, Miami: 3,352 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, 17 INTs

Landry Jones, Oklahoma: 3,198 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, 14 INTs

Russell Wilson, NC State: 3,027 yards passing, 31 TDs, 11 INTs

Nathan Enderle, Idaho: 2,906 yards passing, 22 touchdowns, 9 INTs 

Jake Locker, Washington: 2,800 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 11 INTs

Dwight Dasher, MTSU: 2,789 yards passing, 23 TDs, 14 INTs, 1,154 yards rushing

Andy Dalton, TCU : 2,756 yards passing, 23 TDs, 8 INTs, 512 yards rushing

Matt Barkley, USC: 2,735 yards passing, 15 TDs, 14 INTs

G.J. Kinne, Tulsa: 2,732 yards passing, 22 TDs, 10 INTs

Andrew Luck, Stanford: 2,575 yards passing, 13 TDs, 4 INTs

What do all these numbers mean?

Well, by the numbers, Zach Collaros enters the season as the top dual-threat QB in the country. Take that for what it is worth considering we are assuming Collaros could have continued his four-game pace over the course of an entire season. However, those numbers aren't inflated by a few non-conference cupcakes and do include some of the better teams in the Big East in WVU and UConn.

Outside of Keenum, whose numbers are so absurd they shouldn't even be a part of this breakdown, Collaros 4,278 yards from scrimmage would have ranked as best in the country from a QB with only Jerrod Johnson at 4,085 coming close.

Combine those stats with the fact he would have only thrown three interceptions, only matched by Boise's Kellen Moore against WAC competition, and the numbers are almost as impressive as Keenum's with 15 interceptions.  

What Collaros did in his first four career starts last year is nothing shy of remarkable, but if you are counting four games as consistency (a bit of a stretch) then you view his pedigree as one of the top three in the country entering the season.

If setting expectation numbers for Collaros, I probably would start with matching the above stats. If he does anywhere in that vicinity, it will another special year for UC.

--- Brian Bennett put together five games to earn respect for the Big East along with five games to fear for the Big East.

UC has one on both. Not hard to figure out which ones they are. Fresno State has trouble written all over it with the West Coast trip and a talented, amped up Fresno crowd on opening night.

Of course, many UC fans were nervous about opening at Rutgers last year and it ended up being a springboard to a perfect season.

Oklahoma, well, not much else needs to be said about that.

--- Andy Katz talked to Bob Huggins about the respect West Virginia garnered last year and also the expectations of the Mountaineers this coming season. Stopping WVU begins and ends with stopping Kevin Jones.

--- Dawg Sports lists Pitt as one of six teams that will meet or exceed expectations. Without a win against UC at Nippert, that prediction would be false.

--- In closing, for any of the Star Wars nerds readers, this Improv group put together a funny skit on a NY Subway. Pretty classic. I recently had the pleasure of filming a video shoot with the entire Star Wars cast at the Reds game. Watching Gapper and R2D2 meet in the hallways and whistle at each other for five minutes was one of the most bizzare moments of my life.

Anyway, if you are more a fan of genius Subway moments and less of Star Wars, you can enjoy this Rick-Roll.

Collaros on Davey O'Brien Watch List

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Not that this comes as any surprise, but the Bearcats' Zach Collaros was named to the Davey O'Brien Watch List for the nation's top quarterback.

There are 30 players on the list and Rutgers' Tom Savage joins Collaros as the only other QB from the Big East to make it.

Also, Terrelle Pryor from OSU can be found there.

Here is the entire list.

Being placed on the list doesn't mean much more than any other preseason recognition. You don't have to be on the list to win the award. You only have to be on the list when the first cutdown occurs Oct. 25.

Bearcats fans don't need to be told of Collaros' ability. He seized the job most already assumed would be his in the spring when he built on his breakout 2009 campaign where he filled in for Tony Pike admirably.

Collaros was 93 of 124 for 1,434 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions passing last year. He added 344 yards and four touchdowns rushing.

Bearcats Breakfast 7.14.10

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I want to continue to say thanks to everyone who is now following me on Twitter and a special thanks to all the people who emailed me with questions they have about the football and basketball programs. There should be a pretty hefty mailbag coming up as soon as I can track down the official answers to all of your questions. Keep 'em comin!

--- There's a new assistant coach now in the mix for UC basketball as Darren Savino heads to the bench to take the place of Tony Stubblefield, who left for Oregon.

Here is the story from Mike DeCourcy.

