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August 2011 Archives

Bearcats Breakfast 8.31.11

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Three days.

In case you missed it, I posted a list of news, notes and observations from Tuesday's press luncheon here yesterday afternoon. There are many lovely news morsels.

I slipped out to practice soon after posting and got to see Zach Collaros throw a few frozen ropes to Kenbrell Thompkins for touchdowns. Both KT and ZC sure looked in top shape from my angle, however, Kerry Coombs had a slightly different perspective.

Needless to say, Coombs felt free to voice his disappointment. Always entertaining viewing, as long as you are on the sidelines and not under fire.

I did talk to Coombs after practice about a few different topics, one of them being his kicker Tony Miliano, who will be kicking in his first college football game this weekend.

He said some interesting things about the kicking situation and Miliano's promotion.

"We charted every kick in the entire summer. Every time, every hash, every distance, every possible situation. Tony comes out the winner. Tony's got the job. That's really helped Tony, from a confidence standpoint. The other thing is, we have two outstanding other kickers. I won't call them backups because I don't know how things are going to go. I was on the staff when Jake Rogers started off with the yips and all of a sudden we are kicking Brandon Yingling at Oklahoma in front of all those people in a bigtime game."

Indeed, the kicking business is fickle. As big of a deal as we make out of Miliano winning the job -- and I do think he will be given some lead way -- a few bad games and there is plenty of confidence in the kickers behind him.

Quick stat insertion: Seven UC games in the past three seasons have been decided by three points or less.

Let's eat...

--- Did you know you can follow all UC news, videos, etc., on a mobile app. In the words of the Notorious BIG, if you don't know, now you know.

--- The Panthers waived QB Tony Pike yesterday. Carolina was never a good fit for TP. With the drafting of Jimmy Claussen last year and Newton this year, it was a no-brainer those two would receive every rep and opportunity.

Pike's injured right now (elbow), but hopefully he can heal up and get another chance to develop with another franchise.

--- Vidal Hazelton was
released by San Diego. He never caught a pass in three preseason games.

--- In better news, LS Mike Windt looks like he kept his job as his competition was cut in San Diego. What a great story. The guy keeps his head down, does his job well and has gone from undrafted free agent to replacing a guy who spent 17 years with the Chargers.

--- Mardy Gilyard is tied for second on the Rams for preseason receptions (6 for 51). He's also been the primary punt returner and kick returner. However, he is very much on the bubble in St. Louis. Here is a post about the pros and cons of keeping Gilyard from ESPN.

He'll be the most interesting UC NFL storyline to watch on cutdown day Saturday.

--- Jason Kelce is now the starting center in Philadelphia. Guy is killing it. I thought he was one of the steals of the draft and all the teams who didn't understand he had mono and that's why he was so light at the combine are kicking themselves for not doing enough research.

Here's the story and video talking with Kelce. JK sporting a strong beard.




How about those Eagles, now with three of their starting 22 hailing from the University of Cincinnati.

--- CB Brandon Underwood
is also entrenched in a tight roster battle in Green Bay. The question isn't just if he will win the battle against Anthony Levine but if the Pack will even keep four safeties. Regardless, it will be a nerve-racking Saturday for the former Bearcat.

--- WR Armon Binns is
still on the Jags roster, but with only two receptions for 20 yards this preseason, he's probably hoping for a practice squad at best in Jacksonville.

--- OT Jeff Linkenbach will
make the Colts roster and as one of only three tackles will see plenty of playing time, if not start.

--- Some randomness...

--- In my C. Trent Rosecrans
dedication of the day, AV Club has The Hold Steady covering Huey Lewis and the News. Great Scott! Two fantastic worlds come together to create one great video.

--- If only I had more free moments, I would work my way down Time's list of the Top 100 nonfiction books of all time. Though, I am starting with Ball Four on the recommendation of the one and only Josh Katzowitz and Bengals.com writer Geoff Hobson.

--- Should anybody be surprised that after streaking around a NASCAR parking lot this man intended to retreat to his car to relax with his girlfriend and pet raccoon? Probably not.

--- Pump up week continues with Archie Eversole. We Ready, Indeed.


Bearcats two-deep with many area prepsters

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Sure, this is a variation of an interview I did with Kerry Coombs at Higher Ground, but at the Butch Jones press conference for Austin Peay, I did notice a number of area kids, not just on the roster, but on the "two-deep" that media folks like me use during games.

In my constant effort to satisfy my high school obligations with my day (and a lot of nights) job and my college obligations with my side job, I cornered coach Jones today outside of the Bearcat locker room.

Here's a fancy little intro I wrote for The Community Press/Enquirer Media outlets....

Going into their opener against Austin Peay, the UC Bearcats have nine Greater Cincinnati players on their "two-deep" roster: guard Sean McClelland of Moeller, center Evan Davis of Colerain, guard Austen Bujnoch of Elder, defensive lineman Brandon Mills of Colerain, linebacker Maalik Bomar of Winton Woods, linebacker J.K. Schaffer of La Salle, safety Arryn Chenault of Fairfield, defensive back Chris Williams of Winton Woods and long snapper Tom DeTemple of Moeller. In addition, Elder's Tony Miliano was just named the opening game kicker.

Coach Jones had this to say about the Bearcats' local recruiting efforts:


IRU - Indisputable Role Understanding

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University of Cincinnati football coach Butch Jones held court at his press luncheon today and his IRU statement caught my eye obviously. The indisputable Role Understanding speaks to this philosophy as stated (in part) by Coach Jones: "...But it's really your role players that really determine whether you win or lose or play winning football at every position. It's our role players and it's the consistency that's needed each and every day."

He is right. Everyone knows what to expect from Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead and other front line players but it's the role players who will determine what happens in every game, especially the Big East. I offer up the Chicago Bulls who, without Dennis Rodman agitating Alonzo Mourning or Steve Kerr or John Paxson hitting late game shots; or Horace Grant grabbing rebounds and providing inside scoring, we may have talked about Michael Jordan being the greatest player not to win a title. Look at the New England Patriots. Everyone talks about Tom Brady but what about Kevin Faulk in the backfield? And a Ted Washington in the middle? With Kevin they were always converting a clutch third down and with Washington stuffing the middle, they made third down more difficult for their opponents because they were unsuccessful on first and second down runs.

The Bearcats also have to apply the IRU policy to the coaching staff; this is their second season here and like a late night hand of poker the stakes are higher. UC fans might get impatient with another non-bowl season and with talent returning we should expect more wins than last year. But it is incumbent upon the position coaches to get this team to not only play up to their potential, but to keep their heads in the game when adversity strikes. It appeared that when things didn't go their way last year, it was visible. In a major conference that spells disaster. I don't know if it's true that's why I said it appeared that way. But while Butch is the head coach and gets all the attention, the position coaches have to make a difference. They may not get the credit but when this team wins, they win; the opportunities to move into a bigger role or realizing their dream of becoming a head coach.

My gut feeling is this team is going to have a solid season, a bowl appearance, and some big wins if they believe in themselves all four quarters. They have the talent, more experience and another year together.

So starting this Saturday the answers start to reveal themselves as Austin Peay comes to town. I think the win is inevitable scoreboard wise, but I want to see a win of effort, execution and attitude. I think the coaches want to see the same thing.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.



Every Tuesday during the season, Butch Jones and a few selected players meet with the media and talk about the upcoming week. The media, in turn, devour City BBQ and repeat the same jokes they've been telling since 2005.

So, (hopefully) every Tuesday afternoon I'll bring all the lovely fodder which comes out of this meeting of the Cincinnati media contingent. I'll have notes. I'll have quotes. And I'll likely update you on how many pieces of cornbread my guy Bill Koch puts down.

Moving forward...

--- The depth chart was released on Monday and Jones addressed a few of the more interesting storylines. I posed some questions about starting DB Deven Drane, unfortunately, you will have to wait until I splice together my powerful prose and talk to Drane himself to hear his comments. That story should be up later this week.

--- A question was raised in regards to placing freshman Ralph David Abernathy IV at kickoff returner considering the veteran returning options and stress on taking care of the football. A smallish frosh (5-7, 160 pounds) like Abernathy doesn't necessarily fit the mold.

"Ralph David adds another dimension back there to our kickoff return game," Jones said. "He has great speed. He understands what we are doing and we want to throw him in the fire a little bit."

Wanting to try new players at kickoff return makes sense considering UC finished 93rd in the country and seventh in the Big East in that category last season. The Cats only had one return longer than 40 yards all year.

Sounded like RDAIV will receive his chance, but the leash will be tight. With DJ Woods and Anthony McClung both waiting in the wings since they have experience doing the job last year.

--- The official word came down that Munchie Legaux will be the backup quarterback. No real surprise there.

"He is a little bit ahead of (No.3 QB Jordan Luallen) in terms of overall knowledge of our system of the volume Munchie can play with," Jones said.

Jones did go on to say that a Wildcat package exists with Luallen and he expects all three of his quarterbacks to see action this year in some capacity.

"(Luallen) is very dynamic with the ball in his hands. He'll add another dynamic in the run game with some speed options and some triple options."

--- Tight end Travis Kelce (ankle) will not play against Austin Peay. He is expected back for the Tennessee game, according to Jones.

Blake Annen was placed as the starting tight end with Adrien Robinson as his backup.

--- The predominant storyline this week will be how this year is different from last year. As I've talked about all season there is a significant difference in performance in the second year of a new coach's tenure.

Four of the last 10 national championships were won by coaches in their second season (Oklahoma, LSU, Florida and Auburn) and last year both teams in the title game were led by second-year coaches.

I'm not claiming UC will win the national title, only that the level of play raises significantly in those cases. Jones said that difference has been apparent.

"Our players understand the expectations," Jones said. "They understand the standard. They understand the different things that go into preparing for an opponent. There are no unknowns."

I can say there were quite a few unknowns on that flight to Fresno State last year.

Jones owns a better feel for his personnel as well this year. Being able to more precisely place his vision on the field and the players he knows will consistently carry that out will be a large advantage. He didn't know how one person would respond to his coaching style on gameday in Fresno last year. Or the coaching style of any of the position coaches. The comfortability goes a long way.

--- The always strong JK Schaffer talked a little bit about the expectations for this defensive unit that so many people are curious to see. As for his goals against Austin Peay, who uses a run-heavy attack, he wasn't afraid to be specific.

"I would say hold them to less than 50 rushing yards and a shutout," the senior MLB said. "That is what I expect. That is what our goal is. I don't really want to expect anything less."

We will revisit those goals Saturday night. 


--- Spoke with Zach Collaros
for about five minutes as well. I was focused on this young WR corps. Outside of DJ Woods and Anthony McClung, none of them have played a D-I college football game with significant snaps at WR.

The group is a long way from Armon Binns, DJ Woods and Vidal Hazelton which we were praising as one of the top trios in the country at this point last year.

While the game reps aren't necessarily there, ZC sees the depth at the position to be improved.

"I think we had a great offseason," he said. "The bubble helped out tremendously with the winter. We got a lot of throwing in. I have worked with all those guys. I think we have a lot more depth at receiver than in past years. That will help with wanting to play fast. The receivers have done a great job at camp. I am ready to see how it pays off."

When I asked him who had the highlight plays of camp, he specifically pointed out senior OJ Woodard with some acrobatic, one-handed receptions. Woodard may have gone up top, but when you've seen Armon Binns go after a jump ball, it's tough to be amazed.

"(Woodard) is a big and strong guy, (listed 216) pounds, can run," ZC said. "When a little corner is on him he can usually get through them to the ball. As for hang time and all the stuff, Armon's got him on that."


--- Jones said assistant coach Jahmile Addae is not currently a part of the coaching staff because of a health situation he's dealing with. They hope he will be fine, but former tight ends coach Mark Elder has moved to running back and Dave Johnson, previously at WVU, has taken over the tight ends.

--- In a classy move,
Jones opened the presser by expressing thoughts and prayers with former UC and current Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, whose father passed away.

Bearcats Breakfast 8.30.11

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I've got good news and bad news.

How about the bad news first: very brief Breakfast today. With the first UC press luncheon of the year this morning, there is not enough time in the day.

Good news: I'll have a post this afternoon after we acquire some more nuggets about this season and this week's game against Austin Peay.

Reminder: Standing order all season, if you have any questions you would like answered, just send it to me (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr). I'd be happy to find out or track down a response for you.

Let's eat...

--- Four days...

--- ESPN concluded its Top 25 Big East players list with UC tied for the conference lead with five members.

Think about that, take away everything else you know,but say that one team will be tied for the most players in the top 25 of the conference and have a senior QB at No. 3. Sounds like a team that should be in the title conversation to me.

Of course, just about every team in this conference should be in the title conversation, so I guess I digress.

--- Butch Jones said yesterday
on the Big East teleconference that he anticipates eight true freshmen playing. Judging by the two deep depth chart released yesterday and general knowledge, here are the logical eight he's referring to:

WR Alex Chisum, WR Shaq Washington, LB Clemente Casseus, LB Dwight Jackson, LB Nick Temple, KOR Ralph David Abernathy IV, RB Jameel Poteat, RB Akise Teague.

All are listed as backups except for RDAIV, who is the staring kickoff returner.

--- Also in regards to youth, remember there are five redshirt freshmen listed on the two-deep, including one starter in K Tony Miliano.

The other four are LT Eric Lefeld, RT Cory Keebler, DL Camaron Beard, LB Solomon Tentman.

--- As for any surprises on the two-deep, there weren't any. Deven Drane was the starter at CB, but he's been working with the 1s pretty regularly. A majority of the time, especially when the Big East spread portion of the schedule comes, Dominique Battle will be the third corner on the field many of the snaps with LB Ben Pooler on the sideline.

Reuben Johnson or Chris Williams could also come on in those situations, they are listed as undecided starters at nickel corner.

--- Like a little
conference shuffle with your opening weekend of college football? Texas A&M could be making its move to the SEC official today. Everybody man your stations, it just got real.

--- Since I know my
blog usually caters to the high brow, VIP types; here's a link to UC's Corporate/VIP Program that is available.

--- Some randomness...

--- Aaron Rodgers has really stepped up his 'stache game.

--- Pump-up song week continues with a little hip hop for the kids. I remember seeing this song during Georgia's home opener a few years back following a TD and nearly the entire team was dancing on the sidelines. It was one of the cooler things I've seen at a football game.


Bearcats Breakfast 8.29.11

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Quite an action-packed weekend. The final weekend without college football until December. Drink that statement in. It always goes down smooth.

UC held a closed practice under the lights last night as one of the official final preps for the opener against Austin Peay on Saturday at 7 p.m.

While that was going on, a few players came over to the Bearcats Kickoff Party at Dave and Buster's, along with more than 100 fans. Here are some pictures courtesy BearcatLair and my boy Pat Strang.

Butch Jones answered questions. Players signed autographs. I ate a giant burger. Good times.

The event was definitely a success and officially put an end to all the hype and pageantry of anticipating the season. Game week is here.

Six days.

Let's eat...

--- Dr. Saturday takes a final, hyper-specific look at the Big East preview and says UC's absurd turnover margin (119th) from last season will come back to normal and the Bearcats will be in competition for the the title.

The regressing to the mean concept has been on my mind recently and got a little paralysis by statistical analysis rushing through my veins. Are lack of turnovers created and excessive turnovers given away like a three-month virus that washes out of your system? Or is it more like a disease without a cure?

So much of turnovers in football are a result of luck. A fumble bouncing the right way, a tip falling perfectly into the DBs hands, lucky swipe of the ball from a defensive lineman.

I remember interviewing Zach Collaros after the loss at West Virginia last year and when discussing a lucky tipped INT that went the other way just before halftime and flipped the momentum, he said it just seems like every bounce isn't going their way this season. It felt that way last year.

Those which suffered an inordinate amount of bad turnover luck have to fly back to the middle of the pack the next year, right?

I took a look at the five worst turnover margins (average per game) in BCS schools (accompanied by national ranking) for the past five years and saw how they fared the next season.

2010       Nat'l Rank/Margin       Next season
Cincinnati  119th (-1.25)                    ?
Texas        116th (-1.00)
UCLA        113th (-0.92)
Duke         110th  (-0.83)
Michigan    109th (-0.77)

2009       Nat'l Rank/Margin       Next season
Georgia      118th (-1.23)            19th (+0.77)
Michigan    115th (-1.00)            109th (-0.77)
NC State    114th (-0.92)            27th (+0.54)
Wash. St.  102nd (-0.58)            62nd (-0.08)         
Mississippi 101st  (-0.54)           88th (-0.50)

2008       Nat'l Rank/Margin       Next season
Wash St.   120th (-1.92)             102nd (-0.58)
Washington  117th (-1.42)           35th (+0.33)
Louisville      111th (-1.00)           77th (-0.25)
Nebraska     108th (-0.85)           33rd (+0.36)
S. Carolina   108th (-0.85)           81st (-0.31)

2007       Nat'l Rank/Margin      Next season
Baylor        119th (-1.50)            4th (+1.33)
Nebraska    117th (-1.42)           108th (-0.85)
NC State     116th (-1.33)           22nd (+0.62)
Minnesota   115th (-1.25)           16th (+0.92)         
Mississippi  107th (-0.83)           73rd (-0.15)

2006       Nat'l Rank/Margin      Next season
Illinois        117th (-1.25)              70th (-0.15)
NC State    112th (-0.92)             116th (-1.33)
Stanford     112th (-0.92)              38th (+0.17)
UNC          112th (-0.92)              96th (-0.50)
Iowa          111th (-0.85)              22nd (+0.67)
   
--- The answer to the regress to the mean question is, yes, they do come back to the middle. Of the 20 teams analyzed, eight of them not only moved out of the bottom five, but flipped it to a positive turnover margin the next season.

Take that compared to only four finished in the bottom 20 in the country for a second consecutive season.

--- How terrible must it be to be an NC State fan. They have been in the bottom five three of the past four years. Think about how frustrating turnovers are to watch. Now repeat that feeling four years in a row. Still, EVEN NC STATE, rebounded for a +.62 turnover margin following a bottom five performance.

--- Two of the past four years the team with the worst turnover margin among BCS schools has gone on to a top 20 national ranking in the stat the next season. Baylor in 2007 flipped from 119th to 4th. It should be noted Baylor changed to a conservative, run-based attack after throwing 18 picks in 2007, but still, a significant change.

UC won't be changing offenses, but with an increased focus on eliminating turnovers and a shift of some luck, the odds are in favor of the Bearcats not suffering the same turnover-drenched season as 2010.

--- The newsy item
of the weekend was the announcement that Tony Miliano will be the starting kicker against Austin Peay. The walk-on redshirt freshman came on toward the end of camp and earned the nod from Jones.

Here's what CBJ told Bill Koch:

"Both kickers have progressed. But we just thought at this stage of the game Tony has really started to kick with some consistency and some confidence."

As with any spot, the position isn't completely settled and subject to change as the season progresses.

--- Also from th
e news desk: The Crosstown Shootout will be at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 on ESPN2. As Twitter follower AirJordan points out UC was 0-4 in noon games last season and only beat IPFW by six in the other early game (1 p.m.).

Last year's team hated playing early, and didn't keep that a secret. They talked about it being a punishment if they didn't beat  Georgetown because they could have been in the noon game of the Big East tourney.

That said, most of that is because of a lack of energy for the early games. Something tells me there will be little lack of energy for the Crosstown Shootout.

--- I wrote about the competition at the linebacker situation in-depth last week. Bill put together a feature on Maryland transfer Ben Pooler, who will take over the starting OLB spot next to Maalik Bomar and JK Schaffer.

--- Last Enquirer link here
, Bill writes about CBJ trying to build a program and talks about the behind-the-scenes fundraising and focus on impressing recruits.

End of the day, facilities and atmosphere sway top recruits. Wins bring them on campus.

The return rate on the $300,000 investment of the 1200 Club surges by percentage points with every victory.

--- In case you missed the Inside Bearcats Football season preview show on FoxSports. Here it is. All the information you want to hear from UC players and coaches.

Plus, the sparkling prose of Tommy G.

It's 23 minutes long in case you need to ask your boss how long he'll be in that meeting.

