No one needs to tell Bearcat fans of the losses from last year in football.
4-8 honestly was the last thing most expected coming off an Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl, particularly coach Butch Jones.
However, there were underlying reasons.
Sure, no one likes excuses, but the truth is UC envisioned having USC transfer Vidal Hazelton and Tennessee transfer Kenbrell Thompkins as starting wide-outs in 2010. Out of those two, coach Jones got one game from Hazelton before a torn ACL effectively ended his season.
Thompkins was forced to sit a season out. (Again, thanks to the curious rule that allows coaches to jump ship without penalty, while players must miss a year.)
Add to that, back-up/change-of-pace/kick returning back Darren Williams missed some time. More importantly, Zach Collaros missed time.
In an offense that relies on a multi-faceted quarterback as much as Jones', losing a top quarterback is a devastating blow.
Those are just some of the injuries and mishaps that brought misfortune in and around "The Nipp".
However, one that stands out happened sadly before the season began at Camp Higher Ground. Freshman linebacker Solomon Tentman from Roger Bacon was having a great August and was looking to make an impact on the Bearcat defense right away.
That was until a serious knee injury robbed Tentman of his inaugural season.
Tentman is now back on the spring practice field, about eight months removed from incident. Early on, he's worn a green jersey, which indicates that he's being "worked back in gradually".
"They're just holding me off," Tentman said. "They just don't want me jumping right back in. I just have to take things slow right now. I'm getting back in the flow of everything."
Outside of the jersey color, the biggest difference in Tentman is that he no longer looks like an incoming freshman. He's one of many Bearcats who have bulked up under strength coach Dave Lawson's watchful eye.
"I put on about 10 pounds," Tentman said. "I lost a lot after surgery (knee reconstruction) but I'm back about 230 right now."
Tentman, a three-year starter at Roger Bacon, figures he's put on a total of 15 pounds since changing from Spartan to Bearcat last summer. Most of it appears to be muscle. He thinks he can eventually play at 245, which puts him in the (new) "Walter Stewart category".
The worst part of his injury is over...missing an entire season of football. Despite the difficulty, it was a learning procedure.
"It was the toughest thing by far, it wasn't fun," Tentman said. "Watching the other guys, watching JK (Schaffer) and Maalik (Bomar) play, I learned your eyes need to progress, you can't play slow, you've got to shift your eyes and play physical."
Tentman now looks forward to teaming at linebacker with Schaffer and Bomar, making it an all Tri-State trio (La Salle, Winton Woods and Roger Bacon). He thinks he can fit right in with the style of play mandated by the Bearcat staff.
"Play physical and fast," Tentman said. "That's the thing the coaches always reiterate."
Playing fast is usually not a problem. At UC's offensive pace, there's little time for the defense to exchange pleasantries with the opposition.
"The linemen climb on you fast," Tentman said. "You've got to be real physical. If you're not, you'll be blown off the ball for sure."
One gander at Solomon Tentman and it's hard to imagine him ever being blown off of anything.
While Tentman progressively mends, two new prep players have also caught the eye of Butch Jones.
"Dwight Jackson and Nick Temple--I couldn't be more ecstatic about these youngsters that graduated high school early and they're running with the 'twos' right now," Jones said.
Temple is from Indianapolis Warren Central, while Jackson is from Miami (FL) Central. Jackson has the workman-like quote of the spring among newcomers (which will wisely not be published).
When Tentman does return full-time, he'll be locking horns with these two youngsters for playing time as Coach Jones believes they will see the field.
"We have to, we have no depth," Jones said. "It's hard to say, but the way they're progressing they're going to play for us. Them being here for spring football means so much for their development."
It's always kind of a "fallback" comment to say, "The defense is ahead of the offense", but thus far that's been the case.
A quick review of last year's scores will show you that's not necessarily a bad thing.