Savino is one of Mick Cronin's guys from Murray State and anybody who can recruit a player the caliber of Mike Rosario to Rutgers has some serious skill in pulling talent.

--- The National is an NFL Draft grading service used by many NFL franchises. They released some of their grades for the top seniors in next year's class. No Bearcats, but two members of Pitt's defensive line make the cut, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. 

Butch Jones has to be having nightmares about these two guys.

--- To be honest, some mornings during the summer, there just isn't much happening on the old Internet involving UC. Today is that day. Trust me, I searched the couch cushions, nothing there.

However, for all you fans of the World Cup or intoxicated Spainiards, there is this video of the Pepe Reina plane party.   

Bearcats Breakfast 7.13.10

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Plenty to get to today considering this is supposed to be one of the slowest sports days of the year. We can thank the think tank over at the NCAA for pushing back the decision on expansion into this All-Star Break for our surprising influx of news.

Let's get to it...

--- The NCAA unveiled the breakdown for the revamped NCAA tournament opening round yesterday. It will be a hybrid including the final four at-large teams who will take part.

Pat Forde thinks the NCAA is making the best of a bad decision.

Rush The Court has an absolutely unnecessary prediction of what the bracket will look like next March.

Most coaches are pretty happy with it, from Mike DeCourcy. And from The Dagger.

Some pundits aren't as enthused.

Of interest for UC fans is that it is believed Dayton could continue to be the site for these games, but from the Josh Katzowitz school of "it would be unbelievable if it wasn't completely believable," the NCAA can't seem to live to any of the timetables they gave UD, according to the DDN.

--- There were many arguments that the addition of the at-large teams is another win for Big Six conferences, but as RPI expert Jerry Palm points out, the lowest seeded at-large teams, including ties, since 2001, only eight have come from major conferences, the other 13 from the little guys.   

--- Rivals posted a list of the breakout backcourt players for the coming season and it includes Cashmere Wright.

Here is Steve Megargee's take.

While most people focused on how Lance Stephenson turned a corner last season, we never quite witnessed Wright do the same. Wright showed flashes of brilliance in the game against Providence, South Florida and the late rally at Louisville where he looked like the best player on the floor.

He claimed the game slowed for him and he was more comfortable out there after his performance against U of L. During that six-game strech he averaged 10.5 points.

It ended there. He averaged 4.1 points in his final 10 games, having more assists than turnovers in only half of those.  

It's a matter of consistency. Of course, you could say that about seemingly every player on UC's roster. But Wright in particular has shown more high-end potential than anyone on the floor. He must learn to finish at the rim. If he can do that, he will be a double-digit scorer/distributor the Cats need at PG next season.

--- Surprising amount of basketball on the tubes yesterday, but on to more football. The folks at College Football Nation picked some of the top grudge matches next year. UC-Pitt made the cut from Brian Bennett.

And that's just another excuse to yet again link to this.

BB also has this list of top BE HR hitters, which includes Armon Binns. And a longer list of BE grudge matches, which includes UC-WVU.

If you are taking one UC football road trip next year, in my opinion, the drive to Morgantown will be well worth it. Plus, you can experience the glory that is West Virginia, a state that proudly sells Bacardi 151 in its gas stations.

Oh, but you may want to avoid certain spots like this on campus if WVU were to win. I can only assume at least one mason jar of moonshine fueled that blaze.

--- Maybe the most underrated road game of the year will be the one to Storrs, Conn. The Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner takes a look at UC and a bit of the rivalry. The last time UC went to UConn, they were bludgeoned, 40-16.  

--- Rising redshirt freshman DB Romel Dismuke is transferring to Buffalo, according to the Buffalo News. His opportunities will be more abundant there with Jeff Quinn and company, compared to a young secondary he had not outplayed to this point at UC.  

--- Of course, this is a big day for college football since NCAA 11 came out. It may be hard to get excited to blocking improvements in video games, but this is actually kind of cool.

And using last year's UC video-game offense in an actual video game will probably be even cooler. 

--- I wonder how many baseball players that didn't win the vote would take time to do this? Probably not as many as we would like. Luckily, UC's Kevin Youkilis would. Class act.    

--- As many of you know I am not a product of the University of Cincinnati, even though I grew up here. I ended up going to Ohio University. I loved my time there and wouldn't trade it for anywhere. Only, when things like this surface, I would at least listen to other offers.

FREEDOM

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OK, much has been made of this free agent move LeBron James made and I just don't get the uproar but I understand to some degree fans feeling lost because Cleveland will return to its normal state of ineptness.