--- The Butch Jones
radio show series was announced and will be every Wednesday at Montgomery Inn. Here is the full schedule with details. It doesn't mention and endless amount of complementary ribs for all balding UC bloggers, so I'm not sure on the truth of any of the information.

--- Zach Collaros was named the No. 3 player in the Big East by Andrea Adelson. Not to say I told you so, but last week I literally did.

--- Some randomness....

--- The damage done and
lives lost because of Hurricane Irene are truly sad. However, the local reporters who stand out and report from the middle of the storm are truly hilarious. Especially when the sea foam they are covered in looks like, well, something much worse.
  
The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli.

--- I am loving all these NBA players in pickup games videos. Here's Tyreke Evans showing off sick dribbles.

--- John Goodman makes
an appearance on the season premiere of Community. That's my favorite sentence written in weeks. Here's a sneak peak.

--- Beyonce and Jay-Z's
child will set the record for most swag at birth.

--- With this being game week and all, I figured we'd go with the all pump up songs this week. Songs that make you want to strap on shoulder pads and a helmet and invite Kerry Coombs over your house for a motivational session.

Here's Roy Jones Jr.


Chicago Trip!

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This week is a special edition of Kickin It With KJ, Jae, Cravenor, Buczek, and Christi with guest star Kate Schmidt. Sunday we opened up the season with our first win against crosstown rivals, Xavier. The team prepared for the game with a dinner at Ashley Daniel's house. We came out strong with a goal in the first 25 minutes. It ended the game with a 1-0 win! We dominated the Musketeers, claiming the title of Cincinnati. The W was followed by Jazmine Rhodes leading the team through the O-Cheer and a much needed off day on Monday. This week the girls came out focused for a challenging week of practices. Jersday we left for chi-town and drove through downtown while KP gave the bus a "tour" of her home state. We went straight to Northwestern's field on the shore of Lake Michigan only to be attacked by spiders in the restrooms. Tonight at 7:30, Central Time, we're gearing up against Northwestern in hopes to bring home our second win of the season. Currently, KP is braiding the teams hair while singing country music, Jae is not happy. The girls focused and ready for the game tonight and cannot wait to see more of Chicago on Saturday. Hopefully we'll take a trip to the beach if we win!

Isaiah ready to get his (Austin) Pead on

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Coming into his final season as a Bearcat, senior Isaiah Pead is coming off a 1,029 yard season where he scored six touchdowns.

Pead was also the team's third-leading receiver with 26 catches.

Since season's end, coach Butch Jones emphasized that Pead needed to become a "complete back".  As the team returned to Camp Higher Ground in Indiana to prepare for the 2011 opener with Austin Peay, it appears Pead has made those strides.

"He's really improved in his pass protection skills and has done a great job in handling the throw game," Jones said. "He's progressed exceptionally well. He's had a great training camp and worked extremely hard. He's been a great role model for our younger backs."

Two of those younger backs are incoming freshmen Jameel Poteat from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Akise Teague from Youngstown.  Both show tremendous promise.

"It's critical because you lead by example," Jones said of Pead's relationship with the youngsters. "Everyone has a great amount of respect for Isaiah on the field. He's been a mentor for these younger backs. He's been a model of consistency and practiced extremely hard."

For Pead's views on the season, the young backs and the opener, please view this:


Bearcats Breakfast 8.26.11

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Eight days.

That's right, one week from tomorrow it will be gameday at The Nipp. In this business, we are trained to stay pretty neutral and not mention our excitement. But, as I have done many times, I will toss my strong OU J-School education to the side, and say that I am pretty excited to see this UC team in action.

We've covered all the angles. We know the questions. Now it's time to see if the Bearcats have the answers. What a great time of year.

Before we move forward, though, let's take one last look back. Yesterday's Beanie Bowl officially marked the end of camp and beginning of the season.

Tommy G unearthed this Best of Camp video with some of the best moments from the time spent baking in West Harrison, Ind. --- a great piece and must watch.

Since we are the dynamic duo, I've got the brother piece to his video. I tracked down three of the most exuberant, outspoken Bearcats to find out the truth behind this trip to Higher Ground. The important probing questions like, "Who hates the cold tub most?" and a blog staple "Who had the worst facial hair."

The three comedians for this piece are strong Moeller Crusader Tom DeTemple, QB and self-proclaimed Tiger Woods Golf team champion Jordan Luallen and Mr. McSaucy aka Randeasy aka Ragu aka OL Randy Martinez.

Find out why Luallen is concerned about his fade, Martinez summons Kimbo Slice and DeTemple throws Kerry Coombs under the bus.

Without further ado, here's their responses to the true taste of Higher Ground.

BEST MOMENT OF CAMP


DeTemple.jpegTom DeTemple: I would say (volunteer assistant) Pat Coggins on the horn. He definitely had a couple premature horns which kind of screwed up the practice a little bit. Coach Jones would get up on him a little bit. Then the next practice he would be worried if he was pressing the horn or not and he wouldn't hit it. So, then he's yelling at him again to hit the horn. So, it's like, wow, you're job is to hit the horn when the clock runs out and you can't do that. That was pretty hysterical.

Mr. McSaucy: The bonfire (Tuesday) night was a really good moment, we really got to bond with our teammates. Behind the barn, they made two big bonfires, all the seniors got up and talked to the team about what the team really means to them and things we want to do together.

There were S'mores out the ass.

Jordan Luallen: For me personally, it was probably listening to Kevin Schloemer imitate McGruber. It's pretty good and just funny, his voice and mannerisms when he does it.

WORST MOMENT OF CAMP

Martinez.jpeg

MMS: Probably when I was about to catch a full body cramp out here, one of those days. The first one-a-day practice where we went at least 30-some periods. It was ridiculous. Everybody was really dragging toward the end. That was the hardest day.

TDT: Circle of accountability. We count everybodys loafs and softs, we are in a big circle and we are doing up-downs. We end up doing anywhere form 50-75 straight up-downs. They would run in and say, 'Hi, I'm Tom DeTemple, I let the team down because I had four loafs, everybody has to do four up-downs for you.' They do that for the whole offensive unit.

JL: Probably trying to go to sleep after Chris Williams fell asleep, because he snores like a freight train.

BEST FACIAL HAIR OUT HERE

Luallen.jpg

JL: There were a bunch of good ones. Trav had a great beard going with his Friar Tom cut. Pat O'Donnell had a great mustache, which I was sad to see go. Brad Harrah had a fantastic mustache. You got to give him props for what that was.

RAGU: By far, Travis Kelce. It was full earlier. His beard was looking epic at one point. He had to shave it for picture day. You can't send your mom a picture and be looking all...It wasn't even close.

TDT: Jordan Stepp had a good one, he had lines cut into it.


WORST FACIAL HAIR OUT HERE:

TDT: Coach Coombs (laugh). He like can't get it to go, so he just let it go and it just got kind of stubbly everywhere.

No, (I didn't let him know). I just kind of turned away and let that go.

RM: Has to be either Hoffman or Evan, because they have the patchy beards with one patch. It's horrible. We made a bet as an O-line that we are not going to cut our hair. So the rest of the year is just going to be big. I am growing it  out and I am going to have the Kimbo on the face, it is going to be bad.

JL: Bujnoch, no doubt about it. Bujnoch. He's actually got a soul patch that is off-center to the right. It's garbage. The worst thing I've ever seen.

FIRST THING YOU WILL DO WHEN GET BACK:

RM: No. 1 is taking a nap. The longest nap I have ever had in my life. We get nap time (here), but as soon as you wake up you know you have to get your mind on football. I am going to nap the day away, a solid 16 hours of sleep. And then eat.

TDT: It's going to be nice to smell UC's locker room. In (the Higher Ground locker room) right now is...bad. There are flys everywhere, they keep this (garage door) up. Loud fan going. We have a nice locker room. So, get to my locker room -- nice, wood locker room. Sit there for a minute and just take a deep breath and relax. OK, we are back at the Nipp, we are here, it's good.

JL: Get a haircut. Definitely. I am real particular with who cuts my hair. I've got a guy. I got to go my guy. He is in Indianapolis. I got a fade. Half inch on top, 1/8 on the side, it's real particular. They take care of me. Chad's Barbershop. Top notch.

WHO HATES THE COLD TUB MORE THAN ANYONE:

RM: We threw in Coach Mahoney's little son, Jake, we threw him in the cold tub. He was horrified. He was freezing.

TDT: Zach Collaros. No question. He calls it a myth. He never gets in it. Today is legit the first time he's gone in it.

WHO LOVES HIGHER GROUND MORE THAN ANYBODY:

MMS: Has to be Tom DeTemple because Tommy is out here for six periods and it doesn't affect him. He is chilling drinking Gatorade the rest of the time.

TDT: Yeah, I get my work in, then I kind of observe what is going on. There are a lot of funny things that happen.

JL: Joe (Rauch), the trainer. I was talking to him about it yesterday. He said, yeah, I'm really sad to go home. I asked him if he was being sarcastic. He said 'What's better than football and watching film all day?' I don't know. Sleep in your own bed?

WHO IS THE WORST ROOMMATE:

TDT: I have never roomed with him, but I would say Jordan Stepp. My locker is next to him and he's just filthy. I'll come into practice, I am literally three lockers down from him and his clothes are in front of mine. I just say, 'How did they get over here?' And he's across from me at UC. His stuff is just everywhere. I would assume he would probably be pretty rough to deal with. 

WHAT KEEPS  YOU UP AT NIGHT:

RM: Not too many things because once you get back you are pretty tired, but the bugs. The friggin' bugs. I got stung by two hornets one day. One day I left my door slightly cracked for five minutes, I went back in my room and there were two grasshoppers and a moth just flying around my room. It is like the wild, wild west.

TDT: The AC units in your room: EEEHHHHHHHH. Sounds like someone is cutting the grass outside your room. Then it shuts off and an hour later it cuts back on.

JL: Chris Williams.


Bearcats Breakfast 8.25.11

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Thanks to those of you who sent emails in about where you would be tailgating for the opener against Austin Peay. Some of these setups are pretty elaborate and can only make me wonder how you're actual house would look if you put that kind of time and effort into it.

I did want to share one photo I received from Chad, who with his friends roll into the Schiel School Lot in this bad boy.
IMAG0018.jpg

It's not an actual UPS truck, but pretty close to it, according to Chad.

The amount of respect this thing garners in a UC tailgate lot is immeasurable. He said there's usually 12-20 of them at this truck which seats six in the back, has two taps, sat TV, fridge, microwave, etc.

Strong work, Chad. I give you an 80s-style slow clap on that one. 

I won't be able to make it out to your tailgate for the Peay game due to other commitments, but at some point this year, I would love to see that truck in action and sample some of your tailgate cuisine.

Let's eat...

--- Nine days.


--- Every day, I promote
Tommy G's latest videos from GoBearcats.com (and if you haven't been following Preseason Central, you should question your own fanhood), but today that will be self-promotion. TG and I held and interview at Higher Ground yesterday -- the final day of camp up there.

First reaction I got was that somebody couldn't believe how young I was -- which I take as a compliment. That was only because they thought my face sketch makes me look like I was Dan Hoard's big brother. End quote. Good to know. Hoard's got me by 17 years, but I'm glad the sketches put off that perception. Real confidence booster.

Anyway, here is TG and I talking about the quarterback battle, leadership of Zach Collaros and myself rambling on about joining his empire. He did reference us as the dynamic duo of GoBearcats, in which case I have a sinking feeling I could be Robin. I'll just state my case right now for Doctor Strange. Only seems fitting.

--- TG also spoke with the always entertaining Derek Wolfe.

--- Small sidenote, we talked
about the QB battle and I mentioned the importance of the backup QB race.

I forgot to mention that UC hasn't had a season without the backup quarterback starting at least one game since 2005. That year Dustin Grutza started every game, but backup Nick Davila did take enough snaps to throw 45 passes.

Here's the number of passes thrown by reserve quarterbacks since 2005:

2010/Chazz Anderson                     45
2009/Zach Collaros                        124
2008/Anderson and Dustin Grutza   141
2007/Grutza                                   55
2006/Nick Davila                            118
2005/Davila                                    45

As for who will win the backup battle, I don't know if Wednesday was any indication or not, but there was a small hint. When talking to Butch Jones it was noted that in a drill that faked an injury to Collaros, Munchie Legaux ran in as the backup. When asked if that meant anything, Jones only smiled and said, "we'll see."

Draw your own conclusions. I only report what I see.

Whoever it is, while nobody wants to see anybody but ZC under center unless the game is a 45-0 UC lead, history suggests otherwise.

--- Bill Koch wrote a story on the importance of compliance in the age of violations across college football. I had all plans on doing a story similar to this back in the offseason, unfortunately the timing of some other things caused it never to see the light of day.

But, I will add some thoughts on what I learned from talking with UC's fantastic AD of compliance Maggie McKinley.

Remember, her department's job isn't only to monitor possible violations. Far from it. They also take care of financial aid, applying for extra eligibility because of hardship (a massive undertaking) and any and all eligibility concerns involving incoming freshmen. Plus much more.

Oh yeah, and they have to assure no scandals hit the university and leaving a national black eye. You know, no big deal.

In total, they oversee 500 student-athletes across 18 sports. Wow.

UC hasn't had any real compliance problems (knock, knock, knock) in recent history.

"We are very proactive," McKinley said. "We try to not only answer the questions, but we try to think of the questions before they ask it."

McKinley roams the halls and makes sure to personally know all the coaches, staff and athletes on as personal level as possible. She gives he personal cell phone to every student-athlete on campus. It makes all the difference when there is rulebook you could stand on to reach the top shelf of any cabinet. A book filled with crazy stipulations like the school is allowed to provide bagels but not peanut butter.

"One of the important things is them knowing we actually care," she said. "We come to their events, help them with things that have nothing to do with our jobs. It helps when we say please don't break a rule.They'll say, 'Well, I don't want to upset Maggie, maybe I won't.'

"I just want them to think twice."  

--- For those of you eyeing the game at Tennessee, DJ Woods, Kenbrell Thompkins and company will be happy to see the Vols most experienced defensive back, Janzen Jackson, was dismissed from the team. He was second-team All-SEC last year and tied for the team lead in interceptions with five.

--- Scott Springer talked about the job Kerry Coombs does keeping the area's top high school players in the city at UC.

According to LS Tom DeTemple, Coombs doesn't do a great job growing facial hair. But I will leave that as my only tease for tomorrow's Best of Camp feature.

--- Here's Butch Jones talking with the media after practice Wednesday. (H/t Bearcat Lair)

--- Over at CoachButchJones.com, the blog has a feature on the wide receivers and the type of receivers TJ Weist and company are trying to develop.

--- As a reminder in case you won't be in the area, UC's opener against AP (on FoxSportsOhio) will be carried on ESPN3 and ESPN Gameplan.

--- ESPN piggybacks off the story Yahoo! wrote yesterday about scoring being down in the conference. Only, this one has some quotes from CBJ.

--- Speaking of Yahoo!, Dr. Saturday took an honest magnifying glass to the Bearcats' season. He hits the nail on the head in one area: Show me UC's turnover margin and (barring major injury) I can tell you almost assuredly where they will finish in the conference.

If this team doesn't beat itself, it will win games. Finishing 119th in the country in that category, however, will bring a repeat of 2010 every year.

--- In all, this was a delightfully uneventful camp at Higher Ground. No serious injuries. Only Freshman WR Chris Moore will miss significant time (4-6 weeks/shoulder). That's rule No. 1 on successful stay in beautiful West Harrison, Ind.

--- UC reports back
to campus now and will play the Beanie Bowl, a live gameday runthrough, at Nippert Stadium. Two days off will follow, a Bearcats public event at Dave and Buster's Sunday, then it's game week.

--- The one and only Mo Egger was out at Higher Ground yesterday. Outside of taking a shot at the casual nature of my attire, he had a great take on the report that came out yesterday about the 22 percent drop in season ticket sales.

Some randomness...

--- Nothing quite as entertaining as 347 fans in the stands for a Major League Baseball game. Sure, give them a new stadium.

I have covered HS baseball games played during the day in Miami that have had about half as many people in attendance. #Fact

--- If a couple that meets on the set of the Surreal Life can't last, then what chance do the rest of us have?

--- Wrestling is fake. I'm aware. But there are a few moments of reality that seep into the show. (Usually through steroid-induced rage). Here are the top six of all-time from Gunaxin.

--- This won't end anytime soon. The Bengals keep taking comedic blows.

--- Here is all you need to know about the illogical and irrational decision-making happening within the Dodgers organization.

--- High School football season is officially underway. The Crosstown Showdown will be going off all weekend. That includes my strong Moeller Crusaders at The Nipp Saturday at noon. I can't possibly reference HS football during 90s music week without Varsity Blues.

Strong Foo Fighters track sets the backdrop.


Coombs keeps 'Cats in town

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(This is something I posted on the Press Preps blog of www.cincinnati.com. My job at The Community Press/Enquirer Media is to cover high school sports. Many local prep stars have made it to UC and other schools, so sometimes we check in on those in the college ranks.)

Since joining then-coach Brian Kelly's UC staff in late 2006 from Colerain High School, Kerry Coombs has concentrated on scouring the I-275 belt and points in between to find the best Tri-State football players.

His job?

Convince the many talented athletes to stay in town and become Bearcats.

Coming up on his fifth season, Coombs is still doing it, spurning an offer from Kelly to jump to Notre Dame.  The architect of the powerhouse Colerain Cardinals is now the associate head coach under Butch Jones at UC, along with being special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach.

A peak at the current UC roster features a number of locals.  Listed as they appear alphabetically are: junior LB Maalik Bomar from Winton Woods, senior OL Austen Bujnoch from Elder, sophomore DB Arryn Chenault from Fairfield, freshman QB Patrick Coyne from Badin, senior OL Evan Davis from Colerain, senior LS Tom DeTemple from Moeller, junior DB Drew Frey from Clinton-Massie, sophomore WR Jacob Giltrow from Lakota West, senior DB Reuben Haley from Mount Healthy, freshman LB Kevin Hyland from Elder, freshman OL Cory Keebler from Lakota East, junior LB Colin Lozier from Colerain, freshman LB Innocent Macha from Roger Bacon, sophomore OL Dominic Mainello from Beechwood, junior DB Breon Mapp from Anderson, freshman LB Corey Mason from Elder, sophomore OL Sean McClellan from Moeller, freshman K Tony Miliano from Elder, junior WR Danny Milligan from St. Xavier, junior DL Brandon Mills from Colerain, freshman DL Brandon Mitchell from Withrow, freshman OL Justin Murray from Sycamore, senior K Shane Popham from Covington Catholic, senior LB J.K. Schaffer from La Salle, freshman OL Kevin Schloemer from Lakota West, freshman TE Matt Staubach from McNicholas, freshman LB Solomon Tentman from Roger Bacon and junior DB Chris Williams from Winton Woods.

What if UC could get every prime prep player to stay home?

"We'd never leave," Coombs said.

(The full video of coach Coombs' interview is below)


Bearcats Breakfast 8.24.11

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For all my student readers out there (I almost shed a tear thinking that a few of you have been late for a class because of my blog), remember that Austin Peay single-game tickets went on sale today.

First off, why you aren't just buying the season ticket plan is beyond me, but if you are a little non-committal and feel like taking the team for a test drive, you now can do so. Here's the info.

Oh, by the way, 10 days until kickoff.

Speaking of the Peay game, this will be the first trial run for THE GRID, the new tailgate spot on campus. Not shockingly, Bearcat Tailgater is moving there and has you covered with information.

How many of you guys are taking the tailgate there? Why or Why not? This has the potential to turn into an incredibly fun atmosphere. Apparently the $150 season-long plots have been a hot item. I'm looking forward to seeing how they look Sept. 3.

Shoot me an email (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com) or tweet (@pauldehnerjr) and let me know what you're doing. I may want to come check it out.

Sunday night the UC football team will be at Dave and Buster's for their annual kickoff party. I have three $10 coupons for free game play. Send me an email with you're tailgate plans and one of them can be yours if you are interested. All I ask is if you and your friends humor me in a game of 8-player Daytona 500. I will wreck every one of you. Guaranteed.

