As Robert Tepper and Rocky IV taught us so well, many times, there's no easy way out. Of course, not always are we avenging the death of a friend at the hands of a roided out Russian killer.
Sometimes, there is an easy way out. I took it yesterday. At UC's spring practice, I opted to catch up with Kerry Coombs and chat about the defensive backs. The man produces writer's gold with every conversation. He did so as we talked about JuCo transfer Malcolm Murray, RS JR Drew Frey and JR Cam Cheatham, among other topics.
Also, one extra from Coombs I couldn't squeeze in, besides him joking around with me for interviewing Reuben Johnson, who he claimed only played seven snaps this spring while working through a knee injury.
Not that this motivational tactic comes as a surprise, but Coombs and his staff clearly are confronting the possibility anyone leans on 11 starters returning defensively as a crutch.
"Because we are a year older doesn't make us better," he said. "We have to make sure we are working every day to make the experience of last year pay off for us. We need to learn from our mistakes to feel a little bit of an edge about us because we didn't play well. Everybody knows that. It goes for me, too. Every day we got something to prove. When you have something to prove that helps you work and our kids have worked really hard."
--- Bill Koch delved into the lost recruiting class of 2009. Of the 29 players in that class, only seven are currently on the spring two-deep chart. Only 12 are even a part of the program. That type of attrition can happen with a coaching change, where Bill points out five left when Brian Kelly announced his departure. But a hole in the program that large can be difficult to overcome.
The projected starters for this coming season are:
LB Maalik Bomar, P Patrick O'Donnell, OL Austen Bujnoch/OL Andre Cureton and DB Reuben Johnson. Other significant contributors will be whoever loses the battle between Bujnoch and Cureton, DB Chris Williams, DL Jordan Stepp and TE Blake Annen.
To advance the story even more, take a look at the 2008 class and compare contributions. To be fair, we'll look the 2008 group three seasons later (2011), just as we project the 2009 group three seasons later (2012).
Of 24 freshmen commits that season, nine were every week starters when healthy last year:
DB Pat Lambert (12/2), RB Darrin Williams (4/3), Sean Hooey (10/2) and OL Evan Davis (6/1) also started at least one game.
Granted, leaving the program becomes easier when a player is only a year in and their position is secure. Still, the differentiation between 10 every game starters vs four is beyond significant.
For the sake of argument, let's project on the low end and say the 2009 class produced even three more starters, not even the six it would take to match 2008 class. With that conservative metric, you'd displace three current young players forced into action early in their career before they are ready.
So, fill in the third LB spot with another Maalik Bomar. Fill in the offensive line with another Alex Hoffman. Go ahead and toss in another Dominique Battle at corner. Now think about how many points/missed opportunties were a product of a blown coverage by a young corner, missed tackle at linebacker or missed block from a lineman last year.
The game changes quite a bit. I'm not contending UC would have won the Big East title, but in a season where one or two plays seemed to make all the difference, it's hard to believe the final record wouldn't have been affected.
--- Speaking of that class of 2008, Brian Bennett places Isaiah Pead atop the list of most likely back in the conference to reach the 1,000 yard mark. He compiled 1,029 last year, while missing two games due to injury.
Hard to imagine his 6.6 yards per carry average not yielding another huge season, barring injury.
Freshman Jameel Poteat along with Darrin Williams are likely to steal some carries from Pead, but even last year, of the non-QB carries, Pead recieved 60 percent of them. And that percentage would have been even higher had he played against N.C. State or Indiana State.
--- A come-from-behind and walkoff victory against Xavier at home? Yeah, Tuesday at Marge Schott Stadium was a rewarding one for the UC baseball team.
The Cats host Wright State at 7 p.m. tonight in what by all accounts should be a clear, if a bit chilly, night to conclude the Joe Nuxhall Classic.
--- Some more interviews about playing at Paul Brown Stadium from Butch Jones Blog.
--- A very interesting argument from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel for why adding UCF should be a no-brainer for the Big East if they really cared about football.
Every sentence in that column I agree with. Though, that doesn't mean it will happen.
--- On to some randomness...
--- I've heard the same thing causes power outages at Frisch's.
--- Why I have tried and failed many times to play fantasy baseball.
--- The complete history of Celebrity Jeopardy! on SNL. You didn't want to do anything with the next hour anyway, did you?
--- Today is Al Green's birthday, 65. I suggest you use this opportunity to play his music and woo your lady. By woo, I mean play his music loud enough to drown out the dumb things we say that make them not want to stay together with us.