But the reason I brought it up in this column is I've always felt it unfair in college that coaches can come and go but players can't, especially after NCAA rules violations. Typically coaches know the hammer is coming and resign or take another job under the heading of opportunity. Meanwhile the school and players are left with memories and probation. So I know the first push back on this is that too many players would be bouncing around but there could be penalties for the second and third move that are heavy and take away a year of eligibility. I don't know what utopia looks like but I'm always taken back to Gale Catlett who left UC in probation while he headed to West Virginia to start anew.

If players have to stay then let the coach take the probation with him or at least split the penalties between the school and the outgoing coach. If Pete Carroll or any other coach heads to the pros they should be fined for thier part in the period in question. If someone tries to tell me Pete Carroll didn't know what was going on at USC, I'll show you a loyal fan of his or his cousin. His ascension into the pros was very timely considering he'd been there before and didn't inherit a playoff caliber team but just a lot of cash. So why would you give up a great "thing" at USC to to to Seattle? because he's the fugitive and the NCAA was hot on his trail. Staying one step ahead of the posse is a saying in coaching and this was evidence of such. Another example is John Calipari who had NO IDEA what was going on at Memphis when he was there; maybe he didn't but he had to know 1 plus 1 will always equal 2 much coincidence.

I hope one day the NCAA says coach if you're the one who causes the probation, penalties will follow you wherever you land. I wonder how many would be quick to bolt? or more important, how many schools would be quick to make the offer knowing the baggage flies free. It's a shame from a college player and parents point of view that you get recruited by a coach who says I'm going to be here for your son's entire college career knowing if a big school or big money recruits him, he will do what's best for him and his family. Freedom to choose has its limits in college sports when it comes to players, not to coaches and schools and that just doesn't seem right. Once a school gets a player...game over unless the coach or schools grants him a release from his committment. How cool would it be if the coach had to get his release from the players as well?

Bearcats Breakfast 7.11.10

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I hope everyone had a fun weekend, I know I did. Of course, Dehner Cornhole Classic VII which took place on Saturday was apparently nowhere near as much as fun as these guys got into.

New week now, one closer to football season. 

We are now only 54 days away from the opening game between UC and Fresno -- as Butch Jones tweeted today -- knowing how close the season is to starting hopefully makes you as excited as this DJ.

Let's move on...

--- Bill Koch put together another nice weekend UC story. This time he broke down the financials of the UC-Bengals arrangement for the game against Oklahoma at PBS this year.

As long as UC draws 45,000 for that game they will make $240,000 more than they would at Nippert, according to the story. Sure, it's frustrating to see the Bengals take in so much cash for the event, but that is the game you have to play in this town.  

Even if UC only would have broken even this would have been a great move for the Bearcats. The bigger the stage, the bigger the exposure and the bigger the program grows. Anytime you can associate yourself with the NFL in any capacity it is a major advantage with recruits.

Make no mistake, that is 90 percent of what recruits care about: Can you get me to the NFL?

--- For today's daily dose of Brian Bennett, he took a look at coordinators to watch and has Jon Jancek and Tim Banks at the top of the list. Plenty of pressure on the two to piece together a defense that can make enough stops to counter the offensive power.

--- David Steele on Friday wrote about the security the ACC-ESPN TV deal provided to the network. It will almost certainly keep any conference poachers away.

The same cannot be said about the Big East as of yet, though the temporary relief is allowing everyone to breathe without a paper bag. Once the season ends and the Big Ten or 12 or whatever, make decisions on if they are going to stop, the expansion topic will return and the Big East will be front and center.   

--- For anyone who cares, DePaul is working out some nasty kinks in Oliver Purnell's rebuilding process.

--- Former UC assistant under Bob Huggins, Larry Harrison, is officially Huggs' righthand man at WVU as he added the title Associate Head Coach.

--- If you care about rankings, the Austin Ameican-Statesman slots UC at No. 20 -- ahead of WVU and Pitt. So, the Bearcats have that going for them, which is nice.

--- UConn added a USC transfer.

--- I know that Josh Katzowitz moved on to bigger and better things with his new job at CBS. But at some point during his review of the Ochocinco dating show, he had to be partially regretting the decision. A fun read if you have a minute, though

Bearcats Breakfast 7.9.10

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I know this is the Bearcats blog, but it is impossible to start anywhere other than LeBron today. Actually, check that, it is impossible to start anywhere other than Dan Gilbert. Admittedly, like many Cincinnatians, my interest in the NBA ebbs and flows. But I do enjoy the NBA playoffs. I have called Cleveland my favorite NBA team only because LeBron was exciting to watch and I had some friends there.