If all that doesn't have you amped for the opener, here is the sneak peak of a portion of the UC pre-kickoff video.



Let's eat...

--- The fact Drew Frey is only a junior still is the most mind-blowing concept I've had to digest this month. Here he is talking with Tommy G.

--- One of the best college football blogs out there, Dr. Saturday over at Yahoo! opened up Big East Week on the blog with this general preview. They talk about the low-octane offenses in the conference.

Hard to believe how little offense anybody could muster last season. The conference was 11th in the country in terms of points scored per game -- and that included a 69-38 UC-Rutgers deluge of points.

--- Dr. Saturday's first team preview was on UConn. And the opening graph talks about the team's BCS Hangover being a doozy. That's an understatement. Their season should take place in Bangkok.

"I hope UConn fans got their money's worth out of last year's improbably Fiesta Bowl run, but it was probably best not to get too attached. From that team, the head coach is gone, the starting quarterback is gone, the other starting quarterback is gone, the All-American tailback is gone, the top receiver is academically ineligible, the two best players on the defense are gone. Within a few weeks, even the athletic director will be gone, apparently the victim (at least in part) of a self-important booster who didn't approve of the pick to replace the architect of the program's rise from I-AA obscurity, Maryland-bound Randy Edsall.
"

--- The Governors of Austin Peay have officially turned their attention to the Bearcats. I know you are all on pins and needles wondering about their preparations.

AP went 2-9 overall last season and 1-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

--- Our man Bill Koch wrote about the two lingering position battles as camp winds down today. Tony Miliano had a nice few days and Butch Jones had some nice comments about Munchie Legaux.

We should know the winner of both competitions by the AP game week press conference on Tuesday.

--- Andrea Adelson's top Big East players countdown is at No. 5 with WVU's Bruce Irvin. We are yet to see Zach Collaros. Judging by what I've seen from Adelson before, my gut says he rolls in at No. 3.

--- Speaking of Mr. Collaros, here's yet another preview on his season, this time from Bearcat Lair. UC fans should enjoy these now because they sure will miss ZC when he's gone.

--- CollegeFootballNews.com
provides us with the obscure rankings and figures of the day. They break out the five-year program rankings with UC coming in at No. 22.

--- Some randomness....

--- Aroldis Chapman needs to be a starter. I could delve into a million different Reds discussions, but this is the one is a no-brainer for me.

--- Sure, this tattoo is a quote from Disney, but its a real buzzkill when you make that permanent and R. Kelly puts it in one of his most popular songs.

--- Yesterday's earthquake (did you hear there was an earthquake?) highlights everything I hate and love about social media all at once. It was incredible finding out instantly about the news and how it affected people from such far reaching areas across the coast. However, receiving the update from every single person on Facebook and Twitter about what happened to them with some awkward joke attached kind of ruined my afternoon.

--- Play Saved by the Bell trivia with your friends. Study this link. Keep your distance from Mario Lopez. Win fabulous prizes.

--- What's remarkable is
that when forced to watch Delta Bravo Extraordinaire Colin Cowherd, it took more than a minute for George C. Scott to start losing it.

--- If anybody can save this marriage, it is Will Smith. My hero can do no wrong. I believe in you, Will.

Perhaps he can win her back with a live rendition of the Gettin' Jiggy Wit It dance.


Bearcats Breakfast 8.23.11

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There is only one place to start on a day like this. My mother turns 60 today. She should receive a bounty of riches considering she put up with me for half her lifetime and has always done so with a smile. Unfortunately, she'll only receive a nice meal, pile of Hallmark cards and gift nowhere near what she deserves. So,happy birthday, Mom. (Great Son status: Achieved)

Plenty to get to in today's Breakfast, so let's eat...

--- In case you missed it, I tackled the linebacker quandary yesterday. No need to say more, because I already said enough in the post.

--- Butch Jones mentioned Isaiah Pead would spend time returning kicks and punts for UC this year. Along with DJ Woods they would be 1 and 1A, according to Bill Koch's blog.

I remember looking up the kickoff return numbers last season and being shocked at how poor UC's kickoff return has been.

Last season the Bearcats only managed one kickoff return longer than 40 yards and zero longer than 50.

Only 30 teams had either one or zero returns longer than 40 yards last season of the 120 in Division I. Take into consideration Big East champion UConn took three kickoffs for touchdowns and seven times more than 40 yards.

The numbers were even more numbing for the Cats considering what they did in 2009 with returner extraordinaire Mardy Gilyard at the helm. Were UC fans spoiled? Oh yeah. That made the drop off seem all the more dramatic.

The Bearcats were second in the country in kickoff returns in 2009, averaging 28.6 yards per return with three touchdowns. Nearly twice a game they took the ball back more than 30 yards. UC only did it seven times in all of 2010.

As for punt returns, the fall wasn't as dramatic. UC had two punt returns of more than 30 yards against BCS AQ opponents. Only 38 other teams can say that. Nobody in the country had more than six.

One has to believe Pead will enjoy success back there with his straight-line speed. The only concern with a new kick returner already owning the speed is an ability to take care of the ball. Obviously, fumbles hurt the Bearcats at both kickoff and punt return last year.

Considering Pead's track record of holding on to the ball, I doubt carrying three or four extra times a game will be an issue.

Sidenote:
This will increase his chances of moving up the ladder of UC's career total yards from scrimmage category mentioned last week.

--- Tommy G spoke with WR DJ Woods this weekend. He's become the hot media item of the week as this story surfaced in the Enquirer. No doubt, Woods has come a long way on and off the field.

--- TG also spoke with Mr. McSaucy aka Ragu aka Randeazy aka OL Randy Martinez.

Tough act to follow, unfortunately, Dan Giordano had to. Dan's an entertaining guy as well, this was the best personality day TG has had at HG.

--- Team Photo Day on Sunday! All my uniform junkies can check out the all blacks. At least they don't look like Maryland, who is either ready to play a football game or work the drive-thru at McDonald's.

--- Andrea Adelson talks about the leadership of Zach Collaros and JK Schaffer.

--- Headline rhyme time with Zach Collaros. Zach might not necessarily be back or even on the attack, but it sure sounds nice. Regardless, here's a story on him from Athlon Sports.

--- The Big East slipped West Virginia into the back of the AP poll. The only other Big East team receiving votes was Pittsburgh, coming in at 36.

--- The USA World
University Games team could have used Yancy Gates as they were ousted by Lithuania while being outrebounded (43-37) for the first time in the tournament.

--- Some randomness...

--- Apparently all
the cold weather in the Pacific Northwest has its inhabitants feeling pretty promiscuous. No word yet on Nelly Furtado planning a reunion concert in Portland.

--- Listen to the new Chili Peppers album here.

--- USA Network put together this short film series called the Character Project. It tells the stories about real-life people who inspired famous movies. I know I've been a bit Lebowski-heavy on here of late, but this is a pretty neat piece. It includes some scene recreations and plenty of white russians from the original Dude, Jeff Dowd. 

--- A great flow
chart to figure out what NFL team you should root for this year with the standard kicking of the Bengals while they are down.

--- This pitcher won't be teaching sliding techniques to youngsters. However, he may be teaching the most efficient method for breaking your collarbone.

--- Can I convince anyone to take the over on two years for the Kardashian-Humphries marriage?

--- The 80s Power Ballad week was gratifying and notstalgic, but I've always been a fan of the 90s station on Sirius radio. Anytime I can bring the hits of my teenage years, I don't miss it.

Let's start that today.

Brief did you know about how pathetic pop music was in the mid-90s: Ace Of Base had three of the top 10 songs in the country in 1994.

Of course, that same year Nate Dogg and Warren G had to Reg-u-late, so I it wasn't all bad.


No Doubting Thomas

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I really don't think anyone was surprised at the departure of Mike Thomas with an opportunity to join the Big Ten and, according to him, be closer to family. I thought of it in the philosophy of one of my D1 college coaching friends: "Stay one step ahead of the posse."

Now I don't know if Mike Thomas was going to be on some kind of hot seat because whether you agree with him or not regarding Bob Huggins or Andy Kennedy, you can't deny his decisions to hire Brian Kelly and Mick Cronin as major contributions. I know some of you will argue the Mick decision but last I checked the program that was in the basement became an NCAA tournament team last year. He also increased football revenue and cut the operating budget. I know no one will ever be a perfect Athletic Director but I'll focus on the good.

So off the Illinois he goes hand in hand with a new chancellor who takes over in October. You can bet she will support her hire well into his tenure before giving up on him should something go awry. So that means Mike will have a nice honeymoon before being questioned in ernest, but he should do well. He has climbed the proverbial ladder to arrive at the mountain top, with a mountain size challenge. With Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State in football; plus the addition of Nebraska that is a tough ascension. In basketball the challenge is just as formidable. Recruiting and keeping Chicago area players will be key and if any of his coaches are relieved of their duties his success will rest heavily on tapping into the wealth of talent in his back yard.

On a personal note I had some positive experiences with Mike and his wife Jenny and wish them well. But now like most Bearcats, I am very interested in seeing who his permanent replacement will be and what their pedigree looks like. In my opinion, UC is not a second rate opportunity college wise. It's part of a BCS conference, a major market and is home to a solid sports legacy. Whoever inherits this position needs to win, raise money and graduate players on the surface; beneath it understand that Cincinnatians are a different breed. If you respect and understand that, you'll be fine.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.
Schaffer hit.jpg
JK Schaffer and Maalik Bomar joke with each other when they watch film. They call themselves the Siamese Twins. Every step they take is the same. The two are in tune as well as any duo at that position in many years.

Well, when you play every snap together for an entire season, those bonds tend to develop. And by every snap, that doesn't reflect them both starting all 12 games last year. It doesn't even reflect them finishing first (Schaffer, 111) and second (Bomar, 70) in tackles.

They almost literally took every snap together last season.

Last year, the linebacking corps enjoyed less depth than an episode of Bachelor Pad.

Every game, Schaffer and Bomar lined up and grinded through the wear and tear of a disappointing 4-8 season. 

Walter Stewart stepped in beside them, despite occasionally slipping to the edge rush position.

Now Stewart has officially transitioned. He's at 250 pounds and a defensive end. He won't be coming back to LB. Bomar and Schaffer are the known quantities. Two of the best in the Big East in fact.

"We got that special bond out there on the field," Schaffer said. "He is like a brother to me."

What they needed were a few more siblings.

Now 12 days until the season opener against Austin Peay, every UC fan knows of Schaffer and Bomar. But what happens after that?

A third starting linebacker position sits vacant. As do all three backup spots.

The coaching staff believes they imported more depth at the position than last year. Only, there is a catch to the addition. For now, they aren't quite sure what to do with it. 

Ben Pooler, Nick Temple, Dwight Jackson, Solomon Tentman, Greg Blair, Clemente Cassius. Only Tentman (torn ACL) had even been to Higher Ground before Aug. 13, yet were tossed into the linebacking fire there.

Learn the system, compete for a job, adjust to new surroundings, accept constructive criticism, self-evaluate, meet your teammates, improve technique. When you're done with all that -- stop thinking, play fast.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Now, the coaching staff sits and waits to see who emerges.

--- If there were an ideal choice, it would probably be Pooler (6-2, 230 pounds), a transfer from Maryland. Of all the candidates, he owns the most experience. He spent a portion of 2009 starting for the Terrapins. He contributed a sack in four straight games for them that season, including an 11-tackle performance against NC State.

Coaches can't teach experience. And at linebacker that means more than any other position on defense.

"The experience is key to the linebacker position because they are tied in with the front, the stunt, the coverage, every aspect of the call affects the linebacker position," co-DC and linebackers coach Jon Jancek said. "Some calls don't effect everyone - defensive backs don't need to know if it's a stunt -- linebackers need to know everything. The cumulative effect of all the calls lends itself to a linebacker that has good experience and can understand all of that."

--- Names those close to program know best are Nick Temple and Dwight Jackson. Butch Jones has been raving about the two true freshmen since they arrived as early enrollees in the spring.

Progress continued this fall. But, between the rows of trees at camp, there's nowhere to hide their label of Freshman.

"They still need a lot of work," Schaffer said.

He would know. Schaffer recalls attempting to work his way up the depth chart his freshman season. He eventually ran with the second team as a relative unknown kid out of LaSalle. He played linebacker in a few games, but mainly grinded his teeth on special teams.

"I got to play special teams all year and that really helped me going into my first year starting," Schaffer said.

Jackson and Temple might not have such a luxury.

Co-DC Tim Banks defines Jackson (6-1, 213) and Temple (5-10, 215) by two different measuring sticks. The same, but different.

"Temple is athletic, he played on the edge last year at high school, now we are playing him a little more inside," Banks said. "The thing he brings to the game is athleticism, whereas Jackson brings a little more physicality and nose for the football. He's got good instincts for a puppy."

--- Schaffer only played alongside Greg Blair (6-2, 240) for the first time three weeks ago, but it feels like the junior college transfer has been around for years, according to Schaffer.

Of course, Schaffer may be remembering watching Pitt play UC in basketball a years back. Blair is the younger brother of former Panthers star and current San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair.

He spent the last two years at Lackawanna JC where he was named defensive MVP.

--- Jones expected Solomon Tentman (6-2, 222)
to compete for playing time last season. Only, almost exactly one year ago, Tentman tore his ACL at Higher Ground. He's recovered and playing at full steam this fall.

--- Clemente Casseus (6-1, 215) may be the player nobody expected to see near the top of the depth chart, but that means little at Higher Ground. Production does. And Casseus produces.

He's a walk-on from Miramar Everglades HS in South Florida and caught the eye of Jones and the rest of the staff. Casseus might have been viewed as more of a project when he arrived, but is being given an opportunity.

--- Casseus projects more of an outside linebacker, Blair's body insists he plays in the middle, whereas Temple's athleticism might insist he belongs on the edge.

Banks doesn't concern himself with positions. At least, not yet.

"It's a free-for-all," he said.

Jancek has mixed and matched each player at both inside and outside to find where they belong. This camp hasn't been about filling a hole at outside linebacker -- it's about filling a hole at football player.

"
Some days they play inside, some days outside," Banks said. "We are trying to really develop the overall skill set of all those kids. Once we start getting in game mode we will start to pencil them in at certain positions. For the most part, inside backer can play outside and outside can play inside."

Jancek and Banks will being narrowing down the depth chart next week as specific preparations begin for Austin Peay. Only then will a front-runner for the third starting linebacker be known.

--- Yet, this provokes an important question: How often will the Bearcats utilize a third linebacker? Even asking this question five years ago could get you thrown out of a press conference.

The landscape of college football has changed. With the spread formation taking over as offensive philosophy of the day, concerns with beefing up to win a physical war are fading. Now, defense requires the skill set for 7-on-7.

Matching up with three linebackers on the field makes little sense when teams break out a three or four WR spread. The Bearcats would obviously be more apt to run with the Siamese Twins and five DBs.

"If they've got a bunch of motions, skill players out there, there's a lot of things that go into matching up your personnel and their personnel," Jancek said. "You have to be careful in making sure you don't get outskilled in certain situations. You can function with a three-linebacker system, but it really limits your disguises package and some of the things that you can do."

Considering the experience a large contingent of defensive backs gained last season (some of which they would prefer to forget), the depth at DB suggests the team would maybe be more equipped to handle the spread. At least, from an experience point of view.

In those games a third linebacker probably wouldn't touch the field more than 50 percent of the time depending on the scheme.

Take a look at the offense systems of UC's Big East opponents this year:

Louisville - Spread

Pitt - Spread

WVU - Spread

USF - Spread

UConn - Pro

Syracuse - Multiple

Rutgers -- Pro

That's right, four in a row to open the conference slate. Between four non-conference games (unfortunately, all four non-con opponents run a pro or multiple offense) and the first four games of conference play, experience likely won't be much of a factor for the younger group of reserve linebackers. Or at least, the UC base hopes it wouldn't.

Regardless of opponent or situation, UC will rely on inexperienced players to fill roles at the linebacker position -- among other spots. Of course, that's not always a bad thing. Remember, Bomar owned zero starts and nine career tackles before last season. Now, the Bearcats don't know where they would be without him.

The linebacker situation is hazy, but that doesn't mean it's bleak. Compared to last year, it's a relative cornucopia.

"You always want experience," Banks said. "At the end of the day we are not always afforded that. We are going to play the best guys. The guys we feel like give us the best opportunity to be successful."




My Last First Game

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Hey Everyone!

  Today is the last first game of a season for Kay Young, Erin Kaufman, Lauren Romanelli, Erin Petree, Logan Ballinger, Emily Hebbeler, and myself. It's such a great feeling because the the amount of hard work and preparation that goes into tonight will finally be played out....on the field in a real game! For the seniors mentioned above, and for the rest of this Bearcat team...we are ready. I can't help but think back to the previous three preseasons and still cannot believe that I just completed my last one. This program is special, this senior class is special, and this team is more than special. We have what it takes, and together...we are ready for tonight!

Join me and the Bearcats as we start our season TONIGHT! Come out and cheer on your Bearcats as we take on Cal-Poly 7pm at Gettler Stadium. 

Go Bearcats---RAWWWWWWR!!
KP #14

Bearcats Breakfast 8.19.11

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Sad, sad day on the blog. Not only does power ballad week come to an end (more on that later), but punter Pat O'Donnell has shaved his strong mustache. I had so many hopes, dreams and aspirations for that 'stache, but, alas, all good things come to an end.

Hopefully now we all can see what an upper lip can accomplish without the likes of a razor or any social concerns.

Here was the clean-shaven O'Donnell speaking with Tommy G yesterday at Higher Ground. RIP PODS.

Let's eat...

--- TG also talked to T.J. Weist about DJ Woods and what is becoming a deep receiving corps. When I spoke with OC Mike Bajakian earlier this week he talked about how exciting the future will be for that unit in coming years. They are loaded with talented, young wideouts.

Sorting out which one of them will contribute this year has been one of the more challenging elements of camp, strictly because of the numbers of them.

DJ Woods, Kenbrell Thompkins and Anthony McClung have the most experience (even if KT has JC years) and OJ Woodard has the most years experience at UC, but surrounding them are about 10-12 freshmen, sophomores who are vying for a place on the depth chart.

"When you look at the likes of the true freshman class," Bajakian said. "Chris Moore is very talented. Chris Moore is very talented. Alex Chisum  is very talented. Shaq Washington is very talented. Max Morrison caught a million balls in high school. Even Ralph David Abernathy had some time at the slot positions, the future, boy that is exciting. Then you add Damon Julian to the mix. Then you add Kenbrell Thompkins for the first time. DyJuan Lewis who has four years left. They are all very talented, it is a matter of getting ripe and learning the offense."

Any of those names could be playing a significant role once the season fires up. Think about this. At this point last year, did anybody see Anthony McClung playing in ten games, starting two and catching the fourth-most passes on the team? Or Munchie Legaux moving from QB to WR to provide depth? Well, maybe you did, but I'm pretty close to the program and I sure as hell didn't.

Ending up in a position like last year where there is nobody to turn to at wideout won't be near the conundrum it was and that's a significant relief for the Bearcats.

--- Kerry Coombs says
the secondary will be better.

--- I still remember, last August, attempting to project what Isaiah Pead's numbers would be last season by looking at the tendencies of Butch Jones and Bajakian's offense at Central Michigan.

He ended up just shy of the range I thought with 157 carries for 1,029 yards. Of course, he missed two games early in the season due to injury.

Projecting for this season would seem to be easier: More of the same, right?

Probably. But not necessarily.

I asked Bajakian about how much the offense realistically evolves from year to year -- how much change should anybody expect?

"The biggest thing is players, not plays. Getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers is the key. How do you do that? Part of that is identifying who your playmakers are then getting the ball in their hands. The tweaks in the offense always come to figure out how to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers. Year to year there are always little nuances that are changes and things like that. But we hang our hat on the meat and potatoes of the offense and tweak the things that we can."

Like he says, the tweaks in the offense always come to figure out how to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers.

On this year's team, I would contend there is no greater playmaker than Pead. Last year, Armon Binns, with his deep threat ability would probably accept that role. And, at this point last year, this offense was being molded around the concept of Binns, Hazelton and Woods as the pre-eminent trio in college football.

