In exactly one week I will be boarding a plane for Fresno, Calif., along with the rest of the Bearcats. And then, thank goodnees, we can stop talking about practice.
On Thursday, the Bearcats played the Beanie Bowl, which is essentially an exact replica of gameday from the uniforms to the pregame routine, through the simulated game situations. They even ran over to the corner of Nippert Stadium and practiced the post-victory chant.
So, the Bearcats are ready...or at least as much as they can be without an opponent.
"It exposes everyone to everything. That is the thing, you have to have 130-135 people all on the same page," Butch Jones said. "You can't assume anything. But, you never really know until the live bullets start flying."
Eight days. Bullets.
Alright, on to the links...
--- In the spirit of selfishness, I will start by reminding you I posted a special extreme Ink of the Week with Marcus Barnett.
If the Ink of the Week feature were sandwiches at Jimmy Johns, Barnett would be the double-meat Gargantuan with everything.
Barnett has 85 tattoos. I took photos of his favorite three and posted a story instead of the standard snippet. My personal favorite is the mustache tat on the inside of his index finger so he can hold it up to his lip.
"That's my business-man look right there," he said.
--- Brian Bennett cranked out a few more pieces from his trip to Higher Ground. He talked to Vidal Hazelton about his journey from USC to UC.
Perhaps the forgotten element of Hazelton's playmaking ability, will be his job as a kick returner. He possesses the combination of size and speed to be dangerous attacking a seam.
He spent much of last year learning from Mardy Gilyard about being patient. And watched some talented returners during his time at USC as well.
And, most importantly, Hazelton wants to do it. Badly.
"In the offseason, I used to go up to coach Coombs all the time, telling him 'I want to do it, I want to do it,'' Hazelton said. "Even if I couldn't be the guy, I wanted to compete to be the guy. Just to give me a chance. He gave me a chance and so far I think he is liking what he sees."
I'm not contending Hazelton will duplicate Gilyard, but he should create his fair share of excitement on kickoffs this year.
--- B-twice also included UC in the five things to watch in the Big East this year. There is no doubt, the conference will have plenty of opportunties to squash the also-ran stereotype this year. The conference's record in the 11 major non-conference games he mentions may go a long way in determining where the BE champ lands in a national discussion.
--- Jones told me yesterday the first thing he did when he had a free minute upon his return to Cincinnati from Higher Ground was take a walk around the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex. And loved what he saw.
Tommy G and Barrett Bamberger filmed the latest segment out there with the Bearcats ready to use the new practice field on Monday.
--- The Big East enters the year of the running back in the conference. Isaiah Pead told me he doesn't compare his stats with backs like Dion Lewis at Pitt, Noel Devine at WVU or Jordan Todman at UConn. He does compare how many more rings he owns then them, however. And said as long as he adds one more to his total by the end of the season that will be all that matters.
:You can't ask for a better attitude than that.
--- For those of you who subscribe to Sports Illustrated -- throw your fleece in the air and wave it like you just don't care -- or picked up the Joey Votto edition this week, make sure you page through the photos at the front. You will notice a sick picture of UC alum Ricardo Mathews at Colts camp with his dreads flying through the air.
--- Some interesting developments on the Mardy Gilyard front last night. The pooka shells got their first professional reception. In fact, Gilyard had three of them for 23 yards.
He also returned four kickoffs 99 yards for the best average on the team at 24.8.
However, top receiver Donnie Avery went down with an injury that looks to be serious. Nobody wants to see anybody go down, but the NFL is a business and this creates an obvious opportunity for Gilyard. The Rams are scary-thin at WR and he will be afforded every opportunity to fill the gap.
--- A Tony Ugoh injury moved former Bearcat and now Indianapolis Colt Jeff Linkenbach to LT last night for the Colts in their game against Green Bay.
He has been playing LG and LT and making a play for the 53-man roster or at least the practice squad.
--- Bill Koch talks to Dion Dixon about "The Turnover." Good to see Dixon putting that play behind him. Hopefully, he makes plenty of plays this season to help people forget what happened at MSG.
--- The award for the most in-depth blog by a site covering a team in the Summitt League goes to "The Golden Grizzlies Gameplan." What does it mean for you? Well, Yancy Gates is mentioned for his participation in a prestigous 2009 summer camp. It gives some nice context on Gates' potential and also mentions that DraftExpress has Gates as a late second-rounder right now.
There is absolutely no way around it, this is a make-or-break season for Gates.
--- I will probably have to retract my claim UNC was the most underrated team in the Top 25 poll. That was one destructive nanny.
--- I was going to go to see STP at Riverbend on Wednesday, but some other plans came up. When I found out Scott Weiland took a digger off the stage, I immediately regretted that decision. (Note: He's OK, or at least as OK as someone can be after decades of drug addiction) Of course, when I found video of it, I felt better.
--- My Ohio State fan friends always wonder why they are almost universally hated nationally. Well, this kind of d-baggery is part of the conversation.