Well, NOW Cleveland is my favorite team. Thank you, Dan Gilbert. I love every word of this letter where he calls LeBron out not just for leaving the team that has done nothing but appease his every wish since Day 1, but the manner in which he did so over the past month.

Epic. Here it is if you haven't read it. Not sure why he went with the font an 8-year-old would pick for a book report, but luckily the content overwhelms that failure.

Going through that letter I felt like Intense Double Rainbow Guy. (Epic, Part II -- if you haven't seen it, watch now) If you are watching that and have ever bobbed your head to a T-Pain song, well, enjoy.

OK, yeah, so, Bearcats....

--- ESPN Big East North Star Brian Bennett had a Q and A with Kerry Coombs. He talks about the differences between Brian Kelly and Butch Jones. He also talks about how much his attachment to the players currently on the roster played a role in turning down the Notre Dame gig. An attitude like Coombs' could be used more around college football, that is for sure.

All of that is in Part I of the interview, read it here.

In Part II, found here, Coombs talks about the youth in this year's secondary and his desire to stay at UC for the rest of his career in whatever capacity that entails. Not news, but reassuring to hear again for Bearcats fans.

Everyone at UC hopes Butch Jones stays for a long, long time. But if he doesn't, well, it's no secret that Coombs would one day be the ideal fit to lead this program.

-- Now to the main course of today's post. I was reading about the USA Basketball Select team that was annnounced yesterday and took a look at the roster. If you don't know, the team is a squad of rising juniors and seniors that play the US National Team during the four-day training period in July in Vegas.

There are only two Big East players on the team -- Scoop Jardine of Syracuse and Kemba Walker of UConn. The Big Ten had five, ACC four, SEC two, A-10 two.

I will continue to pound this line of thought until the opening tip of the season -- people want to harp on the fact UC lost its top two scorers in Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn, but take a look around the league. Nearly everyone lost their top players.

The Big East star power was sapped by the NBA Draft and off-court issues.  

Austin Freeman, Ashton Gibbs, Jeremy Hazell and DJ Kennedy are the only top scorers from their respective team's last year that will be back this season.

Does UC need a collection of its role players from last season to step into feature roles? Of course. Is that reason for concern? Absolutely not. 

Take a look around.

Here's a list of players that won't be back with their teams and their average points per game.

UConn: Jerome Dyson 17.2 ppg, Stanley Robinson 14.5 ppg. (They do return Walker at 14.6)

-- Walker may be the best player in the league next season, but will have to do some heavy lifting to carry the scoring load vacated by Dyson and Robinson.

DePaul: Will Walker 16.2, Mac Koshwal 16.1

-- Does it really matter?

Georgetown: Greg Monroe 16.1 (They return two of top three with Austin Freeman 16.5 and Chris Wright 15.2 both back as seniors)

-- Freeman and Wright make GT significant, but that offense ran through Monroe's hands.

Louisville: Samardo Samuels 15.3, Edgar Sosa 13.1

-- Nobody returning that averaged double figures last year.

Marquette: Lazar Hayward 18.1. (Return next two in Jimmy Butler 14.7 and Darius Johnson-Odom 13.0)

-- Not a bad duo, but Hayward hit every big shot for MU last year, Bearcats fans are well aware of that fact. Still tough to believe a guy who was 0-for-10 buried that triple with a man in his face to tie the game in the final seconds. 

Notre Dame: Luke Harangody 21.8. (Return next two in Tim Abromaitis 16.1 and Ben Hansbrough 12.0)

-- Let the Abromaitis era begin? I joke, but ND did play its best basketball without Harangody last year. But for the pupose of this exercise, yes, a significant loss.

Pittsburgh: Returning top three scorers in Ashton Gibbs 15.7, Brad Wanamaker 12.3, Gilbert Brown 10.7

-- There is a reason they are a consensus top 10 team and the prohibitive favorite in the league.

Providence: Jamine Peterson 19.6, Sharaud Curry 15.5

-- Peterson got booted from the team and Curry graduated, it's another major rebuild for the Friars.

Rutgers: Mike Rosario 16.7. (Return next two scorers in Gregory Echenique 12.6 and Jonathan Mitchell 11.8)

-- Echenique was injured and only played seven games last year and in nearly all of Rutgers' victories, Rosario tossed the team on his back.

Seton Hall: Returns all top three scorers in Jeremy Hazell 20.4, Jeff Robinson 12.2 and Herb Pope 11.5.