Woods, for all he does -- which is ample and provides traits nobody else on the team does -- doesn't have the consistent game-breaking ability of Binns or Pead. Most everyone else is unproven.

So, if your offense evolves to find more space for your playmakers, I would hope to see more of Pead. Do I have any proof of this? Have I seen the playbook? No and no. As The Dude would say: That's just, like, your opinion, man.

Last year, Pead became the first 1,000-yard rusher since Richard Hall in 2004. The potential exists for Pead to break UC rushing records this year. Consider the top rushing seasons in UC history (Pead's from last year not included):

Rushing Yards
1,361  DeMarco McCleskey 2002
1,325 Reggie Taylor 1986
1,283 Allen Harvin 1978
1,245 Robert Cooper 1999
1,226 James Bettis 1981
1,197 Steve Cowan 1970
1,179 David Small 1993
1,161 Allen Harvin 1982
1,112 Reggie Taylor 1985
1,021 Reggie Taylor 1984
1,012 Richard Hall 2004
1,004 David Small 1991

Pead missed two games last year averaging 102.9 yards per game. Should he stay healthy, then add in a bowl game, that's three games and 307 more rushing yards. Then, add in, let's say a conservative two extra touches a game from added nuances in the offense to involve him. That's 26 extra rushes at his average of 6.6 yards per carry last season.

Follow closely public school kids (just kidding, obviously, delete your hate mail):

1029
+307
+(26x6.6=172)
----------------
1,508 yards

That would not only set the UC single-season rushing record, it would blow that thing away.

He was seventh in the country last year in yards per carry (min. 100 carries). If the above numbers held by last year's national stats, he would have finished 10th in the country in total rushing. Not bad out of a spread offense.

Considering all the twists and turns of the college football season, I wouldn't consider those stats likely. Too many changes can happen. But are they unrealistic? Absolutely not.

--- Some other Pead records to keep an eye on this year:

UC career rushing yards (could challenge for second)
:

1. Reggie Taylor, 4,242
2. DeMarco McClesky, 3,487
3. Allen Harvin, 2,998

Isaiah Pead, 2,029

UC career rushing average
:

1. Roger Stephens 6.65
2. Dom Del Bene 6.07

Isaiah Pead 6.59

UC career all-purpose yards (challenge for fourth):

1. Reggie Taylor, 5,322
2. DeMarco McClesky, 4.113
3. Al McKinney, 4,036
4. Allen Harvin, 3,663

Isaiah Pead 2,452 (last year, all-purpose was 1,219)

Some randomness...

--- Yesterday I mentioned the fight between Georgetown and a team from China on its "Goodwill Tour." Since then, video has surfaced. Wow.

--- There's an invention that mutes the TV whenever people you pre-select come on. Here's my list in no particular order other than all our tied for 1st under the heading intolerable:

-- Johnny Miller
-- Colin Cowherd (aren't we all just looking at Beadle anyway)
-- That guy from the Napa Know How commercials (do we have to know who they are?)
-- Jay Leno
-- Jim Nantz (but not the soft piano that accompanies him)
-- Coldplay
-- Phineas (Ferb is cool, though)

--- Now the latest from the "sentences you don't expect to hear department": I wonder what Emilio Estevez thinks about this whole thing.

--- Power ballad week comes to a conclusion and like any great rock concert in the 80s, you finish with the crowd-pleaser, the sing-a-long, the tune everyone has waited around for.

There's nothing worse than not holding your best song until the end, unless you are Led Zep or Pearl Jam or any band with an extensive collection.

I once say Rusted Root, who is not a terrible band, mind you, but don't exactly have a string of hits. Everyone knows Send Me On My Way, and they have some nice other stuff, which is fine. But you should know who you are.

They played Send Me On My Way as the second song. It was incredibly disappointing. On one hand, I enjoyed the song, but on the other I needed some good buildup time. The waiting for the big hit almost makes the others better.

Long story short, I left 40 minutes later. Longer story shorter: Here's Don't Stop Believin'.


Opponents could get stung by McClung

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As talented as UC's receiving corps is, they lost a lot of experience in Armon Binns and Marcus Barnett. Vidal Hazelton's six catch, one game cameo is over as well, leaving D.J. Woods as this year's wily veteran.

"We have a lot of youth and inexperience," coach Butch Jones admitted.

While the youthful wideouts are full of "upside", the truth is transfer Kenbrell Thompkins has yet to play a Division I down and Anthony McClung's just a sophomore.

He's not just another sophomore on the sidelines though.

"As of today, I'm in the starting line-up," McClung said proudly. "It's going pretty good, going in and playing every play. I'm used to rotating with D.J. (Woods)."

So, after 22 catches and a couple scores in his inaugural season, No. 6 is a primary target for quarterback Zach Collaros.

"The pressure's on him," Jones said. "He has to go from being a back-up to being a starter. He's got to understand the role that we need being a starter--playing 12 plays in a row on a big drive and being just as physical on the 12th play as the first one."

While the 22 catches may not "wow" you, it's eight more than senior D.J. Woods had in his first year and 22 more NCAA catches than Thompkins.

"They're both great playmakers," McClung said. "I'm just thankful to be on the field with them at the same time."

This season McClung hopes to add to those totals and find his spots when Thompkins and Woods are covered.  Thompkins is more a deep threat and Woods is more "possession", but all of them can run the other's routes.

"We all make the same amount of plays," McClung said. "They spread the ball out pretty much, so there's really no standout receiver. D.J.'s the senior leader, we all look up to him."

McClung is trying to learn the slot position from Woods, along with the ways of the various Big East defensive backs.  Some of that learning comes on the field, some in the classroom.

"Everybody changes their defense every year, so you've just got to watch film," McClung said.

He twice found the endzone last season (vs. Rutgers and Pitt) and is hoping to find that coveted area again.. He scored once in the open end of Nippert and once at the closed end, near the students.
4992256.jpg
(courtesy uspresswire.com)

"My first college touchdown was amazing," McClung recalled. "They picked me up. It was real fun. It was way more fun in the student section."

Ironically, McClung's high school teammate, Dyjuan Lewis will be among the other receivers pushing to join the starting crew. However, Lewis is more of the "Armon Binns build", where McClung is similar in size to Woods. 

Both McClung and Lewis went to Indianapolis Pike High School, as did offensive lineman Andre Cureton.


Bearcats Breakfast 8.18.11

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You know, I like to think about this blog as being more than just a blog, rather a lifestyle. You check it everyday, you become concerningly interested in male facial hair, quoting obscure statistical analysis and reeling off Pearl Jam trivia.

And, in honor of power ballads week, I thought this would be the most appropriate representative of the blog.

Yep, More than Words by Extreme. Enjoy.



Let's eat....

--- With an off day for the Bearcats on Wednesday and not a ton of new fodder, I made a concerning move. I got to thinking.

This offensive line and its general lack of experience seem to be the only aspect holding people back from believing UC can develop into one of the top attacks in the country. Who knows? Sean Hooey, Austen Bujnoch/Andre Cureton and Evan Davis may turn into three of the best linemen to come out of UC. They could fall on their face. We have few real snaps to push us in either direction.

Productive offensive lines can be pinned to some of the most dominant teams in college football. But how have some of the offensive lines with the most returning starters done in predicting actual success in the Big East?

Any Bearcats fan can look back at the 2009 team and realize how talented they were and now, in retrospect, that fans may have underrated their ability. Think about it, LT Jeff Linkenbach has become a starter in Indianapolis almost instantly, then LG Jason Kelce is pushing to start as a rookie at center. Chris Jurek was a returning, experienced center and Alex Hoffman was young, but one of the most intelligent, focused leaders of the this year's unit.

Of course, UC went on to an undefeated regular season and the Sugar Bowl.

But lets take a look around the conference the last few years and see how the teams finished offensively compared to their offensive line projections. I'll use the subjective list of Brian Bennett's O-line predictions from each year and sprinkle in the number of returning starters.

2009
OL Projections               Total Offense Finish

1. Rutgers (5/5)                1. UC
2. Pitt (4/5)                      2. Pitt
3. UC (3/5)                       3. UConn
4. UConn (3/5)                 4. WVU
5. WVU (1/5)                   5. USF
6. USF (1/5)                    6. Louisville
7. Louisville (1/5)              7. Syracuse
8. Syracuse (3/5)             8. Rutgers

--- In this case, the offensive line made the offense almost exactly. With one striking, remarkable exception. Rutgers, which Bennett referred to as a no-brainer No. 1 in his preseason unit rankings, finished dead last in total offense in the conference that season.

You can trace it back to starting freshman QB Tom Savage as a big reason for the struggles, but the dramatic drop to the cellar of the offensive rankings with the top o-line in the conference is rather mind-boggling.

Outside of Rutgers, though, Pitt, UC and UConn all had talented groups with more than half returning and ended up in the top three offensively. USF, Louisville and Syracuse were all ranked in the bottom three and finished in the bottom half offensively.

2010 Project            2010 Total Offense Finish

1. UConn (3/5)          1. UC
2. UC (3/5)               2. WVU
3. WVU (4/5)            3. Louisville
4. Pitt (2/5)               4. Pitt
5. USF (4/5)             5. UConn
6. Louisville (4/5)       6. Syracuse
7. Syracuse (1/5)      7. USF
8. Rutgers (1/5)         8. Rutgers

--- UConn finished No. 5 in the league in total offense, however, did ride their O-line and RB Jordan Todman to a conference championship. Outside of that, UC and WVU were also in the top three and finished one and two in total offense, respectively.

Again, there were some exceptions to the rule, with USF and its four returning starters falling to No. 7, much due to the inconsistencies of B.J. Daniels.

For the most part, the projections and returning starters of the offensive line have proven to be a strong predictor of how a team will perform offensively. Anomalies like Rutgers in 2009 keep you guessing, but for the most part winning in the trenches still determines winning on the scoreboard even in the pass-happy, skill-player bonanza of the new college football landscape.

--- For the record, Andrea Adelson posted her O-line rankings for this year, with UC coming in at No. 6. Depth was the obvious concern.

--- Moving on, Bill Koch was able to catch up with Jason Maxiell after the announcement of his induction into the UC HOF.

--- I'm definitely behind on this from Monday, but Jon Rothstein put out his preseason predictions for the Big East basketball season. He placed UC No. 6 and Sean Kilpatrick as the top breakout player.

I would agree with Rothstein that SK will be a breakout player, but argue with his definition of breakout. Wouldn't you say SK broke out last year? The guy finished tops on UC for points/40min and was 10th in the Big East in the category.

His limited minutes would maybe cast him into the breakout category nationally, so I give the always solid Rothstein the benefit of the doubt, but most UC fans would probably already see SK as broken out.

--- It should also be noted Rothstein posted this tweet two days ago:

"Several BE assistants told me in the last week the team that could jump into the top quarter of the league is Cincinnati."

--- Apparently an anti-American sentiment was directed at the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team in China. JTIII had to pull his team off the court as bedlam erupted in the gym.

I blame Joe Biden.

--- Some randomness...

--- You would have thought
TJ Maxx would have given this deal to Louie Anderson decades ago.

--- Here's the Top 25 unscripted moments in movie history. Pretty cool. I had no idea "Are you talkin' to me" was off the top of DeNiro's head.

--- Marty McFly and Doc Brown
did not meet through inappropriate circumstances and I'm appalled that you sick people would think so. 

--- UC back to
practice today and I'll be heading out there Friday, so look for plenty more on the blog and, of course, all over GoBearcats.com.

Bearcats Breakfast 8.17.11

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If you see Charles Robinson walking toward you. Run. Don't stop running until someone asks to see a passport.

There is no better investigative reporter in country right now. And it's not even close. Unless you count his colleague Dan Wetzel.

If you haven't read this piece on The U, it's pretty much mind-blowing in breadth and influence. And I place an NSFW tag on some of the adult themes. You want to talk about thorough reporting? How about 100 different interviews and 21 players corroborating rule-breaking. Oh yeah, not to mention sifting through 20,000 pages of financial records and 5,000 pages of cell phone records.

I need a cup of coffee just reading those facts.

Great journalism.

Let's eat...

--- The Miami story becomes the latest off-the-field focus of college football. The other that continues to take shape is the possible transformation of the conference landscape.

Brett McMurphy spoke about Big East commish John Marinatto stepping in to return civility to what has become an ugly process. He sees the writing on the wall of the dominoes which could fall should Texas A&M jump to the SEC. It would seem to set forth an possible series of events that ends with the Big East, ACC and Big XII in an expensive game of musical chairs to see who stays part of four 16-team superconferences.

Clay Travis of outkickthecoverage.com detailed that to The Dan Patrick Show yesterday. It's an enlightening listen here.

Where would that leave UC? Who knows. Where would that leave anyone? To try and predict specifics right now would be irresponsible. We do know the possibility of everything changing seems more real than any point before. With nobody to be the "college football boss" it creates a type of anarchy.

Marinatto stepping in to be at the centerpiece of the events going forward bodes well, but the fallout from a possible A&M move will be important to watch for everyone involved, including UC.

--- Gladly moving back to the field, I enjoyed heading out to Higher Ground again yesterday, particularly for the abundance of Philly cheesesteaks and corn dogs at the dining hall. Oh, and the smattering of broccoli was lovely, too.

Most importantly, with help from sports info wiz Ryan Koslen, came up with a nice shot of punter Pat O'Donnell's mustache. I feel like if given the proper amount of time to blossom it could have some Tom Selleck characteristics. It certainly looks worthy of some late-night Showtime television.

"My roommates dared me to do it," O'Donnell said. "It comes in pretty thick, so the big joke was that I would grow it out at camp. It's my second year doing it."

O'Donnell plans on shaving it upon returning to civilization. Probably a good idea for anybody who plans to have conversations with a woman. Anyway, I promised a shot of the stache...here it is.

Good luck to O'Donnell and O'Donnell's stache the rest of camp.

--- I posted a story yesterday on changing bodies changing the dynamics of the Bearcats

Didn't get into TE Adrian Robinson, who dropped 25 pounds since rising to 280 after offseason shoulder surgery. Also, JK Schaffer is playing at 10 pounds heavier after a rigorous offseason program. Hard to believe JK will be faster and stronger considering how he played last year. (Second in BE in tackles per game at 9.25 and top returning tackler in conference)

"He is built, but now he is even better," strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson said. "He's put on 10 pounds, running better, he's leaner and 10 pounds bigger. Those will serve him well when he is taking on those 300 pounders."

Also, JK was named the No. 11 player in the BE by Andrea Adelson.

--- I spoke with Zach Collaros for the first time this camp and had an answer I wanted to relay. To my regular readers, you'll notice yesterday I mentioned for about the 10th time since last season ended that this team will go as far as Zach Collaros can take them.

So, I asked Zach what his response to hearing somebody say that would be:

"I love it," he said, then asked if that's how he looks at it. "Can't look at it that way, you don't want to put that much pressure on yourself. You want to be able to play within yourself. I feel like you put that kind of expectations on you at all time, you are going to make poor decisions sometimes you are going to try to do too much. As a quarterback, you know the offense runs through you, as a competitor, that is what you want. If Coach Jones were to say something like that, I would be happy about that."

--- Rare off day for UC at Higher Ground today. They'll be back at it tomorrow morning.

--- Bill Koch with this story on Alex Hoffman, one of the true great stories of how to be a student-athlete.

Sidenote: The only time you would find me in an organic chemistry class is if I was trying to steal a Bunson Burner.

--- Butch Jones said he's probably never put as much pressure on a true freshman as RB Jameel Poteat. Koch outlines the possible contributions of some frosh.

Unfortunately, Akise Teague has only practiced three days due to a hamstring injury or he would probably be talked about in the same light.

--- Tuesday's wasn't a great day in the daily duty of cutting down on turnovers. Collaros had two turnovers at the morning practice. Still, the grind of cutting down on those never dissipates. Finishing 119th in the country in turnover margin guarantees that.

Collaros said a greater understanding of the big picture will help make it a reality.

"Just go through your progressions and not force things in there on third down especially," he said. "Know that we have a good defense to punt the ball too and let them play defense. That is what it comes down to is field position. If we as an offense can do that and me as a quarterback can do that our defense is going to be successful and therefore our team is going to be successful."

An improved defense will help as well. Collaros didn't say this, but I'd have to imagine pressure to take extra chances influenced myriad forced passes last season. He sounds dedicated to a more calculated approach.

--- Speaking of QB play, Tommy G spoke to backup QB battle participants Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen. He extended that conversation with OC Mike Bajakian.

--- Some randomness...

--- This happened in Florida? Really? Shocking.

--- In case you didn't know, the Bleacher Report is the worst pile of garbage in sports media -- that is if you care at all about real content, accuracy and, you know, facts. Sports Pickle with a great shot at them with this fake redesign.

--- When you guys
head to Knoxville on Sept. 10, I hope you don't run into this guy. Though, chances are you'll see much worse.

--- All the photos, Q&A and streaming video from last night's Big Lebowski reunion is phenomenal. That link really tied the blog together, did it not? 

--- You woke up this morning and the sun was gone, you turned on some music to start your day. That's right, 80s power ballad week continues in full Boston glory.



Stewart.jpg

The dramatic overhaul of the bodies of Walter Stewart and Andre Cureton are among many reasons UC sees itself heading in the right direction.

WEST HARRISON, Ind. --  Walter Stewart has three younger siblings. Two of them are 6 years old. The other is 8.

When he goes home for the summer, the questions from the kids about how he's been and what it's like to be the cool college football player in the family quickly give way to another question:

Why are you eating all our food?

"I am eating all their chicken nuggets, I am eating all the corn dogs, I am eating all their little snacks and stuff," Stewart said. "My parents try to get me fast food to keep me out the fridge."

Stewart tries to show restraint. Admittedly, he doesn't want to eat his younger brother and sister's food. He tries to pace himself.

"But if it's in (the fridge)," he said, "I'm eating it."

In his eyes, he doesn't have much of a choice. He knew to become the type of player he needs to be and to fit into the Bearcats' system, he needed to grow. Horizontally.

When in the process of changing from a 216-pound outside linebacker at the conclusion of his freshman year to a 250-pound defensive end with the same burst and speed as a junior, eating everything in sight isn't just a diet. It's a lifestyle change.

"I got to have five square meals every day," he said. "I never miss."

Most people would cringe at pouring on 35 pounds. Only, instead of looking like a contestant for the The Biggest Loser, Stewart looks primed for the Big East season.

Stewart added "lean muscle mass," according to strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson and now fits the mold of the every day defensive end position he'll transition to this year. For those who worry Stewart lost the quickness which allowed him to notch 59 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a freshman should fear not.

By all accounts, Stewart moves with as much burst and agility as ever. He can still slip past a blocker, only now, he has the option to run them over, as well.

"Putting on the weight for me was more about being physical," Stewart said. "My goal this camp and whole offseason was making the transition from linebacker to d-line is you got to be able to play the run. That's the one thing I really try to focus on when I am out here. I still work on my pass rush and stuff, but mentally, I am like, all right, you have to be physical and play the run."

Stewart may blow by offensive lineman on the practice field, but he's being passed by OL Andre Cureton in the buffet line.

It was only 18 months ago, Cureton saw a picture of himself and couldn't believe his eyes. A three-sport athlete from Indianapolis Pike High School who weighed 290 pounds for his senior year, ballooned to 364.

CuretonHeadshot.jpg

"The coaches would make fun of me and say I gained the freshman 30 instead of the freshman 15," Cureton said. "To be honest, I didn't even know I was 360. I used to walk around Turner Hall, my freshman dorm, with my shirt off and everything. Then it hit me we have the Sugar Bowl pictures and I have the white jersey on and I was huge. I was like, it's got to stop. I got to get back to the way I was looking."

That meant a lifestyle change similar to Stewart's, only in reverse. Portion sizes were cut down. A steady diet of fruits and vegetables were infused. And ice cream? Forget about it.

For camp this year, Cureton reported at 295. Under 300 for the first time in three years.

The loss of weight hasn't equaled a loss of power thanks to Lawson's program. Cureton's squat, bench and power lifting numbers are all up.

