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California mailbag

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Feeling sleepy after two breakfast sandwiches, banana nut muffin and full chicken tortellini lunch on the plane ride out. I officially can never ride commerical again after experience the ease of the charter production.

Although, I may or may not be stuck at a hotel in middle of nowhere. There are palm trees, but without the happiness.

Or as C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out in a text after my post this morning: Anyone who types the phrase "lovely California" when heading to Fresno has obviously never been to Fresno before.

His comments have been confirmed upon arrival, however, I plan on taking advantage of the Churrasco Grill with the media types later.

Anyway, I want to thank everybody for sending in questions and the kind words in the emails. I've been doing my best to keep you guys informed and entertained in my first couple months on the job and am glad to hear you enjoy it. And we've only just begun. Consider the fact we really haven't had anything to talk about and apparently I've completed 69 posts.

I won't delay any longer, let's get to the mailbag.

From Dan:

Throughout this camp, we have heard about the lack of depth beyond the offensive and defensive starters. My question is: Why does this lack of depth exist? Is it players that are not talented enough? Is it physical or mental maturity? Is it from off season defections? How did this team go from "next man in" to "I'm excited about our 22" so quickly?

Dan,

I've heard this question quite a bit and it's pretty complex. But to simplify, I would start by saying it is a product of the coaching change. When you bring in a new coach, he is inheriting players he didn't recruit. That's not saying anything was particularly wrong with those that Brian Kelly brought in over the past three seasons -- he obviously had little problem winning with them -- but every coach is different. The qualities Butch Jones desires out of some players aren't the same as Kelly did. The specific talents necessary to perform in Kelly's version of the spread or defensive scheme can be different than those in the Jones' spread or 4-3 base.

That's the surface explanation. Beyond that, and probably more precisely, this team is young. There are only two seniors on the defensive two-deep. There are 13 seniors on the team and 63 who are sophomores or younger. The Bearcats lost half the starters from last year's team. Young players are filling into those spots. Behind those are unproven freshman and sophomores.

Last year, depth was an issue as well at this point in the season. Were you comfortable when Zach Collaros came in at USF? Did you expect Walter Stewart to become a freshman sensation?

If you did, you should be running Miss Cleo's psychic line. Players need to emerge. They are unproven. Three or four games in, the depth should look much different than it does now.

NEXT!

From John:

A couple of times you've alluded to Derek Wolfe as if this was his last year at UC, most recently in this sentence in Bearcat Breakfast 9.1.10 (Both Wolfe and Jackson will be in NFL camps next year, the battle between the two of them will go a long to determining who'll have bragging rights).
 
Derek graduated from Beaver Local HS in 2007, and has played 2 years at UC, making him a true Junior this year.
 
So, do you know something we don't?  Is Derek leaving early for the NFL?  Can he?

John,

OK, you busted me. Sort of. I jumped the gun a little bit on the Wolfe comment. He is a junior with two letters. In theory, he will return back next year to Clifton.

However, there is a chance he could end up in an NFL camp next year. Mel Kiper recently named Derek Wolfe his most NFL-ready prospect at UC. That selection comes over the top of offensive stars Armon Binns, Zach Collaros and Vidal Hazelton.

Now, just because Mel Kiper says you're good, doesn't mean you are. But he's probably the closest we have to that not employed by an NFL franchise. Wolfe is 6-6, 295 pounds with a powerful burst. His body is NFL size. Last year he started all 13 games and finished with 8 TFL and 5 sacks. A more disruptive season at the center of the UC 4-3 could make jumping to the league an option. I'm not saying he should or that it will happen, I'm only saying that it will be an option.

NEXT!

From Charles:

Any updates on Dyjuan Lewis? We've been hearing some updates regarding the NCAA's review of other athletes but have yet to hear anything about our star wide receiver recruit (unsurprisingly, as Bearcat fans are used to long delays from the NCAA).
 
How far away are we from seeing Roney Lozano on the field? He was named as one of the freshmen Butch Jones expects to see play sometime this year, and we know how thin we are depth-wise on the defensive line.
 
Have a great trip to the west coast, and go Bearcats!

Charles,

The news on Dyjuan Lewis remains unchanged as we speak. He was cleared to practice earlier in the fall, but UC is still waiting to hear on his eligiblity to play.

As for Roney Lozano, Jones spoke about him at his press conference this week. Lozano was given plenty of opportunties to see if he could handle playing consistent reps on the line. His body is college-ready, but he isn't there with his comprehension of the defense yet. Jones inferred it could be until midseason before we see Lozano. That could change should injuries occur in front of him, but for now he's going to watch for the most part.

NEXT!

From Mitch:

How much will this team run the ball this year? I hear lots of talk about Butch Jones being more committed to the running game, but what should we expect out of this spread?

Mitch,

We can't really know until Saturday night's game against Fresno, however, we can certainly guesstimate. Jones has been very clear about a dedication to running the football effectively. It shouldn't be considered lip service if you look at his history. Last year at Central Michigan the Chips threw it 479 times and ran 515. That was with Dan LeFevour at QB, who is currently with the Chicago Bears.

I would expect a similar balance this year. Collaros will likely lead the team in attempts with, obviously, Isaiah Pead coming in second. I fully expect Collaros to top 175 carries and Pead to top 130.

The best news about a renewed running game is what it could mean for saving the defense down the stretch. Some defensive players suggested that was a reason for some of the issues at the end of the season last year. They had spent so much time on the field every game it eventually wore them down.

Time of possession should generally be an ignored stat, but it might be worth watching this season.

From Jake:

There are quite of few of us out here who can't fathom adding another tech "have to" to their lives...
Twitter is such the case for me (and many others).
Is there any chance you could start a facebook and link the two so that your twitter updates come though on our facebook accounts?

Jake,

First off, thanks for reading. Second, probably not. It's not that I couldn't do it. I most certainly could, but I don't want to overwhelm FB users with the constant Twittering, especially during games when it comes through quite often. 

However, you can subscribe to the UC blogs RSS feeds right here. That way any blogs written here will show up on your phone or whatever interweb device you prefer. You will not only get all my blogs, but also all the great blogs written by the other bloggers here at GoBearcats.

Also, if you don't use Twitter feel free to head over to my blog before and during the Fresno game to jump on the discussion on CoverItLive. I should have it up and running from an hour before kickoff through the final minutes of the game.   

Well, thanks to everybody for the questions and emails and keep them coming. I'm hoping to do it every Friday. So, don't let me down.  

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