-- Sleeper team to make a run at a Big East title next season.

South Florida: Dominique Jones 21.4

-- Gus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous will be back, but what does it matter without Jones? He was a first-round pick for a reason. Impossible to replace.

St. John's: Returns top three scorers in D.J. Kennedy 15.1, Dwight Hardy 10.5 and Paris Horne 9.2.

-- Like St. John's to be improved, but even with those players returning they are still a team UC should beat. And we can assume the Cats won't be taking them lightly this time around.

Syracuse: Wes Johnson 16.5, Andy Rautins 12.1

-- Cuse turns the keys over to Jardine, but not sure how you recover from the loss of those two talents.

Villanova: Scottie Reynolds 18.5

-- The announcement Corey Stokes would return was a relief for Jay Wright, but Reynolds was a first-team All-American.

West Virginia: Da'Sean Butler 17.2, Devan Ebanks 12.0 (Return Kevin Jones 13.2)

-- Butler was the heart and soul of the Mountaineers. A heart he ripped from the Bearcats nonetheless. Replacing those two is as difficult a task as any in this league, even with Jones in the fold.

The moral of this story is the UC fan base, particularly of late, tends to be so introspective about the concerns and frustrations of the team it fails to look around at the competitive landscape. The reality is you could make an argument 10 of the other 15 teams in the league suffered more devastating offensive departures than the Bearcats. Those that did not being Georgetown, Pitt, Seton Hall, St. John's and Marquette.

Don't think this is a claim that the Bearcats should be ranked in the top of the Big East preseason. You better believe I understand how losing the top two scorers from a team that already had problems putting the ball in the bucket makes a greater impact on their losses.

The only claim I make is for folks to take the blinders off and look around. Everyone in the Big East has scoring to replace. The majority of which are more significant departures than those of the Bearcats.

Bearcats Breakfast (7.8.10)

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I know I have opened each post of this week talking about this, but it's just been nice to see the response to my arrival here. There was a bit of a Twittxplosion yesterday -- much of that thanks going to my former partner in independent sports journalism and beard connoisseur C. Trent Rosecrans.

I learned people are really excited about UC football and I absolutely need to turn the new follower email notification off. Feel free to jump on board @pauldehnerjr 

Anyway, on to the latest post. I know all I have had to this point so far are these links-related aggregates, but alas, don't worry. The irons I have in the fire for some really intresting features, stories, etc., are beginning to warm up. With so many people at UC on vacation right now it can be difficult to get in touch with the folks necessary to do these features right, but we are getting there. So, just hold tight, enjoy the summer and know plenty of new content is coming soon.

OK, moving on...

--- Lance Stephenson continues to play well in the NBA summer league. After another solid outing in a loss on Tuesday, he led the Pacers to win over the Jazz yesterday. Here is a recap, with a larger nugget about Lance at the bottom of the story.

The note that stands out most to me: only two turnovers. Not bad for a kid learning to play point guard in the NBA who still can't legally have a beer after the game.

--- Looking forward to next year, UC won't have to play UConn twice again, but the one time they do they will be seeing a focused Kemba Walker. He will be dangerous in a Big East suffering from the mass exodus to the NBA. Mike DeCourcy at the Sporting News had this Q and A with him.

--- Some guy who used to write some garbage about UC has this story catching up with Mardy Gilyard after the rookie symposium. Standard Mardy goodness.  

--- Big East blogger and PDJ favorite Brian Bennett broke out the home video today and has his reasons for hope and concern with UC football in 2010. His points are clear, concise and spot-on and he doesn't appear to be reading from cue cards at all.

Of course, sometimes it's better to not have cue cards -- or any kind of support crew -- just ask Conan O'Brien.   

--- Down the Drive breaks out the ultimate jinx machine. I remember when I was 11 and I used to put the Bengals schedule up on a big chalkboard in my room. Before the season started I put a big W in chalk next to the Kansas City game.

That W stared at me like the "I want you" poster all season, as I knew set myself up for the pie in the face -- which wasn't a huge problem for 10-year-old PDJ. I did love pie.

Long story short not so long, KC 17, Bengals 15, as I recall. Pie. Face.

All I am saying is, be careful what you proclaim.

--- The voting comes to end in the All-Star last man vote, with UC's Kevin Youkilis being lapped on Wednesday by Nick Swisher despite the help of the Reds-Red Sox alliance that stirred up a bit of anger in beautiful Saint Diego. This whole voting thing has me in a glass case of emotion.    