"He's more athletic than he has ever been," Lawson said.

Lawson set the blueprint that has Cureton competing for a starting position. He's working with the second group but pushing Austin Bujnoch to start at guard. His confidence level ran inversely proportional to his weight.

"When I was 360, I thought I could play it but after four or five plays I would be dead," Cureton said. "Out here now, after four of five plays, I am running to get on the ball and be a leader out there on my second team group.

"It's my time. I sat the bench for way too long. It is time for me to come out here and put my resume on film and earn the coaches' trust."

Cureton's performing better than ever, but with the help of Lawson and his staff which monitor the players every day of the year, his discipline is better than ever as well.

"This is the first year (at Higher Ground) where they said I can have free reign with the food, but I still walk to the dessert bar and coach Lawson is staring at me," Cureton said with a laugh. "I just walk the other direction like nothing happened.

"He said I am good, but I know deep down inside if I get that plate he is going to have me doing something out here."


Bearcats Breakfast 8.16.11

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It's been a few days since I've cooked up the Breakfast you are so used to. We went with an unorthodox crepe recipe and then some organic alternatives from the hippies down the street the last few days. But no worries, today, it's back to the traditional bacon and eggs.

It feels like being home again. If only there were a beautiful 80s power ballad which could describe that feeling through the majesty of song?

Oh, wait....



Let's eat...

--- I'm working on a story that should be up later today on some of the changing bodies at UC camp this year. Among those -- for the second consecutive season -- is Walter Stewart. The full-time DE, now playing at 250 pounds after being 216 pounds in January of 2010 looks ready to be a power run-stopper on top of his remarkable ability to rush the edge.

Somehow he's become the most underrated players on perhaps this team's strongest unit. If Stewart can become the playmaker this team envisioned when he broke on the scene in 2009, the front four could be absolutely dominant. Andrea Adelson recently broached this topic.

He was very open with me and called last season "a lost opportunity."

I also talked to Andre Cureton, who is now remarkably under three spins at 299, Adrien Robinson, who lost about 20 pounds this offseason, and strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson.

Undeniably, however, the best part is talking to these guys about food. Cureton in particular, who has seemingly been on a weight loss program since Lawson first saw him, has conditioned himself to avoid desserts and sweets. He estimates he hasn't had sweets in a few years.

Technically, he's allowed to eat desserts now if he would choose to, but I couldn't help but laugh at him describing his hesitancy to do that, especially here at Higher Ground.

"But I still walk to the dessert bar and coach Lawson is staring at me," Cureton said. "I just walk the other direction like nothing happened.

"He said I am good, but I know deep down inside if I get that plate he is going to have me doing something out here."


I have this great vision of Lawson staring at players with different levels of acceptance from the edge of the buffet like Forrest Gump stares at Jenny and Jenny's boyfriend he beat the crap out of the night before in Washington D.C.

(Mr. McSaucy, aka OL Randy Martinez gave a tour of the HG buffet on CoachButchJones.com)

--- Random sign of progress stat: Last year
, UC ranked 44th in the country in sacks per game, but finished with 11 sacks in the month of November -- good for a top 20 ranking and second-best in the Big East over that time frame.

--- The big breaking news
yesterday was Bob Arkeilpane being named the Interim AD to replace Mike Thomas. As for how long the previous deputy AD will be holding the interim position at UC, it's tough to tell. I wouldn't expect too much procrastinating on such an important position, though.

--- If there is reason to believe in the Bearcats this year, it's because of Zach Collaros. I've said this many times here and will say it again, UC will go as far as ZC can take them. Bill Koch wrote a great piece about why Bearcats fans should be excited by that concept.

Depending on how Collaros' playing career goes, I expect to see him on Butch Jones or somebody else's staff the moment he decides to hang up his spikes. And I expect him to excel.

He owns almost as much experience recognizing coverages and making throws at this level as any QB in college football this season.

Only eight BCS QBs threw more passes per game last season. Of those that will be back this year? Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Brandon Weeden (Okla. St.), Nick Foles (Arizona), Sean Renfree (Duke), Garrett Gilbert (Texas) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor).

Of those, only Foles, Griffin and Weeden finished with a QB rating better than ZC's 137.5.

The only QB that finished last year with a better QB rating than ZC that is on UC's schedule this year is Geno Smith of WVU. And we've broke out that debate many times and won't do it again. Just know that will be one fun game at PBS.

And with the way Collaros meticulously studies coverages and improves his knowledge of the game, I'd expect him to be right alongside the best in the country by year's end.

--- Dan Hoard hasn't unearthed his "Zach Collaros 4 Heisman" signs from the closet from last year just yet, but is buying into the senior QB.

--- I haven't been able to link to this yet, but Kerry Coombs put a little ying in your yang-yang the other day.Tommy G mic'd him up for practice. It was absolutely fantastic.

--- Sports Illustrated always
digs to find the real story and create intelligent, informed journalism. That's no different in their selection of DT Derek Wolfe to first-team All Big East which I have been jaw-dropped to see him absent from in every other publication. Isaiah Pead and Pat O'Donnell were also on the first team.

Speaking of O'Donnell, I am on a mission to bring to you visual evidence of the best mustache at camp right now. Hold tight.

--- Here is the transcript from Butch Jones speaking with the media after practice yesterday (H/t Bearcat Lair). The Lair also has a story on Maryland transfer LB Ben Pooler (subscription only). I know many of you have been asking about him, so there you go.

--- Tommy G still in the zone: DC Tim Banks here. Coach (yes, that's right, coach) Mike Mickens here.

--- Sandy Koufax will be
announced on the list of UC HOF inductees to be released today. How he's not already in there is beyond my comprehension for rational thought.

Also on the list will be former the 1961 national championshp hoops team, K Jonathan Ruffin, Detroit Pistons PF Jason Maxiell and swimming coach Monty Hopkins. Here's the blog from Koch.

--- I wanted to make
a quick rundown of the progress of some UC players in the pros after the first week of the preseason.

Mardy Gilyard received some love from Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. This is a big camp for Gilyard, who didn't take full advantage of an opportunity to breakout in a receiver-less STL system last year.

He's making his mark on special teams thus far in camp. Reading between the lines, he'll need to make this team as a return man and special teams ace.

The Rams gave Mardy Gilyard plenty of opportunities to impress them on punt and kickoff returns as well as from scrimmage. He did have a 15-yard punt return, and at wide receiver caught two passes for 21 yards (and two first downs).

"I think all of them do need to step up and perform on special teams," Spagnuolo said. "That's going to be really important.

"Mardy did it as a returner. He also covered some kicks; we thought he did a pretty good job there as well. I think he made a little bit of a jump in that regard on special teams, and he made a couple plays as a wide receiver."

Also, TE Ben Guidugli had two receptions for 15 yards in the Rams' victory.

Neither Vidal Hazelton nor Armon Binns had a reception or target in their openers for San Diego and Jacksonville, respectively.

Marvin Lewis went out of his way to complement the play of P Kevin Huber on Monday. Huber had five punts for an average of 50.6 yards, including a 59-yarder and one inside the 20.  

"But Kevin (punter Kevin Huber) had a good day and showed some things that he corrected during the offseason. He showed well, as he has every day down here."

Let's just say Huber would be the leader in the clubhouse for Team MVP considering the way the Bengals played Friday.

DE Connor Barwin made his return from injury and started at OLB for the Texans. He finished with two solo tackles on a night the Texans racked up seven sacks.

Philly.com documents a great play made by Jason Kelce that epitomizes why OL coach Howard Mudd sees Kelce pushing for the job at center. 

Some quick randomness before I head out to Higher Ground....

--- The Western and Southern
Open lost Brooklyn Decker last night as her husband went all Delta Bravo on the court...again. Such a tired act. Her departure confirms the fact I will not be attending.

--- The Onion with
an accurate description of Visa.

--- Always wanted to go
to Lebowski-Fest, and no more than this year in NYC with Goodman, Turturo, Bridges and Buschemi in attendance.

The Dude abides, indeed. Here are the deets, as the kids like to say.




GCL and GMC= UC 'D'

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As always, this year's UC Bearcat football team is loaded with those that played their prep pigskin here in town (many with games at Nippert Stadium).

With the high school season getting a head start on the college season, I cornered two of UC's top defenders (from two of the area's top football high schools) for a little prep/college Q&A at a recent early practice.

Senior JK Schaffer played for coach Tom Grippa at La Salle High School in the GCL,while junior Brandon Mills played for current UC defensive back coach Kerry Coombs at Colerain, along with the present coach Tom Bolden.


gcl-gmc-new.jpgYou both look beefier. Do you both have more leanness and nastiness about you?

Schaffer: "I probably weigh a good 10 pounds more than I weighed last year. I'm not too angry. Just got done with a good practice. What do you think Mills?

Mills: "It was a good practice for the defense. We're just good."

How do you feel compared to the first day you walked in here out of high school?


Mills:  "I've grown up a lot. I think I'm more mature now. Being around the fellows, they just keep me on the right path. They're making me a better person."

Schaffer: "I was a little scrawny. Not too scrawny.  The thing I'm so much better at is the whole mental thing. I'm so much more experienced than I was.  I've got a good amount of ball under my belt now and I feel like I can just go out there and run around and know exactly what I'm going to do every single play. Couple years ago, I had to think about it. Now, it's just muscle memory and it just feels natural."

You both played big-time high school ball, but it's probably still kind of eye-opening when you come in here. It's not that easy, is it?

Schaffer: "It's really not that easy. I was telling the young guys last night, 'You have to earn your keep here. You've got to prove yourself to the older guys and coaches. You can't be given an opportunity. You have to go out and earn it every day.'"

Mills:  "You have to come in here and work from day one to get the spot you deserve. If you work hard, they're going to give it to you and see all the work that you've done."

How is coach Coombs compared to what he was (at Colerain)?


Mills:  "Man, he's the same! Coach Coombs hasn't changed a bit.  I still love the guy. Deep down in my heart, that's my guy."

Schaffer:  "I wasn't a big fan of coach Coombs or Colerain when I was in high school. But, coach Coombs recruited me in his first year at UC. My freshman year, one of my roommates was Evan Davis of Colerain. I got to accept Colerain a little bit after that.  I love coach Coombs and love the Colerain guys on my team. I've got a little bit more respect for them now."

Did you ever wear a shirt with a Cardinal on it?

Schaffer:  "I'm not allowed to say what I would say. Absolutely not!"

GMC vs. GCL?

Mills:  "There's still bad blood over here, but with JK, I'm cool. Everybody else, I don't like."

Schaffer:  "We (both) still don't like (Danny) Milligan (St. Xavier grad)."

The Big East media said you were fifth. Are they wrong?


Schaffer:  "I think the year we went undefeated, they picked us fifth or sixth. The preseason rankings really don't matter. I don't get real upset over it. I like being the underdog anyway and going out and proving people wrong."

Can you use that  to your advantage when you're knocking these allegedly higher-ranked teams around?

Mills:  "Yeah. We just need to take it and run with it. We need to make them see that they picked the wrong team. I feel we're a lot better and we're going to be stronger this year."

Schaffer:  "I feel so much better about this season. Everything's running so much smoother and everyone's bought in and working hard. We've got guys on this team that have played a lot of football. I think that's one of the main things in college football--experience."

Is this your last Higher Ground training camp?


Schaffer: "This is my last one."

Will you laugh at Mills when it's over?

Schaffer:  "Yeah, I'll be like, 'Have fun next year!'"




Collaros Wants Wins, Not Awards

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Last season, I wrote a semi-serious blog entry about Zach Collaros being an outside candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year (you can read it here).

 

So sue me - sometimes the Bearcat fan in me gets a little carried away.

 

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But I fully expect Collaros to have a spectacular senior season after being named First Team All-Big East last year in his first full-season as UC's starting quarterback.

 

"Anytime that you have experience, you're going to be better at something," Collaros told me.  "I've been working hard at what I have to do to lead a team and score touchdowns.  I've put in a lot of time with my receivers and running backs and I think that it's going to pay off."

 

"The teams that are successful usually have a great trigger man and I'm excited about Zach," said head coach Butch Jones.  "He's our leader, and his work ethic speaks volumes.  I love him and I wish we had him for about eight more years."

 

Collaros has no shortage of weapons to get the ball to.  Isaiah Pead is the leading returning rusher in the Big East (1,029 yards in 2010), WR D.J. Woods earned Second Team All-Big East honors last year, and WR Kenbrell Thompkins was the top-rated Junior College wide receiver in the country  two years ago.

 

"I have some great targets," Collaros said.  "Isaiah is a stud and he's proven it for two years.  D.J., Kenbrell, and Anthony McClung can all break a big one at any time and senior O.J. Woodard has had a great summer and we're looking for some good things out of him.  There are some young guys that have come in that might be able to contribute right away - Shaq Washington, Akise Teague - guys like that.  I think we have three capable tight ends that can play.  They all have their strengths." 

 

The big question mark is the offensive line which lost three starters including NFL draft pick Jason Kelce.

 

"I think the offensive linemen have had a great summer," Collaros said.  "The strength and conditioning guys have done a great job with them.  They're all above 400 pounds on the bench press and their squats are through the roof.  I think it's going to translate to the field.  They've studied film this summer, they've worked on their technique, and Alex Hoffman has done a great job of leading that group.  We've got three seniors on the offensive line so we have leadership and I think we have the ability to be good up front.  Heading into camp, I guess it's a question mark, but I have no doubt that those guys can get it done."

 

"I like the way their bodies look, and most of them have had personal bests in the weight room," said Coach Jones.  "The big thing is going to be depth. 

 

Moving the ball last year wasn't a problem - holding on to it was.  The Bearcats committed a league-high 29 turnovers and ranked next-to-last in the country in turnover margin at -15.

 

"We were number one in the league in scoring, passing offense, and total offense, but we finished where we finished because we turned the ball over," said Coach Jones.

 

The Bearcats finished 4-8 last year, including 4-7 in games started by Collaros.  After going 30-0 as a starting QB at Steubenville High School and 4-0 while subbing for Tony Pike during the Bearcats' undefeated 2009 regular season, Zach is determined to go out a winner as a senior.

 

"It's do or die," Collaros said.  "It's been the fastest year of my life leading up to my senior year and I'm excited to get started, but at the same time, it's bittersweet because I don't want it to end.  The only thing on my mind is winning games."

 

The Heisman Trophy might be a little far-fetched, but a great senior season is a very realistic possibility.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

Wolfe.jpg

For players like Derek Wolfe and Isaiah Pead, among other UC seniors, dealing with the pressure of knowing this is their final chance to make an NFL impression makes preparation for this season more difficult.

CINCINNATI - Derek Wolfe doesn't use Twitter. He doesn't bother with Facebook. The only time you'll see him check in is at the dorms of Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center.

That would leave him in the minority among his UC teammates and probably make him the last to know the latest pop culture news nugget.

This all comes by design, of course.

In a college football culture suffocated by pundits pumping praise and predictions of wealth into the heads of impressionable students, Wolfe chooses to stay blissfully ignorant.

He doesn't search "Derek Wolfe+NFL" on Google. If he did, he'd find himself listed as the top NFL prospect on the Bearcats according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper as far back as last year. He'd see Kiper calling him the No. 5 DT prospect for the 2012 draft. Or that he's currently on the Bronco Nagurski and Outland Trophy Watch Lists. Or that he's projected to be a mid-round selection in next year's NFL Draft, depending on what you read.

Never has Wolfe's philosophy been more important than this year. This year is different. Wolfe is a senior. He arrived knowing this was the last time for a first practice. This was the beginning of his final audition for the NFL and fulfilling a lifelong dream. One great season can be worth thousands -- even millions - of dollars. There is no hiding that fact. Just don't expect Wolfe to pay attention to it.

"If you do you are going to worry about everything you do," Wolfe said. "Same thing with the NFL, I don't think about the NFL. Even at practice, I don't think about the end of practice, I think about the next play."

Much like blocking the Bearcats defensive line stalwart, wearing the professional blinders has become much more difficult than it used to be.

"Yeah, because you have people trying to blow your head up," he said.

Wolfe is certainly not alone. A core of seniors owning two Big East championship rings approach a final chance to make a life-changing impression on NFL scouts and complete a trilogy of Cincinnati football success.

Of course, not all of them handle the pressure with the same concept of Wolfe. Not surprisingly to anyone with a Twitter account, @iPead would fall into that category.

Yes, you will find Isaiah Pead on Twitter. You can read any of his 14,554 tweets. You will find him reading what people say about him. You will find him thinking about a possible NFL career from time to time.

pead.jpeg

It's an inevitable pressure when you are 12 games away from proving you belong in the same league as the best athletes in the country. Right now, Kiper places Pead as the No. 3 rated running back in the 2012 draft. Just add it to the lists of accolades and attention being placed upon his senior season.

Putting professional thoughts out of mind sounds nice in interviews. Doing so in reality is harder than catching Pead in a footrace.

"It is (hard)," Pead said of thinking about the NFL. "I would be lying if I say sometimes walking to practice that doesn't slip your mind. That is at stake. But you have to be humble and start from ground zero. Why do I do this? And why am I dong this?

Pead sounds the same as he did last year and the year before. With the highest of individual accolades at his fingertips, he remains focused on the team and betterment of the program. He's always been about winning.

"And let the rest take care of itself," he said.

Once it does, expect Pead to tweet about it. And expect Wolfe not to. Just expect both to use their own methods to discard pressure and be ready for the most important season of their lives.

"I live by the saying if you be the best person you can be then you are the best," Pead said. "That's my big thing. One, be the best player I can be."

Done with Preseason!

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Hey Everyone!

  We finished up preseason with an exhibition game against Ball State Friday afternoon in Muncie. We played three 30 minute periods and everyone got a chance to play which was awesome to see. Despite the 1-0 loss, there were some really great things that came out of the game which will only help us prepare this week for our season opener against Cal Poly Friday night!

  We treated yesterday's practice like we would any Saturday practice in between a Friday-Sunday game swing. We started off with a warm up, followed by another jog and stretch with Amanda and a technical warm up with Michelle. After we had finished warming up we played two 15 minute halves to get our legs moving again and it looked awesome. We were moving the ball with purpose and were making the right decisions on and off the ball for each other which made the game easy!

  After we finished our practice we had about 20 minutes to shower off and get ready for our team social! Mrs. Ballinger (Logan's Mom) organized a pool party for us at a friend of her's house and it was so much fun! We pulled up to the house and we were greeted by the house owners and Mrs. Ballinger, who had a gift for us. Each girl got a large towel with their name stitched into it, perfect for trying off after the pool! Once we walked into the back yard there was SO much food and drinks, it was sort of overhelming! There was a pool with a volleyball net that some girls got a game going. There was bags (or corn hole as Ohio-ans call it!!) along with French darts in the back that a few of us got a little tournament going (I swear Tiff and Scott cheated at bags!). We all swam for a while, played some games, and just hung out. After all the munching on the snacks laid out we had barbeque chicken for dinner followed by a make your own sundae station which was amazing! Once we left the house I'm pretty sure no one could move we were all so full!

  Today we are preparing for practice as if it is a game and doing an inner-squad Red vs. Black scrimmage. This will help to prepare our freshman for the way we prepare for Friday-Sunday games during the season. It's really great that we can get them all prepared for Friday-Sunday games before we actually have them so they know what to expect! Hopefully the weather stays nice as it's looking a little cloudy out!

Go Bearcats---RAWWWWWR!

KP #14

 

Me, Kay, and Erin at the loading dock before we left for Ball State.

team4.JPG

 

Some teammates after the Ball State game.

team3.JPG

 Some of the girls during the team volleyball game!

team5.jpg

 

Senior class picture at the team social!

team1.JPG

 

The incredible ice cream sundae line!

team2.JPG

Bearcats Breakfast 8.12.11

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The Bearcats are on the move to Higher Ground today. Practice there begins tomorrow. Austin Peay walks into Nippert Stadium in 22 days.

As Jerry and Elaine would say, "things are happening, the wheels are in motion."

With all this action, it seemed time for a special edition of the Breakfast to start off your weekend. Today, I'll take a look at eight questions the Bearcats need to answer by the time they leave Higher Ground. That's one for every loss they hope to avenge this season.

