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Bearcats Breakfast 4.22.11

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Happy Good Friday to those of you who celebrate it. Hopefully some of you are enjoying the day off work. For those of you who aren't, well, at least you can blow off 10 minutes by reading this blog. Wish I could offer something better.

I do have this video of Cookie the baby penguin from the Cincinnati Zoo showing off. (Scroll to 1-minute mark) 

Let's eat...

--- UC football winds down spring practices on Saturday. They move on to the next phase of the program, which is the summer conditioning program. The players move back into the hands of stength guru Dave Lawson.

Tommy G caught up with Lawson on Thursday.

--- Earlier this week, I posted some musing from OC Mike Bajakian on Zach Collaros. Of course, another hot topic of conversation with both Bajakian and Butch Jones has been the backup QB battle. Jones mentioned it in the first press conference of the spring and will likely monitor it into the fall. Yet, as he fills out his post-spring depth chart, it's clear the competition level for the spot hit a productive high.

"You can throw all you want in the summer, when you put a live rush in front of people and they have to think spontaneously and show functional intelligence, it's huge," Jones said.

Muchie Legaux, Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Luallen and Chazz Anderson played at full speed all spring and each showed flashes of brillance.

Here's some information on where each of them are at through the eyes of Jones and Bajakian.

Munchie: He's shown how his athletic ability could provide a significant asset in the running game. Legaux still lacks the precision and accuracy necessary, but as he continues to understand the system and anticipate throws that will improve.

Butch Jones stated adamantly that Legaux will not be a wide reciever. He is a quarterback. Last year he went to the coaching staff hoping to help a position group in disarray. Jones has no interest in seeing him back there again. The practice reps lost during the season slowed his development as a QB.

"You can't look back," Jones said. "It is where we were at in the program. He came to us, which is a tribute to him. I also think that year playing receiver can prove to be a great benefit for him as well as understanding what goes on in the perimeter."

 

As far as what he needs to improve:

"His overall management of the offense," Jones said. "That is the big thing where he needs to step up...is the overall knowledge from functional intelligence -- applying the board to the field."

With Jordan Luallen, he played well in the Bearcat Bowl showing a combination of quick decision-making, accurate throws and running ability. 

Luallen played in a run-oriented offense since his high school days. He ran a Wing-T attack in HS and moved to Georgia Tech's option before transferring. Attempting to shift his skills into a spread attack takes time. He's on his way.

"Really, he had the farthest to go from a mechanics standpoint, from a comfort level of being in the pocket and throwing the ball and running this style of offense," Bajakian said. "Every day he gets better and better and better and will continue to improve."

As for Chazz Anderson, he's the known quantity. The incumbent who everyone has seen play and for the most part knows what they are going to get. He's a solid leader and knows the offense as well as any player in the building.

I wouldn't dare handicap the race at this point because I'm not privy to those meetings, but certainly each of them brings an added element to the run game, Munchie moreso than the others, and could be an asset back there in certain situations.

--- I also had a chance to talk with Isaiah Pead this week. We chatted about a number of things, including his role as mentor to a high-profile back such as incoming freshman Jameel Poteat. Turns out, Pead hosted Poteat's visit. Coaches likely envision a passing of the RB torch from Pead to Poteat once this season ends and Pead will gladly make that happen.

Here's a transcript from Pead on the subject:

"He's got a little bit more hype than I had coming in. I thought about when I was in his shoes. I was actually his host. I told him to enjoy what you have right now because you are starting all back over once you reach this level right here. He's probably a star in his hometown or high school, but you have to start over at the University of Cincinnati. I just told him to keep a humble head, level head and come to work every day.

 

"I'm the only senior in the group, so I am pretty much a mentor to everyone and have the most playing experience. Coming in everyone wants to play. Coming in like me when you are behind two upperclassmen, you have to win in some type of way, whether on the field or the sidelines. Learn why aren't you playing? If you aren't, why not? And how can I? Once you are playing, how can I continue to stay playing and not lose my job?"

Last season played out oddly for high profile Big East running backs. The undeniable stars were supposed to be Dion Lewis and Noel Devine, with RBs like Pead and Jordan Todman also on the radar.

Both Lewis and Devine saw their carries cut into as the season went along by younger backs. Devine only broke the 20-touch mark twice in his final nine games of the year and didn't even break 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since his freshman year. (Injury played a role)

Lewis played well, but shared carries with sophomore sensation Ray Graham. Lewis finished the year with 219 rushes for 1,061 yards. That was 106 fewer carries than his junior season. Graham contributed 148 carries for 922 yards.

Pead enters his senior year in a similiar position as those two, he's highly-touted and expects to produce his greatest season to date. But does Pead look around at what occured in the Big East last year and stay humble knowing how quickly the game can change?

Not necessarily. Pead's always talked about Big East championships rather than 1,000-yard seasons, so don't expect the end of his career to be any different.

"I'm a team person. As much as the individual stats may matter or have some type of perspective on someone I am a team person and I want to win the Big East championship every year," Pead said. "Last year we didn't get to. Individual stats is really something I take a look at the end of the season. During the season, I may look and see what type of pace I am at, but end of the day I am a winner."

 

--- Bill Koch with some nuggets of gold, including an update with Mike Mickens, whose joining the staff.

--- Brian Bennett takes a look at who he thinks will finish last in the Big East next season. That's a tough question, without doubt. My early money would be on Louisville or Rutgers, but that label is really anyone's game.

--- Some randomness...

--- Friday Night Lights is holding an auction of props from the show for charity. You better believe I'll be bidding on the Buddy Garrity coffee mug.

--- Time unveiled its list of the 100 most influential people. How did Tommy G get snubbed?

--- When writers bicker we look really pathetic.

--- Free coffee at Starbucks today!  

--- If you are a 30 Rock fan like me, you'll love this list of the 15 funniest moments from the first 100 episodes.

--- Big weekend trip planned to Keeneland which makes me so pumped I want to dance like James Brown. I suggest you join me. Have a great weekend.

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