--- Also, heard from one of my new Twitter followers that rumors are floating of skee ball at Bearcats tailgates this year. I only hope this is true. I would issue a challenge, but my incessant greed in trying to bury the 100-pointer every time always dooms me.  

 

Bearcats Breakfast (7.7.10)

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I want to continue to say thanks to those people that have passed along words of encouragement, their questions about UC athletics or started following me on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) the last couple days. It's good to know people are excited about the coverage on the site. I even appreciate the individual who stepped into the role of Grammar Hammer to point out an inconsistency. We all have our own special way of showing we care, I guess.

Anyway, for those of you who spent the morning wondering why LeBron James gets a one-hour show on ESPN for his announcement (he's had 1,000 straight hours of coverage anyway, what's another hour?) let's get you caught up on what's going on with the Bearcats.

--- Brian Bennett does a great job of stealing an idea I had and wrote a little about last December for CNati and takes a look at the last 10 Big East schools to undergo coaching changes so as to gain some perspective on what to expect out of Cincinnati, South Florida and Louisville this year.

Here's the post. As always, it's very well done. 

From a UC perspective, it shows obviously that the last two changes have both gone well -- or at least seen improvement from the previous year. That's pretty much an impossible standard for Butch Jones considering the only improvement would be an undefeated season that includes a BCS Bowl victory.

As Bennett points out, making any type of major leap is tough under a new regime. The only comparable situation to the one Jones enters is that of Steve Kragthorpe at Louisville. #epicfail

Certainly nobody expects that to happen here. Nor should they. These coaching transitions have been tough, but half of the time the coaches are able to stay on the same level as the predecessor. If Jones can accomplish that, nobody will be complaining.

--- The Bleacher Report runs through five seniors ready to be unsung heroes for the Bearcats this season. Sure, the play of these five will be important to this team's success, but what they do in the locker room and sidelines will probably count more. Talent isn't the issue, assuring it meshes will be.

When I covered Georgia, Mark Richt had a great analysis, he said that every great, overachieving team he has ever been around the leadership was player-driven. The coaches can act as a catalyst in that process, but if you don't have great leadership and accountability coming from the players, the whole system fails.

That's where these seniors will need to step in.

--- I know nobody cares about Brian Kelly anymore, and I won't do this often, but while we are talking about coaches and transitions and leadership, here is a Q and A he had with Rivals where he does talk a bit about UC and the shape he left the program in.   

--- The time is running out to Vote Red for the All-Star Game. UC alum Kevin Youkilis is in the final vote campaign along with Reds supersnub Joey Votto. It's working as Youkilis pulled ahead of Nick Swisher yesterday and Votto still leads. 

Go here to vote for both. Do it often or suffer the consequences. (Not sure what those are yet, I will hold an hour-special on ESPN to unveil them at 8 p.m. Thursday).

Youkilis is loving the support of his hometown and university, as he talked about with the Boston Herald yesterday. Still don't understand why the Reds never took a late-rounder run at Youk, but if he can bury the hatchet, so can I.

--- There's a story in the Denver Post on former Bearcats star Kenyon Martin. Perhaps expectations were higher for his career after he left Clifton, but when you take a look at his stats, he has been as solid of a basketball player as ever turned out by the University not named Oscar or Jack.

In fact, Kenyon has played the fourth most minutes of any UC product in the league with 19,792 behind Oscar (43,886), Nick Van Exel (28,969) and Jack Twyman (26,147).

Here are his career stats. He averaged at least 11.5 points during every full season, with a high of 16.7 his final year with the Nets. Hard to believe he is 32 years old already.   

His career is not over, of course, which he proved last year with his career high in rebounding average at 9.5 a game. Health has been the biggest concern for him of late as he has missed at least 10 games in each of the last as he missed 40 games in the last two seasons combined.

During the interview he stresses his offseason priority is to get his knee healthy. If he can work his knee back to 100 percent health, it would be fun to watch Kenyon put an exclamation point on the final few years of his career.

--- That's all folks. I'll be here all week. Try the veal. Tip your waitresses.

Bearcats Breakfast (7.6.10)

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Quick thanks for some of the responses from the introduction post yesterday and also those who are now following me on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. Thanks for buying in, now its time to deliver.

As one reader pointed out I have very stylish shoes to fill in those of Josh Katzowitz. That's true, I will most certainly need to upgrade my shoe collection before I go representing GoBearcats.com at the field. An extra spit shine on some Italian leather, at the very least.

Well, on to the intertubes to get you caught up on the word on the street.