One of those probably should be "How does excessive blond hair dye effect the brain," but we'll stick with the personnel-related issues.

What questions do you have about the team this year, folks? Let me know. (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or on Twitter @pauldehnerjr)

These are in no particular order, so don't break out the Judgey McJudgerson face because kicker is ahead of quarterback. Here we go:

1. CAN UC SOLIDIFY THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE OFFENSIVE LINE?: While most will point to the defense as the biggest question mark on this team, I point to the offensive line. With so much potential at the skill positions, it will be up to the big men up front to allow that opportunity. The unit struggled -- especially early -- last season. That was with Jason Kelce, now on the verge of starting for the Philadelphia Eagles, veteran starter Sam Griffin and CJ Cobb.

The left side appears to be set and solid, with Alex Hoffman (LT) and Randy Martinez (LG) returning, but seeing improvement and solidifying depth on the right will be critical. The biggest official position battle will be between sophomores Austen Bujnoch and Andre Cureton (now under three spins at 299!) at right guard. Senior Evan Davis will be stepping into Kelce's enormous shoes at center and need to become a mental leader of the group for the first time. Sean Hooey (6-9, 298) will take over at RT after seeing some time on the field last year. (Many positions subject to change, remember Kelce changed from guard to center just before the opener last season)

There is as much pressure on this position group as any on the team, particular the pack of players who've never played extensively before that will be counted on.

2. WHO TO PICK A KICKER?: This has already been called an area of concern. And rightfully so. Jake Rogers made everyone take the kicking position for granted last season, but with a cast of unprovens, that will not be the case -- at least early in this season.

Transfer Shane Popham along with freshmen Tony Miliano and A.J. Fleak will take pressure kicks at nearly every practice. Best in show wins. Somebody must step up or we could see a lot of fourth-down conversion attempts this season.

3. HOW GOOD ARE THESE KIDS?: We've seen the YouTube highlight tapes and star-rankings. But exactly how good are Akise Teague and Jameel Poteat? Good enough to count on them to backup Isaiah Pead? Good enough to step in should Pead need a breather or go out with injury?

At the very least, their ability understand the offense and blitz pickup must take drastic steps forward so, should anything happen to Pead, the protection element won't fall apart. (If they can't, junior George Winn will hold down the backup spot)

4. HOW TO PIECE TOGETHER THE LINEBACKERS?: The need for instant infusion at linebacker made for a interesting collection of players at LB this fall. JK Schaffer and Maalik Bomar we know. They both return and should be among the best in the league.

The depth behind them and beside them we don't.

RS Freshman LB Solomon Tentman is healthy and returns to Higher Ground one year after tearing his ACL there. He was expected to contribute at the position last season and will be counted on again. But how quick will he be to recover? Transfer Ben Pooler shows up from Maryland. He also is recovering from injury. Where does he fit in?  Freshmen Nick Temple and Dwight Jackson earned high praise from Butch Jones in the spring -- are they progressing enough to hold the backup role to Schaffer and Bomar this fall? Are any other freshmen be capable of providing quality snaps?

Can JC transfers Greg Blair or Isiah Vaughn be instant contributors?

The LB position looks more like a Rubik's Cube at this point, the next two weeks will be spent lining it up. (Sidenote: Would take me about the same amount of time to line up an actual Rubik's Cube)

5. WHO'S GOT ZACH'S BACK?:
Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen battle for the backup QB spot. This position battle could be meaningless. Should Collaros stay healthy, nobody will ever really even know who won. However, if there is anything this program should know better than any, it's the importance of the backup quarterback.

Heck, if there is anything ZC should know better than anybody, it's the importance of the backup. These two will go at it every day at HG, with CBJ likely declaring a winner the week of Austin Peay.

6. HOW STEEP IS THE WR LEARNING CURVE?:
There will be youth at wide receiver this year. On a position where sophomore Anthony McClung and his 22 receptions along with OJ Woodard and his two represent the only returning college catches outside of DJ Woods, yes, youth will be served.

RS Fr. Dyjuan Lewis will be eligible and could be a major factor, but needs to progress quickly. Transfer Kenbrell Thompkins could be a part of the all-hype team, but still hasn't played a game of Division I football. Surrounding them are a collection of talented, raw freshmen wondering where they fit in.

7. WHAT TO DO AT DB?: Perhaps the most maligned group of last season, they perfectly represent the phrase we've heard play on repeat throughout the offseason: "We can't be older, we must be better."

Finding a cure for the secondary woes through the development of a cast of young players will be essential. Cam Cheatham, Devan Drane, Adrian Witty, Reuben Johnson, etc. -- name the player, they all must progress. Whoever takes the biggest steps will be starting the opener.

8. CAN THE DISCIPLINE IMPROVE?:
Penalties at inopportune times devastated the Bearcats last season. Many of them were personal fouls. False starts and mental hiccups of that ilk hampered the team as well. Installing discipline has always been at the top of CBJ's list, and at Higher Ground it will take center stage.

Bearcats Breakfast 8.11.11

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Most days I open this blog with a sense of direction (stop laughing) and have a decent idea with where I want to go with the content. I know the point I'm attempting to get across.

Today I really don't.

The timing of the resignation of AD Mike Thomas came as a surprise. I can't quite tell you what it means for UC or where the university looks forward in filling his position at this point. The news is a little too big to wrap my head around just yet.

Even with Thomas' flirtation with Tennessee a while back, this was tough to spot.

If you hadn't heard, here is the official release from UC with statements from Thomas, now the AD at the University of Illinois:

CINCINNATI - University of Cincinnati Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced his resignation Wednesday to take the athletic director job at the University of Illinois.

 A 26-year veteran of college athletics administration, Thomas had been at UC since October 20, 2005. Since taking the reins of the department with 18 teams and 560 student-athletes, Thomas has championed student-athlete development and significant external growth, while also authoring a detailed plan for competitive success in the BIG EAST Conference and on the national level.

 "I'm excited about this new opportunity but at the same time I know I'm leaving behind great people and a great place at the University of Cincinnati," Thomas said. "Together, we accomplished many things during my time there in terms of championships and academics and made it a point to be integrated on campus and in the community. I'm very proud of everything we accomplished at UC and I'll always be a Bearcats fan."

 "I have enjoyed working with Mike as he has provided quality leadership and moved our athletics program in new and positive directions," said UC President Dr. Gregory Williams.  "Now, I look to appoint an interim director of athletics in the near future and begin the search process soon to identify UC's next director of athletics."

Thomas had been lauded for his vision for success in all areas of UC athletics, guided by the strategic plan that was put in place soon after arriving on campus. Titled CATAPULT - an acronym for championships, academics, and together - the plan focused on three main initiatives: winning BIG EAST team championships, high-level academic achievement, and a comprehensive integration with the UC Campus and Greater Cincinnati community. During the course of the plan, UC athletics produced one NCAA individual champion, four BIG EAST team titles, 12 All-Americans, and 72 All BIG EAST honorees. It also called for expanded and redefined academic services and the NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills program, which resulted in UC being one of the most recognized schools in the 16-member BIG EAST Conference for academic success, earning multiple BIG EAST Academic Excellence Awards. The overall Academic Progress Rate (APR) of all UC athletics programs increased and in the most recent APR report five UC athletic teams earned perfect APR scores of 1000, including men's basketball. UC's student-athletes also emerged as community leaders, and since 2006 their community service hours have grown from 1000 annual hours to over 5500.

 On the external side, the University of Cincinnati is growing at a tremendous rate. Since his arrival Thomas has increased UC's athletic department budget by $7 million, a vital 20% increase, while simultaneously reducing the annual operating deficit by over $6 million. UC established single-season attendance and revenue records for football in each of the past three years and its donor base has increased by nearly 300 percent during Thomas' tenure while raising $70 million in capital projects, endowments, and sports-specific giving. Thomas negotiated UC's first across-the-board shoe and apparel contract with adidas and revamped UC's multimedia rights partnership, reaching an agreement with IMG College, increasing overall revenues in this area by over $17 million.

 Prior to coming to UC, Thomas spent five years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Akron and seven years as associate athletic director at the University of Virginia. Prior to Virginia, Thomas spent seven years at the University of Denver as assistant athletic director for internal operations, serving as chief financial officer and overseeing the departments of compliance, merchandising, and facilities. He began his athletic administration career at the University of Iowa as an administrative and operations intern.

Thomas presently serves on several national and conference committees, including the NCAA Division I Championship/Sports Management Cabinet (where he also serves as the NCAA men's basketball liaison to the cabinet and serves as a member of the cabinet's four-person Administrative Committee), and the NCAA Men's Basketball Issues Committee.

Twice during his career, Thomas has received distinction for his efforts and dedication as a director of athletics, garnering the General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletics Director Award in 2005 at Akron and then again in April of 2008 at Cincinnati. He has been recognized by the Cincinnati Sports Professionals Network as the 2009-10 Sports Executive of the Year.

--- Overall, you can't complain much about Thomas' tenure if you are a Bearcats fan. The rise of the football program to unforeseen and in many ways unimaginable heights came under his watch. The rebuild of the basketball program under Mick Cronin came under Thomas as well.

Plus, when looking at the financial accomplishments in the release, perhaps, nobody should have been surprised at the move.

At the end of the day, Thomas did great things at UC and left big shoes to fill. As for who will fill them, don't send your questions to me just yet. I probably know little more than you do in that regard.

Here's Bill Koch's story which outlines the past, present and future of the situation. 

So, the search will begin now for Thomas' replacement. I'll keep you up to date as much as possible, though, my gut tells me you are almost more interested in the position battle at defensive back than what suits are rolling in and out of the Lindner Center. And I can speak more intelligently on DBs anyway, so we'll keep most of the content to football.

Speaking of, let's eat...

--- Practice No. 3 came and went with Tommy G catching up with OL Alex Hoffman and DL John Hughes.

--- Today's practice was moved from another early start, to a 10:20 a.m. open for anybody counting at home. It will be the final day at Nippert before the team departs to Higher Ground for the rest of camp.

--- Here's your daily transcript of Butch Jones meeting with the media thanks to the good folks at BearcatLair. That includes Jones opening with comments about the kicking game being "unacceptable" on Wednesday. Indeed, the battle between Tony Miliano and transfer Shane Popham is wide open, as Koch details in this blog.

Regardless of who emerges by the opener, it will be a nervous moment if UC lines up a game-winning field goal anytime in the near future.

--- Koch has been busy
, he also wrote a piece on former Withrow coach Doc Gamble learning the ropes at UC.

--- I'm working on a piece on
some of the urgency in prominent seniors of this year's class and couldn't help but chuckle going through the Derek Wolfe interview.

Wolfe started talking about pulling some of the young guys under his wing during the summer when he was trying to get extra workouts in. He specifically mentioned working with Brad Harrah.

"Brad was the main guy," Wolfe said. "He tried to avoid my calls a couple times. I would have to call him five or six times. I think his girlfriend was getting upset."

By the fifth time a 300-pound monster calls your cell, you go. You go wherever he wants you to go.

--- Doc took a stab at UC football yesterday. He spoke about a "lack of buzz" around the program. Go 4-8 and that happens. People were spoiled and connected UC success to BK. When the wins didn't come last year, Kelly's departure sliced off the fair-weather folks who came along for the ride. Fair or not, that's truth.

Also truth, it's nothing a win at Tennessee or against NC State won't fix.

--- Meet Akise Teague and Silverberry Mouhon. This from Butch Jones blog.

--- Also of note, two Bearcats made CNBC Business reporter Darren Rovell's All-Name team. Silverberry was one and Munchie Legaux the other. Two of 25 isn't bad. Judging by some of the names popping up on UC's recruiting circles for next season, the Bearcats could be regulars on this list.

If you come across a high school player named Alfredo Fiddlesticks, forward his information to coach Jones.

--- Andrea Adelson takes a look at all the coaches entering their second seasons in the Big East. It's more of the same you've already heard.

--- Some randomness....

--- Why are receipts from CVS so long? Nobody wants any proof they were actually at a CVS, much less a giant receipt drawing attention around the house.

--- IFC put out this list of the 25 best movie pep talks. My unabashed favorite comes in at No. 3.

"We will not go quietly into the night!"

--- Paul Rudd's new movie has some potential. At least if it follows in the footsteps of the Funny or Die promo he did for it.

--- The George Lopez show was canceled. Somewhere, Dane Cook sees an opening to not be funny on TV.

--- Zack and Kelly, together again. Personally, I don't want to see Zack and Kelly anywhere together unless Dennis Haskins is right behind them.

--- A Big Lebowski reunion will be streamed live on Facebook? The Dude abides.

Stranded Seniors

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Hey Everyone!

  2 more days till our preseason game and the Bearcats are looking good! Despite some injuries, the heat, and some tired legs everything is starting to look really sharp as we start to finalize things before our game against Ball State Friday. This year our team has really stepped up professionally as a team. We have a different approach to everything we do and it looks like it has already paid off. Everyone is on the same page with everyone else as we move forward in our journey of the 2011 season.

 We were given Sunday off and it was SO nice to sleep past 7 am! The whole team met up for treatment and lunch which was good to see everyone still taking care of their bodies despite the day off. Monday we were back on the pitch ready to get back after it again! We started with another fitness test 120's and had 13 girls pass which is AMAZING for such a hard test! 120's are a very challenging, mentality based test and I was so excited to see so many girls push through the mental part and pass it! After running we opened it up a little bit and have started to go big sided more, stopping throughout to show the new players and refreshing the old players about what to do in certain situations on the defensive end. It has been a lot of learning but players have really caught on quickly.

  Tuesday morning was all about switching the point of attack and moving quickly from defending to attacking and spreading out and vice versa of attacking to defending and how to pinch in and get into our shape. We really worked out some kinks and it was was obvious that everyone understood their roles when switching because the afternoon session looked great with how we adjusted when we won the ball or when we lost the ball.

  This year the coaching staff has decided to take each class out for dinner during preseason to get more individualized with evertyone and tuesday night the coaches took the senior class out to dinner! We went to Buckheads at Newport on the Levee and it was a great time! We were all having so much fun talking to the coaches about our season, our families, and the players grilling the coaches with a million questions. It was a great night up until we were about to leave. Erin Petree drove all 7 seniors in her SUV and after we had finished dinner and went to the car to come back to Clifton we realized the car wouldn't start! Petey called AAA and they sent someone out to get us but that wasn't before we all tried to figure out what was wrong with the car ourselves! We had our phones out, car hood popped trying to use our best Google skills to determine what was wrong with her car! We all decided it was her starter and sure enough once the tow truck guy got there he said it was her starter! He worked on it for a few minutes and we were ready to head back to Clifton in no time!

  Today we were given the morning session off to rehab and get treatment before we head to lifting at 1:30 so we are all heading into the training room to do extra pool workouts, cold tub, hot tub, stretch, get stim, or whatever will help our bodies feel recovered! It's a long season and the last thing we want is avoidable injuries! I'm off to help Tiff carry some groceries to our locker room! The coaches have been AWESOME about making sure our fridge and cabinets are filled with food and drinks! Make sure to gametracker our game Friday versus Ball State if you are unable to make it out to Muncie to support the Bearcats!

Go Bearcats---RAWWWWWWR!

KP #14

 

Seniors hanging out while the AAA guy works on Petey's car in the backround!

Top Row: Lauren Romanelli, Kay Young, Erin Kaufman, Me, Logan Ballinger

Bottom Row: Emily Hebbeler, Erin Petree

senior dinner.JPG

Bearcats Breakfast 8.10.11

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A few questions I answered from the Twitterazzi the last couple of days I figured I would post for those of you who don't have The Twitters. If you do, but don't follow me, shame on you. (@pauldehnerjr)

--- The Bearcats will not be opening any Higher Ground practices to the public as far as myself and the UC sports information staff are currently aware of. They didn't last year, so I doubt it's something Jones has much desire to do. Plus, their practices at Nippert this week are open to anybody that strolls by. Although, be aware, Chick-fil-a for some reason is closing early in the afternoon in the student center next to the stadium. It's absurd. Not that I'm at all bitter about it.

--- Zach Collaros did not change his number to 18, he just happened to be wearing it the first day of practice. He is still listed as 12.

--- Which true freshmen will see playing time? Hard to say right now, but Akise Teague and Jameel Poteat will receive some touches behind Isaiah Pead. Nick Temple and Dwight Jackson will likely be needed to help at a relatively thin linebacker spot. Shaq Washington could contribute at WR. But these guys will be given the opportunity to impress over the next three weeks, if they do, Jones isn't afraid to play them. He made that clear last year with the amount of freshmen he played.

Plenty on the plate, so let's eat...

--- First off, head over the Preseason Central if you haven't yet. Plenty of interviews and practice updates. UC practiced this morning, so expect to see a pile of new stuff up early in the afternoon. Plus, sights and sounds. It does not include people making fun of the size of my drink, which I admit, at 32 oz., was excessive.

--- I talked a little bit yesterday about the enjoyment in talking to Isaiah Pead. Thoughtful, intelligent, mature. Tommy G has another interview with him and you get a firsthand view of that. Good dude.

--- Here's the Q and A the media had with Butch Jones following practice No. 2, courtesy Bearcat Lair with the transcription.

--- Another Blog favorite, Maalik Bomar, also spoke with TG. For me, Bomar has NFL potential written all over him. A breakout season for this defense could mean a breakout projection for Bomar.

--- Speaking of a breakout year for the defense, the never-shy Derek Wolfe believes UC will be the best defense in the Big East. Actually, he guaranteed it to Bill Koch. I'm sure Butch Jones loved that. Coaches always love players making guarantees.

--- Wolfe has a great backstory
. Tim Adams at BearcatLair tells it. If you want to know more about one of the real good guys on this team, you will enjoy this.

--- In case you missed it, I posted a story about Butch Jones' family atmosphere and how that has been a key in recruiting, particular with this incoming class of freshmen.

--- Andrea Adelson talking with JK Schaffer at Big East media days.

--- Andrew Force talked about the backup quarterback battle. Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen went at it in the spring. I'd expect more of the same this fall, unless one of the freshmen make a serious impact.

--- Of the Heisman candidates in the Big East, Zach Collaros is on Adelson's list. She puts him in the conversation with Geno Smith (WVU) and Ray Graham (Pitt). As I have said before, UC will go as far as Collaros can take them. If he takes them to a BE championship, he'll be in the conversation at the end of the year.

--- When you are petitioning the West Virginia fan base to show up and play QB3 in practice, you have depth problems. How did this happen, by the way? Aren't you allowed 105 guys? And you have two quarterbacks?

--- Another quick look at Bearcats in the pros: Here's another piece on Jason Kelce's rise in Philly. Also, WR Dominick Goodman has reported to Jets camp. Here's hoping something works out for Goodie, whose been bouncing around Europe and the Arena league the last few years.

--- Quick basketball note:
RS Fr. Kelvin Gaines will play in Europe this month with an odd collection of college players. Should be good for him to work on fundamentals against the fundamental-heavy Euro squads.

Some randomness...

--- I know most any woman
will look small next to Shaq, but his new girlfriend looks like she must be a different species.

--- Bats on a plane! Somebody alert Samuel L. Jackson.

--- Curtis Granderson fell
for the little league fake to third throw to first move to end the game. I just hope this doesn't mean more pitchers will keep trying it.

--- You can always count on the Onion to make wonderful light of an economic collapse.

--- I've always thought, You know what the rap game is missing? 55-year-old casino execs with chest exposed and shirts tucked into their jeans.

--- This date last year was the signature moment of the Reds' race to the NL Central title. Yeah, those were days. Ugh.
 

The Hall of Fame Awaits

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I had the distinct privilege of attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies this weekend in Canton, Ohio and what a class of inductees. Richard Dent, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk are names you recognize but the others, Ed Sabol (NFL Films), Chris Hanburger (Washington Redskins) and Les Richter (Los Angeles Rams) deserve their admission as well.

But the irony as I sat there was that it dawned upon me that no University of Cincinnati player is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In basketball we have Oscar Robertson; baseball Sandy Koufax and in tennis Tony Trabert. But with all the players that have graced the Bearcat gridiron and gone on to play at the elite level, none are in the hall. 

As this program continues to gain traction and appeal nationwide the odds are increasing that it could happen in the next 15-20 years. That means someone from the most recent NFL pool starts to play lights out and positions themselves for consideration or the crop of players here now or, who are coming in the near future will be the first. What a unique and hallowed accomplishment to go into the Hall of Fame and be the first one from UC to do so. You will  (Insert NFL Film voice) live in immortality. An accomplishment of this nature is the result of a combination of factors including avoiding the serious injury bug (Gayle Sayers is the exception to the rule), playing on great teams, with great players and in big games. Winning a Super Bowl certainly doesn't hurt either.

As I listened to speech after speech I was reminded of how critical the role of family and mom and/or grandmother are. Teaching work ethic, not slacking; encouraging not demeaning and supporting not withdrawing are great tools in addition to demanding academic excellence. Add brothers and sisters holding down the home front while you hone your skills and having someone give you that one break that typically tips the scale. It was amazing to hear how one key incident made the difference between Shannon Sharpe not getting cut or Richard Dent getting into college. From there they say the rest is history; so their they are careers,

One of the best things about trying to predict who may be the first UC player to enter the hall is that you can't. Shannon Sharpe thought it would be his brother Sterling and many of us thought it would be Kenny Anderson or Ken Riley preceding Anthony Munoz. The fact is you just don't know. That is also the joy of watching the game and seeing the emergence of a 6th round pick like Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos build on his legacy and culminate it with a Super Bowl win as a seal the deal moment. 

I look forward to going back to Canton one day to watch certain players step to the podium and delivering speeches like Shannon Sharpe, or Michael Irvin, or Floyd Little. Also to see their families beaming with pride at this pinnacle moment and to watch the eyes of youngsters dreaming that one day they'll be doing the same thing is a real treat. It is worth the price of admission and one of the best teaching tools a parent can share with a kid about commitment and sacrifice listening to the players chronicle their journey. The ride home gives you time to talk, share and reemphasize what it takes to succeed. 

So plan a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who knows you could be there when UC's first player takes center stage and delivers a memorable speech during a memorable moment. The moment will mean even more if you share it with a youngster in your family.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...
Butch Jones worked hard to create and stress a family atmosphere within his program and it resonating on the recruiting trail with the current group of freshmen players and their parents.

CINCINNATI - Jameel Poteat walked around the University of Cincinnati campus and tried to imagine himself as a Bearcats running back. It was the same routine he followed at the many other schools who welcomed him to campus hoping to lure the talent ranked as the No. 15 back in the country by Rivals.

Then, for the first time in his life, he set his eyes upon Butch Jones.

"He ran out and gave me a hug," Poteat said.

For those who've never been drooled over by college football coaches, rest assured, the hello-hug doesn't come as standard greeting fare.

"I was real surprised," Poteat said. "My mom and dad were like, 'Wow, we like him a lot.' It was crazy the way he came up to me and hugged and everything."

Surprising? Maybe to someone meeting Jones for the first time. But not to anybody who understands the way he runs the program. Phrases like football family and character development play on repeat through the halls and elevators of the Lindner Center. Only, it's not recruiting shtick. Jones' genuine belief in being not only caretaker of the program, but 105 sons wearing its uniform, can't be faked.

In Poteat's case, other coaches came off as underhanded and telling him what he wanted to hear. Not with Jones.

"It really wasn't what he was saying," Poteat said. "It was the way he was talking to us."

When selling a program while trying to compete with the best of the SEC and Big 10 with their seemingly unlimited budgets, there's no time to be fake.

Jones isn't.

And it's working.

Freshman WR Chris Moore, out of Tampa, Fla., opened to the prospect of heading north when UC assistant coach Jahmile Addae started the recruitment. Names like Mardy Gilyard, Armon Binns and Vidal Hazelton drew the initial interest.

Selling the NFL works for teenagers. Selling a stable, family atmosphere closes the deals with parents.

"We went to his office, me and my mom, and we just talked with him," Moore said of meeting Jones for the first time. "It was one of the greatest experiences, ever. My mom was shocked. She fell in love with coach Jones right after she met him. Me, he felt like the perfect role model for me and the perfect coach."

Those words come as high praise considering the source. This was a Parade All-American with 49 receptions for 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns turning down offers from Auburn and Michigan State to be part of the Cincinnati family.

Moore arrived to his first team meeting on Sunday along with 25 other true freshmen. They represent the first true signing class of the Butch Jones era. Last season's group were credited to Jones, but he and his staff only had a few months to secure previous commitments and find others.

This group arrives after two years of courtship of a specific type of player. Jones said the recruiting style which has worked well over the course of his career begins with those relationships. A strong open to the 2012 recruiting class as well insists the time dedicated to developing those are paying off.

"The first year was very challenging because we didn't really have a time to establish relationships," he said. "(These freshmen were) a year in the making. We started the process very early, we had established relationships not only with these young men, but with their parents and their grandparents and their uncles."

Jones and his staff's ability to quickly create familiarity with the prized recruits can be a game-changer. It was for RB Akise Teague. The Ohio Mr. Football new little about UC before opening his recruiting process. Sure, he knew a few players and some of the team's history, but outside of that it wasn't a destination location.

Yet, after meeting with Jones and his assistants, UC jumped into the lead.

"Probably after I evaluated coaching staffs (did UC become my top choice)," he said. "The coaches were so much like mine, I was like man, I like this place."

The player-coach relationship changed Monday. Years of pulling the players into the university transforms to pushing them through grueling practices.

"It's part of the maturation process in the development of them personally," Jones said.

Jones admits Monday to be one of his favorite days of the year. The process changes from growing the family to cultivating it. The hugs might not come as often during the 100-degree days featuring disciplinary wind sprints, but with the addition of another talented recruiting class the Bearcats hope the wins will.

Sure was nice taking in some football yesterday. For the most part, fall practices can become pretty repetitive and monotonous -- and UC's probably will at some point as well -- but the first day sure does feel like a breath of fresh air.

That and if I have to talk anymore about watch lists or rankings I will stab myself in the thigh.

Reminder:
To get all the most of the news I am talking about in real time, follow me on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.

Let's get to the football...

--- Had a good conversation with CB Dominique Battle, who dropped a bit of news on me. He let me know that he was granted a redshirt for his hardship year last season and is still considered a junior.

Actually, he didn't 100-percent know until Monday.

"It was up in the air,' he said. "I hadn't heard officially. When they called all the seniors, they didn't call me. So I guess I'm not a senior."

Indeed, the compliance folks confirmed as much. That means two more years of Battle in a young defensive backfield for the Bearcats. Great news for Kerry Coombs and company. If Battle can regain the form he showed prior to tearing his ACL last year, he could be an anchor on the back end of that defense.

Battle wasn't jumping for joy over the decision, but was happy with it.

"That wasn't the plan when I first came here," he said, "but I will take an extra year."

As for his health, he said he feels great and is at about 95 percent. On a Zach Collaros throw down the right sideline, Battle rose up above the receiver to knock a ball down. It was a darn athletic move for a guy coming off an ACL. He sure looked good from my end.

--- With some good news
, there was also some bad news yesterday. The career of RB Darrin Williams is over. A collection of injuries hampered him and a hamstring ailment put him on medical hardship this year. Butch Jones says Williams will serve other roles on the team as he finishes out his studies.

Here's the official post from Bill Koch. I'd heard rumblings about Williams' injury problems, but wasn't sure it would come to this. Too bad.

He finishes his career with 31 carries for 176 yards.

As for his replacement, the highly publicized freshmen duo of Jameel Poteat and Akise Teague will step in, along with junior George Winn.

Teague comes more in the Williams mode and with very good receiving skills and ability to make guys miss in space, could be a third-down back solution.

--- UC named Zach Collaros
and JK Schaffer as permanent captains. Every member of the team picked those two as captains in voting that occurred Sunday night. So, making them captains for every game was a no-brainer. The leadership from those two is so strong it will provide a great base for both units.

--- 3D TV, it's not just for the Smurfs anymore. In fact, UC's game against NC State will be televised in 3D on ESPN. I apologize in advance if I happen to end up on camera at any point. I feel like my bald head is much better suited for 2D, or even 1D if possible. Really, the fewer Ds the better.

--- If you are hungry
for UC football info, you need to be heading over to Preseason Practice Central on the site every day. Tommy G and the rest of the staff are collecting video, quotes, stories and plenty of other good stuff every day and posting it up for you.

Here's the link. Bookmark it. Go there.

In fact, Tommy G talks with Butch Jones after Day 1 for some perspective.

--- Koch wrote this piece on Isaiah Pead, whose taken on the role of mentor along with Bell Cow. Jones said he sees Pead as a 20+ carry back. If his body can handle the pounding, he has the potential to demolish UC rushing records.

I also spoke with Pead for a bit and he was his standard funny, loquacious self.

When I asked him about the rumors flying around that Teague had beat him in some of the offseason agility drills, he made sure to set the record straight.

"My shoestring might have been untied or something," Pead said, laughing. "I told (Teague), you will not win another one."

By all accounts, the freshman hasn't.

But what I found to be most telling was how seriously Isaiah has taken both the young backs under his wing. He spoke as much about getting himself ready as he did making sure all the other backs are. He's always been a big team guy, but I haven't seen him take this much ownership over his position group before.

"I live by the saying if you be the best person you can be then you are the best," Pead said. "That's my big thing. One, be the best player I can be. Two, making these young guys to be the best so they can come in when you are winded and don't get beat.The worst thing you want is for a sub to come in and the offense goes to trash. Make sure I take care of myself, but take care of the young guys and the team."

--- DJ Woods came in at No. 16 on Andrea Adelson's list of the Big East's best players. She also wrote these two graphs about the opening of camp.

--- UC came out for practice this morning with its first of two practices on the day. This is the first of three straight days of split squad practices at Nippert.

--- Dayton's Jerel Worthy
, a Michigan State linebacker, got a tattoo of a Spratan killing a Wolverine with a sword on his left bicep. Now, that would be a special edition of Ink of the Week right there.

By the way, IOTW fans, fret not. The tattoo series will return this year once we get all the early storylines and news out of the way.

--- On to some randomness....

--- If you are going to be naked, you might as well run on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles.

--- I know you were just thinking, why can't I get more Jaleel White in my life? Well, here you go.

--- Big fan of The League,
even though it is about the lowest of brows you can find on FX (and that's saying something). That said, Seth Rogen is going to guest star on the show. I think this could be a strong combination.

--- Speaking of Low Brow, Jersey Shore was the most watched show in cable for 12-49-year-olds last week. Go ahead and let that one soak in.

By the way, great episode.

--- Haven't broken out Arcade Fire in a while, so why not today. Look for more on the blog later today and we'll see you at Breakfast tomorrow.


Football season arrived. And there was much rejoicing.

That's right, UC opens fall practice today at 3 p.m. The full squad of 105 reported for a collection of meetings and meals last night at the Lindner Center.

I popped up there for a little bit and was able to catch up with Butch Jones and a few of the new faces on the team.

Plenty to be excited about. The team has a new catering deal with Cincinnati State Culinary Institute and the setup will be a nice upgrade for the Cats. They do it right over there. Apparently, Akise Teague and Jameel Poteat have been pushing Isaiah Pead in some of the speed and agility drills. Of course, after a few losses to Teague, Pead woudn't have it and now hasn't lost one in three weeks.

The most important development for this year's fall camp, however, is the trend of strong beard growth on the team.

Some were unkempt, others leprechauned and another a miniature version of Brett Keisel.

Now, I love sports. There are few things I love discussing more than sports. Yet, wild facial hair is one of them. Trust me, this blog will be the spot to find all your UC beard needs over the next three weeks of camp.

If any of the beard-less players develop jealousy at the rich, full lives of their bearded brethren, they could always call Baron Davis for help.
 


Let's eat...

--- WR D.J. Woods was
named to the Paul Hornung Watch List for the most versatile player in college football.

Woods finished 15th in the country last year in all-purpose yards. He averaged 155 ypg. He was ranked sixth among those at AQ schools.

He was one of the most productive players in the league a year ago, leading the BE in all-purpose yards. He ranked in the Top-10 in the conference in receptions per game (3rd/4.8), receiving yards per game (2nd/74.8), punt return average (6th/7.7) and kick return average (7th/22.8). His 10 touchdowns (eight receiving, two rushing) tied for fourth in the BE.

I haven't received confirmation from Kerry Coombs on this, but I'd fully expect him to be returning punts and kickoffs once again. Likely some of the exciting younger players will receive a look there this fall, but Woods' proven playmaking should put him over the top.

For him, the biggest concern will be taking care of the ball. As long as he avoids the turnovers in those situations, he'll again be one of the best return men in the conference.

--- Seeing Dan Hoard's
blog back brings a smile to my face. Here he is chatting with JK Schaffer from BE Media Days.

JK to critics: "Bring it."

--- Eagles.com talks about
Jason Kelce running with the ones some at Philly camp. Kelce has been among the biggest surprises at their camp, though, it's no surprise to anybody that followed his career at UC.

Still, the amount of looks he's received as a starter even left Kelce taken back a bit.

"I'm surprised that I was thrown into the mix as soon as I was, but I'm taking it head on," Kelce said. "It's been a very, very aggressive learning curve for the first couple of practices so just getting used to the speed of the game, the calls, the cadence, everything - it's been pretty mind-boggling for the first few practices."

--- Here's the report-to-camp story from Bill Koch. Covers all the basics for you slackers that don't pay attention during the offseason.

--- I'm working on a piece on Butch Jones and why his recruiting techniques work as his first true class arrives on campus. That should be up in the near future.

I talked to Jameel Poteat for the story. If you don't know his recruitment story, he decommitted from Pitt and chose UC. He was ranked as one of the top 15 RB recruit in the country by Rivals.

He says he still gets some mail from Pitt fans and heard all about how they believe he made the wrong decision. Remember, Poteat is from the Pittsburgh area.

It will be fun talking to Jameel the week of the Pitt game. Needless to say, he's got that one circled on the calendar.

"Can't wait," he snapped off, in what felt like a calm version of a Bart Scott impression. "I have teammates that play for Pitt. All the fans telling me I made the wrong decision. I can't wait."

--- Andrea Adelson tackles the concept of the TCU expansion increasing the Big East's chances of playing for a national championship. Long story short, not really. Any team going undefeated will do that. UC didn't make it in 2009 because Alabama and Texas didn't lose a game. There are only a handful of teams in the country that could even make an argument for inclusion over either of those programs in a year they go undefeated.

As I said last week, as long as the league as a whole rebounds from the awful non-conference season against other AQs, then its image and argument for inclusion in BCS games will be fine.

And adding TCU certainly won't hurt that.

--- Syracuse's WR
corps took a hit recently.

--- The Enquirer catches
up with Darnell Wilks as the dunk machine begins his career with the Globetrotters.

--- I feel for Mick Cronin and his staff. Having so much of your career depend on the loyalty habits of teenagers must be mind-numbing. Luke Winn at SI put together a fantastic investigative piece into the increased "flightiness" among top HS recruits.

--- Jeff Goodman put together
an offseason overview of all the teams in the Big East.

--- Bearcats in the pros are on fire right now. You have Jason Kelce pushing to start in Philly. Omar Cummings scored this nice goal for the Colorado Rapids. Tony Campana had the biggest game of his young career against the Reds on Friday. Campana hit an Inside the Park HR, the first at Wrigley Field since 2001. The ball didn't even hit the cutoff man by the time he made it into home.

Here's Campana talking to reporters after the game.

Campana's UC buddies were blowing up his phone after the game, according to this piece in the Chicago Tribune.



Some randomness....

--- Real Madrid played
against 109 children in China this weekend -- at once. It's wild video and a perfect visual representation of how many people view the country.

--- The police in Alabama
faked a scenario where Deadbeat Parents owing child support are given a letter saying they won free tickets to the Alabama-Auburn game. When they show up for them, the cops arrest them. The demeanor change is priceless.

--- The FX show Wilfred is growing on me. And it will continue too since the channel renewed it for another year.

--- I'll be headed down to practice later today. Look for plenty more info from myself and the rest of the clan on GoBearcats as fall practice gets underway. On that note, Thin Lizzy only seems fitting. Have a good one.


JK Schaffer Tells Skeptics to "Bring It"

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UC senior linebacker JK Schaffer knew what was coming when reporters approached him at Big East Media Day in Newport, RI.

 

"I expect to hear, 'What are you guys going to do to not give up so many points?'" Schaffer said.

 

Schaffer hit.jpg 

Last season, Cincinnati allowed 336 in 12 games, including 30-or-more in losses to NC State, Oklahoma, USF, Syracuse, West Virginia and UConn.  The Bearcats started 8 sophomores and no seniors on defense, making UC the youngest defensive unit at the BCS level last season. 

 

"We can't just be older - we have to be better," said head coach Butch Jones.

 

Having experienced players back should obviously help, but Schaffer says having the entire defensive coaching staff back is just as significant.

 

"This is the first time since I've been here that we've run the same defense two years in a row," Schaffer told me.  "In camp, we're going to be able to focus on the little things instead of learning a new defense."

 

"It's critical," said Coach Jones.  "We could go into our meeting rooms this spring and pick up where we left off because we had a knowledge base.  The mental part of it is so big."

 

When the Bearcats hold their first practice on Monday afternoon, Schaffer expects there to be far less confusion than a year ago.

 

"Sometimes you would be like, 'Hold on...is that the new defense or the old one?' Schaffer said.  "You would get a little confused when you were out there on the field.  That didn't happen during the games, but it did during fall camp.  If that is happening a few weeks before the season begins, you're in trouble.  This year, I get to spend a camp focusing on the fine details instead of learning new lingo, new signals, and new schemes."

 

Stewart.jpg 

One player to keep on eye on in pre-season camp is junior Walter Stewart who dropped from 4.5 sacks in a part-time role as a redshirt freshman to 2 sacks while starting as a sophomore.  After playing outside linebacker last year, Stewart is moving to defensive end in 2011.

 

"Walter Stewart has added 38 pounds and he's going to be a force," said Coach Jones.  "We didn't have much of an edge presence last year and I think he is going to help us in that area." 

 

There are obviously going to be skeptics until the Bearcat defense proves that it is improved in 2011.  With first team All-Big East quarterback Zach Collaros and second team All-Big East running back Isaiah Pead back to lead the offense, doubts about the defense were clearly a big reason why Cincinnati was picked to finish 5th in the Big East.  

 

"Bring it," said Schaffer.  "I love being the underdog and underrated.  The driving force behind my whole life is going out and proving people wrong, so I wouldn't want it any other way."

 

"We're hungry and excited to get things started and if we put our heads down and focus on the bull's eye every day, we'll like our body of work by the end of the season," Jones said.

 

* * * * *

 

By now, I'm guessing that most of you know that I'm headed back to Cincinnati full-time.  After spending nearly six years living in Boston and broadcasting Pawtucket Red Sox games in the summer, I am returning to the 'Nati with my wife Peg and son Sam (AKA, "the handsome lad"), to become the Cincinnati Bengals new radio play-by-play announcer.

 

There is no truth to the rumor that I was traded from New England to Cincinnati for Chad Ochocinco.

 

One of the best things about the new opportunity is that it will allow me to continue broadcasting UC football and basketball.  It looks like I will miss one Bearcat football game (Akron), but the schedules line up favorably and I'm extremely grateful to UC Athletic Director Mike Thomas, WLW President Chuck Fredrick, and WLW VP of Sports Marketing Joe Fredrick for allowing me to remain with the Bearcats while broadcasting NFL games.

 

It's going to be crazy at times, but in the words of Jets linebacker Bart Scott:  Can't Wait!

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

New Year, New Faces

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Hey Everyone!

  Well we are on our third day of preseason and things have been looking good for the Bearcats! We started off our 2011 season with compliance, academic, equiptment, and social media meetings on Tuesday afternoon followed by a team dinner at Martino's. Our equiptment this year is awesome, especially our travel suits for away trips that came about two sizes too big (Check out the picture below)!! Practice and two-a-days officially started Wednesday morning at 7am with the beep test! We ended up having 15 girls pass our first fitness test which was a great start to the year. After our test we had an hour delay because of the weather so we ended up starting playing at our afternoon session Wednesday.