--- Lance Stephenson made quite a statement in his summer league debut yesterday. Stephenson dropped in 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting for the Pacers in Orlando.

Here is a piece on Stephenson and his game from NBC Sports.

Here is a pretty in-depth story by the Associated Press.

And here is an interview with Lance after his performance.  

Indiana and coach Jim O'Brien drafted Stephenson 40th little more than a week ago and their this was the first view of their grand plan to have Stephenson play point guard. An intriguing decision as is pointed out here. He never fit that mold at UC -- and one decent summer game doesn't make him any more viable as an NBA point guard than myself -- but he is clearly playing with a purpose. For a guy who everyone knew talent was never the issue, that may be more than enough to earn him a spot in the back end of the Pacers' rotation next season.

At the very least, he made a fan out of Kevin Durant.  

--- This is a bit of old news, but since I am new here, I wanted to sneak it in that UC and Wright State are hooking up for a three-game contract. Walking the fine line between a challenging non-conference schedule and wearing out a team that has to survive the Big East can be a difficult one, but considering some of the recent success of the Raiders this should be a nice supplement to the schedule. Plus, it should draw quite a few fans down from the Dayton area to Fifth Third.

The Dayton Daily News has a blog nugget about Mick Cronin's relationship with the WSU AD.   

--- You will notice I am a big proponent of the work Brian Bennett does over at ESPN. He will unveil his No. 1 player in the Big East today as Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis.

Here is West Virginia's Noel Devine coming at No. 2 with some info and the complete list. The top 25 included four Bearcats. Vidal Hazelton (No. 20), Isaiah Pead (16), Armon Binns (10) and Zach Collaros (5). Pretty fair, though, TE Ben Guidugli probably deserved a little more love. (Of course, as you should already know, he got some from the Sporting News a few weeks ago.) But this list isn't an easy one to crack, especially considering the focus on speed players at the skill positions. In fact, no tight end is listed at all and only five lineman.  

No shocker there on Lewis, however. UC fans who watched him run 47 times for 194 yards at Heinz Field last year can attest he deserves it.

Of course, that is just an excuse to link to this.

--- Lewis is one of the big reasons to love watching the Big East this season, but according to Bruce Feldman at ESPN, the Cincinnati offense would be No. 2 on that official list. (Insider)

--- Xtra Point football has Pitt as the predicted BE champs. It has UC 2nd. Add it to the list of pundits sleeping on the Bearcats...again. Lot of pressure building on Dave Wannstedt over there. While people can talk about what he's put together, as has been the case for nearly all of his career, he hasn't won much of anything yet.

--- The folks at Down the Drive are running through the schedule and take a look at Oklahoma and the unique opportunity it presents to the Bearcats. The exposure of this game, regardless of result, will be enormous. A quick look at the schedule makes it a real possiblity Cincinnati could be featured as the pick for College Gameday that Saturday. The closest competition will likely be WVU at LSU or Alabama at Arkansas. If Oklahoma is perfect including a win over FSU and UC is perfect with wins over Fresno and N.C. State, the game could make quite a case.

While ESPN never misses a chance to head to the SEC, the lure of a new location could overcome yet another trip south. If there ever were a barometer for how far this program has come, the arrival of that crew would be it.

Independence Days

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Without hesitation this 4th of July I'd to first salute the men and women past and present who serve in our military and afford us the opportunity to experience freedom and even complain about it. So many of them have served and come home to try and re-enter society, sometimes not with so much success. Others come back and are able to without missing a beat and even go on to make their mark in other areas of life including sports.

UC has seen many a military person come back an enjoy stellar athletic and academic careers and in the process teach us something about what really matters. While we sit in traffic complaining, they sit in fields amidst land mines. While we complain about clothes not being ready from the cleaners, they repeatedly wear the same uniforms as standard practice. We rush to get home, they hope to get home. I could go on but I think we all get the picture; military people have given of themselves in ways worthy of constant recognition. So if its July 4th or September 19th or March 10th, its a great day to honor those who fight for us and for those who've lost their lives...rest in peace

I salute teams and sporting events that let military in free because at a moments notice the could be deployed or redeployed and may not come back. While the same applies to us all we know they are in foreign land, not totally aware of their surroundings and not knowing who to trust. Suicide bombers are more prevalent than ever and attacks come from all sides. If we think gang violence is a concern in our inner cities magnify that by 100.