  Wednesday afternoon started with defending and we certainly got after it! We worked on defensive shape as well as some 2v2's and 3v3's before playing full sided for about 40 minutes. We tried a lot of different players in a lot of positions to see what will work best for us this fall. After the afternoon session it was off to the cold tub to ice our bodies down and team dinner.

  By Thursday morning we were already starting to feel a little fatigued so we made sure to do some extra stretching with the coaches before our session to make sure no one pulled a muscle. We continued with our defensive theme Thursday morning and did a 3 box drill to work on defensive pressure from the first defender, support from the second defender, and cover from the third defender. It was a good way to incorporate defending while playing one of our favorite games! After that we scrimmaged and played a little game of Blondes vs. Brunettes, one of our favorite shooting games. Unfortunately the blondes came away with the first win but the brunettes are ready for a rematch this afternoon! Thursday's afternoon session was all about switching the point of attack and how we defend once the point of attack is switched. It was a really great session that showed how a system can break down if we allow the other team to switch the point of attack.

  This morning we ran the SEBCO test which is a mixture of soccer skills and fitness. This time 18 players passed and we have about 12 girls who are 2 for 2 with passing the fitness tests which is awesome! It's so good to see our team coming back in shape and it motivates everyone so much to see your teammates working their butts off to pass these tests. We had to run in 3 groups because we have such a large team this year so it took about an hour and a half to finish everyone because each test group has 25:30 to complete the test. It was great to have plenty of people cheering you on as you crossed the line after your final 120 knowing you had passed the test.

  So far preseason has been really good both on the field and off the field. Girls are really buying into what we represent at UC and I cannot wait to see how our hard work shows during the season. We have already come so far from past years and I only except us to keep going up from here! With a few hours before our next session I am about to take a quick nap before heading back to the locker room to get ready for our next session!

Go Bearcats---RAWRRRRRRR!

KP #14 

 

 

Katie  Johnson, Me, and Kate Schmidt looking awfully intimidating in our new travel suits!!

new sweats.jpg

Enjoy this folks, it's the final weekend without college football news flying at you. The month of August can be the most frustrating of the year. For me, it's like waiting in a long line to ride The Beast. You know it's going to be awesome, but standing in line is truly horrific. All you can do is think about how great it will be and do nothing about it.

I'll do my best to provide entertainment for your wait in line with plenty of info and interviews as soon as the team reports. Remember, if there are any particular questions or issues regarding players or anything at all you need answers to, feel free to send me an email (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com), a message on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) or just leave a comment at the bottom of the blog.

I'll do my best to find out and get back to you as soon as possible.

Let's eat...

--- ESPN is running its Yards to Glory series on the defining plays of college football history by each yard. And sure enough, showing up at No. 29 was Tony Pike to Armon Binns. If you need me to remind you of what that play is, I will just tell you to never come back to this blog again.

However, just because I post this play whenever given a semblance of an excuse to do so, here it is one more time. Still won't forget it, this was my first assignment at CNati.com and first event I covered after moving back to the city from my newspaper gig in Georgia. Not a bad welcome back.



The other piece of information I remember about that game, that few people talk about anymore was Brian Kelly's decision to keep Tony Pike in the game. He was absolutely miserable during the first three quarters of the game. The Twitterazzi were all calling for Collaros. Shoot, I was as well. Seemed a no-brainer. But Brian Kelly stuck with Pike who produced the most memorable fourth quarter in UC football history. Turns out it was the final great decision of his brief UC career.

--- The preseason coaches poll was released yesterday with a Big East representative.

I've long been on board with the first polls of the season coming out Oct. 1. The early polls are so based on speculation, but do effect the national title race in many ways. If multiple teams are undefeated, whoever is ranked higher will have the upper hand in the BCS. Voters should have some content to review before making this type of important decision.

Anyway, here was some reaction from the Big East perspective. West Virginia came in at No. 27, USF No. 38 and Pitt No. 47.

--- K Jake Rogers put the extra point on that win at Pitt in 2009, but unfortunately was cut by the Saints yesterday. However, according to UC I-Team leader Tommy G, he hears Rogers may be latching on elsewhere. The way kickers rotate in the NFL, there is always an opportunity as long as you put some of your ability on tape. Rogers just needs to end up on a team for preseason games somewhere to catch the eyes of coaches when they start searching for kickers.

--- According to NFL reporter Adam Kaplan, Jason Kelce has started to push incumbent Jamaal Jackson at center. Love it. Guy will stick with the Eagles this year, at least on the practice squad if not better.

--- Tough break for DePaul as Barry Larkin's son Shane, one of Oliver Purnell's prized recruits, won't be attending the school this fall to be closer to his Orlando home due to a medical condition.

Larkin was at the top of the Demons class and will be missed as they try to climb out of the cellar.

--- Sure would have loved to see UC in the Maui Invitational this year. Man, what a field.

--- Apparently, the folks at UConn are pretty happy Randy Edsall left.

--- Boy, am I ever ready to have some player and coach interviews to post up here for you. Until then, we'll have to enjoy the randomness....

--- IFC premieres its new series "Whisker Wars" tonight. Yes, that's a reality show about competitive facial hair growing. I have to imagine because the show is about excessive facial hair isn't the only reason there won't be any women in the scenes.

And an interview with the show's star, Jack Passion.

--- Red Hot Chili Peppers
will be debuting their new CD in movie theaters. Like.

--- Why going on The Real World is the equivalent of imprisonment. Only, with many more conjugal visits.

--- Clooney. Put a nice little life together for himself.

--- Judging by EVERYONE'S FACEBOOK UPDATES, McCartney was amazing last night. Here was Hey Jude from somebody on the field. See you Monday.


Only three more days until players report and four days until the Bearcats officially open practice.

You can feel it now. Well, that might be my body going into preemptive shock anticipating the 100-degree heat index at Higher Ground, but feeling something, regardless.

As for the official countdown, 30 days until Austin Peay at Nippert.

Let's eat...

--- In case you haven't seen enough interviews with Coach Butch Jones lately, here's CBJ with Andrea Adelson as he answers the "what did you learn from last season question" for the 543th time.

--- Does the Big East need a dominant team to garner more national respect? Probably. I've seen this commentary pop up in numerous outlets.

The AP wrote this story about the lack of a heavyweight in the conference.

 I understand the importance of perception in college football, particularly in regards to your image in recruiting. But in what way does West Virginia dominating or Pitt putting together a dynasty run empower the Big East, except in the eyes of writers?

It doesn't.

Will the league have more "respect" if West Virginia went undefeated and won the Orange Bowl? Maybe. But what does that really mean. Does the league image really affect the bottom line of whether or not a team in particular would make a BCS bowl? If a breakout team goes undefeated, like UC did in 2009, they aren't going to be held out of the national title game because of image. If the Texas field goal doesn't go through, UC would have played Alabama for the title. It was 12-0 and not this image of the Big East that made it possible.

At the end of the day, as much as we talk about subjective polls and rankings, wins and losses seal your fate, even in college football. Just ask Auburn and Oregon.

So, no I don't buy that competitiveness within the Big East is a bad thing. They need to prove they can compete with other BCS conferences by beating them consistently in regular season non-conference and bowl games. That will float the argument the Big East isn't the red-headed stepchild of the BCS. It will bring more validity to winning conference games and BE championships.

Most importantly, you don't want your conference wins devalued. A perfect season by WVU wouldn't accomplish that for a school like Cincinnati.

--- Athlon Sports must be a reader of the Breakfast since somebody finally listened to me in listing Derek Wolfe as a breakout player this season.

--- Cleveland.com asks if readers remember DJ Woods and talk about him being "one to watch." Apparently they haven't watched him rack up 1,538 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Also, the headline wizards used Woods like, you know, the forest, and even placed a bear reference with it. You see what they did there?

But, a story on Woods' roots nonetheless.

--- I linked you guys the Lance Stephenson update story from the Indy Star yesterday, but Adam Zagoria added to the news, reporting that Lance will be headed to play overseas during the lockout.

Love this move for him. Gets him away from any lingering bad influences and will allow him to focus on his game in a fundamentals-heavy Euro environment. Here's hoping it all works out.

--- Look! It's a scatterplot of basketball/football school outlooks by attendance fig.....zzzzzzz.

--- Preseason soccer training begins next week. Tommy G caught up with Hylton Dayes.

--- Less practices and no two-a-days make sense for the NFL and let's hope some colleges adopt the philosophy as well. Sporting News Matt Crossman points out the craziness of pushing it too far in the August heat.

--- Some randomness...

--- Today's Breakfast tip:
When you play the "bury me in the sand" game at the beach, you don't need the hole to be deeper than six feet. That's excessive.

--- Are you on Google+? Apparently everyone else is. I don't know that I can handle another social media platform.

Sidenote: Stop checking in. Nobody cares.

--- To all the Lost
fans out there who have been shaking in the fetal position due to withdrawl for the last year and a half, here's JJ Abrams talking about the finale

--- That...is one magic loogie.

--- With Sir Paul McCartney
invading Great American Ball Park tonight, it would only be fair to post one of his greatest hits up on the blog. Here's Back in the USSR from Wrigley Field on Monday. Have a great time tonight for everyone headed to the concert. And eat as many stinkin' brats as you want.

 

The official day of interviews took place on Tuesday from the Big East Media Day in Newport, RI. There will be plenty of videos and comments from multiple different news outlets coming below.

It's remarkable so much work got accomplished there considered the lobster-induced coma I assume all the media folks fell into after Monday night's clambake.

Here's a photo taken by one of the scribes.

clambake.jpgI've had dreams which started with that image. While there likely weren't any Cheddar Bay biscuits, this was no Red Lobster feast. This is the real deal. My jealousy of not being in attendance runs deeper than pockets of the median household breadwinner in Newport, RI.

We need to move on. Let's eat...

--- Bill Koch filed
his story from the clambake on the high number of veteran quarterbacks leading their teams this year. All but UConn and Louisville return their starting QBs from 2010, but only UC brings back the reigning BE first-team quarterback.

Still, most of the preseason hype surrounds West Virginia QB Geno Smith. That stems primarily from the success nearly every quarterback has enjoyed in new coach Dana Holgorsen's offense.

He spent 2009 as OC/QB coach at the University of Houston and turned Case Keenum into the nation's top passer. After moving to Oklahoma State under the same title last season, QB Brandon Weeden finished third in the country in passing yards per game. Certainly, those rankings come thanks to a pass-heavy offense where Keenum finished first in the country in attempts (617) and Weeden finished sixth (511).

That said, Holgorsen's QBs aren't close-your-eyes-and-fire types. What's remarkable has been besides their attempts, the efficiency rating has been among the best as well. In 2009, Keenum ranked 6th in QB rating. In 2010, Weeden ranked 16th.

I spoke a bit with WVU alum and All-Pro Blogger John Thornton yesterday and he talked about how Holgorsen's offensive success has followed him everywhere and the coach thinks Smith has taken to the system faster than even Weeden did at OK State. Indeed, a scary thought.

Bottom line in college football these days, great quarterbacks win games. Period. End of discussion. More specifically, veteran quarterbacks win games.

Take a look at the last five Big East champs:

2010: UConn - Zach Frazer, Sr., 2nd-year starter
2009: UC - Tony Pike, Sr., 2nd-year starter
2008: UC - Tony Pike, Jr., 1st-year starter
2007: WVU: Pat White, Sr., 4th-year starter
2006: Louisville: Brian Brohm, Jr., 2nd-year starter

Outside of Tony Pike and the remarkable season UC enjoyed in 2008, experienced quarterbacks -- more often than not seniors -- have ruled the day. The good news for UC? Well, Zach Collaros, of course. The bad news? Two other quarterbacks in the conference fit the senior mold this year: Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib. And three others fit the mold as second-year junior starters. 

It's all part of the reason I believe the Big East will fair remarkably better in non-conference play this season, but that is for a different post.

The prominence of spread attacks and veteran quarterbacks should make for much more competitive teams and increased parity within the league, if that's even possible after last season.

--- Speaking of Collaros, he made the rounds in Newport. He spoke here with the Big East TV folks.

Collaros also took three minutes to catch up with Andrea Adelson of ESPN. He talked during both stops about this team learned how to deal with adversity and maintain composure as one of the primary benefits of last year's disappointment. No doubt, chip has been placed squarely on the shoulder.

--- Interesting conversation between Adelson and national writer Ivan Maisel here. They talk about possible expansion and the feeling on the future of the league on the verge of its most critical television deal in history.

Maisel said he thinks Villanova has been so indecisive about its dedication to making the leap to D-I that they are far from a sure bet anymore. Nor is the league even expanding at all a sure shot.

I still believe UCF would be a fantastic fit in both size and TV market, but my opinion means about as much to them as that of those dead lobsters above.

--- Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant writes about why the next TV deal is so important. As does the NY Times, while pounding the pavement for the validity of the conference which is only beefed up by the addition of TCU next year.

Related news, UC will travel to Dallas/Fort Worth to play TCU next season.

--- Of course, Butch Jones spoke in Newport yesterday. Here it is.

--- Here was the
roundup of all the coaches' comments from yesterday from Chip Patterson at CBSsports.com

--- On the homestead, Tommy G spoke with Kerry Coombs. You really shouldn't need more reason to click the link than that.

--- Unfortunate update on Tony Pike in Carolina. Apparently, he's been sidelined with shoulder inflammation. Poor timing to say the least for a team that just brought in another high-profile quarterback.

--- Armon Binns pulled in a nice jump ball for an impressive TD catch at a Jags practice. No surprise there.

--- Larry Bird called Lance Stephenson his best player in June. It appears things are looking up for Lance, at least for now. Here's the story from the Indy Star.

--- Some randomness...

--- Syracuse defensive end Mikhail Marinovich looks like Rollie Fingers.

--- The Cardinals have hit full-on excuse-cycle time as they start falling out of the race. First the lighting at Miller Park is inconsistent? We're blaming ribbon boards now? Then, they are throwing at Ryan Braun. And Yadier Molina comes completely unglued. Wonder what @DatDudeBP thinks about all this. My guess is validated. Once again.

--- What would you do
if a bear attacked you? If the answer is punch it in the face, you are the most badass member of the US Ski Team.

--- Have a good Wednesday everyone and I'll talk to you tomorrow. Remember UC football holds its first practice on Monday and the season beings in exactly one month!

--- Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter. @Sc000tter does and he sent me this link, titled "Bengals war room during free agency." I'm not sure which one is Mike Brown, but I couldn't be happier about trying to figure it out.


Us media types tend to think very highly of ourselves and our knowledge of the subject matter which we cover. Some times deservedly, many others irrationally.

In sports, understanding the situation and the teams you cover doesn't at all correspond to predicting actual success. Handicapping yes, but predicting is impossible. There's a reason your boss' wife who picks her favorite mascots wins the NCAA pool at your office every year.

There's a reason last year's national champion began the year outside the preseason Top 20. There's a reason last year's preseason No. 5 team in the country finished 5-7 (Texas).

Sports are more unpredictable than a blind date.

So, while the Big East football media poll will create plenty of fodder for us scribes, the only thing it shouldn't do it be held as a ledger of expectations. This is what a bunch of writers looking a pieces of paper with heights, weights and stars on them while recollecting a few games from a year ago sent in an email before crushing another free buffet.

And I include myself in that depressing mix.

But, we will have a month until the season opens, so we need something to talk about, right?

Anyway, here is the Big East media poll that somehow was leaked last night. (Who even attempts to find this leak?)

1. WVU         188
2. Pitt            162
3. USF           151
4. Syracuse     98
5. Cincinnati    96
6. UConn         76
7. Louisville     60
8. Rutgers       33

All fair enough. West Virginia, on paper, has the most talent returning and a top quarterback to go with it. Interestingly, the top two teams in the poll own first-year head coaches. Of the three first-year head coaches in the league last season, two programs fell below expectations (UC, USF) and another jumped above it (UL), but none finished above .500 in conference.

But back to why this list of teams and numbers above should mean as much as if I ranked them by which school makes the best chili.

Take a look at last year's preseason poll:

1. Pitt
2. UC/WVU
4. UConn
5. Rutgers
6. USF
7. Syracuse
8. Louisville

How did they actually finish?

1. UConn
2. WVU
3. Pitt
4. Syracuse
5. Louisville
6. USF
7. UC
8. Rutgers

The winner was fourth, a second-place selection seventh and the two last-place picks in the middle. But other than, pretty accurate. Yikes.

The last year that the Big East media correctly predicted the eventual champion? 2007. We're on a three-year losing streak. And, to be fair, picking WVU to repeat with Pat White and Steve Slaton returning wasn't exactly rocket science.

Here is the list of champs with their corresponding preseason media poll spot:

2010: UConn (4)
2009: UC (3)
2008: UC (5)
2007: WVU (1)

Yep, that's right, the last time UC was picked to finish 5th in the preseason poll was 2008. They won the title and went to the Orange Bowl that year. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin.

The parity within the Big East has grown exponentially in the last three years and few more evident than this season where you could make a legitimate argument for almost every team (sorry, Rutgers) to win the title.

Considering the last three champs were ranked either 3,4 or 5, I guess that makes USF, Syracuse and UC the odds on favorites to play in the BCS? Yeah, something like that.

Moral of the story: The BE Preseason Media Poll came out today. Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

Let's eat...

--- Hey, look! It's Dan Hoard! He's at the Big East Media Days and he's reporting for your viewing pleasure. Bengals, Bearcats, Pawtucket Red Sox? He's the Swiss Army Knife of modern sports broadcasting.

--- More lovely GoBearcats.com
video. This time talking defense with co-DC/LBs coach Jon Jancek. Can't talk with Jancek without talking about his undeniable leader, JK Schaffer. Amid a sea of youth and potential on that defense, Schaffer brings a consistency invaluable to this defense's progression.

--- Tim Adams isn't done with you yet! Part III of his interview with Butch Jones.

--- I have been and will continue to pound the pavement on the DL Derek Wolfe for Heisman campaign. OK, not quite, but I think the guy has been incredibly underrated by every outlet I have read.

Andrea Adelson places him at No. 21 player in the Big East. I'm happy he made it and Adelson gives him more love than most, but I still would place him in the top 15.

--- A Big East hoops team coming under fire for a weak non-conference schedule? Bearcats fans may be familiar with the storyline coming out of UConn.

Only a few of UC's non-con games are known right now, but judging by the success of last season and conviction Mick Cronin has had in how he handled the schedule last year, I would expect UC's to look much like the Huskies' does. Three or four major conference opponents (XU, Georgia among them) a few in the middle (Marshall) and the standard run of smaller schools.

--- Jason King at Yahoo! updated his preseason Top 25 college hoops poll. He has UC at No. 19 and Xavier at No. 20. Can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the Crosstown Shootout this year.

Here's King's graph on UC. Not exactly revolutionary stuff, but there it is anyway.

"The Bearcats won their first 15 games last season against a collection of mostly no-name opponents. But they proved their legitimacy by going 11-7 in the Big East and then waxing Missouri in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Mick Cronin's team returns its top four scorers, including forward Yancy Gates (11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds)."

--- Some randomness...

--- That's one way to celebrate grandma. At least they didn't latch her onto the trailer hitch.

--- Blog favorite Dana O'Neil captures the peculiar rise of Brian Gregory to Georgia Tech. I'm sure UD alum Mo Egger wouldn't use "peculiar," but I won't put words in his mouth.

--- Spent 40 minutes this morning reading this piece on the Seal Team 6 operation killing Osama bin Laden. Just a fascinating read. (H/t Jeremy Martin)

--- Local Kings of Leon fans are looking for something else to do on Aug. 24 since the band canceled their US Tour. Too bad, would have been a fun show.

--- "The Milwaukee Brewers: Beer, sausages, Prince Fielder and other things that fat people like." Sports Pickle with 30 internal slogans of MLB teams.

--- Randy Moss playing in the MAC was like Yancy Gates spending next season in the CYO at St. Susanna. (Go Titans!)