So the next time you're upset about something small, relatively speaking, think of our military. The next time you have an extra ticket seek out a service person and offer it to them or their family. Even simpler than that, the next time you spot a person serving YOUR country, say thank you. We have freedom and they are the reason; no matter what the time, or the season.

That's the way I see it sitting in The Box Seat.

Allow myself to introduce...myself

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The best place to start is at hello, so, let's do that. Hello, my name is Paul Dehner Jr., and I will be your tour guide through the world of the University of Cincinnati football and basketball. Please keep your arms and legs inside the boat and watch out for sarcasm.

This will go into the book as post No. 1 as I take over this job for the esteemed Josh Katzowitz. I would be remiss to go any farther without praising Josh for the job he did in this space over the past few years. His prose were as well-groomed as his goatee and his reporting was always spot-on and made you think. I only hope to build on the strong foundation he created and try to try to add my own personal touch to the process as well.

Today's post will be a far cry from pretty much all those you will see under this heading because I would like for those of you who don't know who I am to own a little glimpse into not only myself, but what I intend for this to be.

For those of you that want to check my credentials, you can read the press release the good folks at UC communications put together. For those of you that don't, just assume I am the most accomplished journalist in North America. 

Hopefully some of you have read my writing from my time spent at CNati.com last season covering UC. It was a fun experience being part of what I think was one of the most successful independent sports endeavors done in the country last year. It is changing a bit now, but that is another story.

It allowed me to take part in what has been my dream job for a long time, that is covering sports in this city. To be doing it with the University of Cincinnati now is an honor I hold in the highest regard. 

Now, here is the important stuff you need to know about me going forward. I will quote Seinfeld. A lot. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I am a Cincinnati kid, born and raised, and love everything about this city -- except for I-75. I am 13-1-2 for my career in dance-offs. I boycott the pecan industry because of the lackadasical nature of their truck drivers. Yes, I would like another beer. I absolutely will not explode it when you offer a fist-bump. I learned 48 percent of my life lessons from Forrest Gump. Two percent came from Season 3 of The Real World. I will never trust a gibbon. I will eat Skyline Chili in any setting. I will not run unless chased or challenged to a race. I will beat you at cornhole. You will not like it.

OK, so those probably weren't the most important nuggets you need to know, but this is: I will work tirelessly to keep you informed on all that is happening with UC football and basketball. 

A close friend of mine said his theory is that time spent reading about sports online is inversely proportional to how much you hate your job. If that is proven correct, UC fans staring at a pile of TPS reports are going to be spending a lot of time on this blog. We'll call you my core demographic, the people who just can't get enough. I intend to make you even more unproductive than you already were.   

Nearly every weekday morning, there will be a post here. Let's call it breakfast. It will serve as a clearinghouse of all that is being talked about regarding UC athletics and also the Big East. Look for it to be lightweight, fun and informative.

Most days another story will follow later in the day. Expect that.

Once practices and player availability open up, it come more frequently and mostly from those sessions. Let's call it dinner. I will do my best to do it before the clock you have been zoning into hits 5 p.m. I have some ideas for what all of these stories will be, and they won't all be in the most traditional form, but I have to leave something to keep you coming back, so I will keep those a secret for now.

Here's the point: the changing world of sports journalism has drifted to the couch -- that spot directly next to you where you turned over the cushion so the Franzia Chillable Red stain can't be seen anymore. What people want out of their sports reporting is to feel like it is their buddy watching sports with them. Only, that buddy has all access and knows close to everything about the team. The best reporting is ALWAYS factual, never based on rumors, analytical, fun, debated, topical and not afraid of what everybody else is saying, rather, embracing it.

I plan on doing all of those here on a daily basis.

So, don't be scared when I link to some blogs or even engage them. They aren't the enemy. Just because they aren't allowed in the press conference doesn't mean their opinions shouldn't be noted. Quite the opposite. This is meant to be an open forum of discussion on what all UC fans care about: the Bearcats. We want your passion to be felt, no matter where it's based. As coach Butch Jones would say, we want to hear how you Represent the C.   

Here in this space, I want you feel like you know me and I want to feel like I know my readers, in particular, what they want. If you have questions you want answers for, let me know and I will do my best to get them for you. If you want a topic discussed on here, let me know and I will do my best to do it as in-depth as possible. The hope is smart, researched posts will result in intelligent comments and discussion. I want this to be a conversation and outlet for us to live, eat and breathe UC sports. I want this to be the seat next to you on the couch.

Please follow me on Twitter @pauldehnerjr, you can email me at pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or say hello to me on the street. Just don't ask me to explode your fist-bump.