Bearcats Breakfast 4.13.12

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Spent yesterday afternoon poking around as UC started wrapping up preparations for Saturday's Bearcat Bowl VI. Plenty was happening around the Varsity Village and not just because it was National Grilled Cheese Day.

The UC players and staff received their Big East championship rings from the past season on their way into eat lunch. I don't quite know where you were would appropriately wear these things out, other than for an A-Team marathon, but they sure were impressive.

HoffRing.jpgFor the record, Alex Hoffman is about 6-6, 295 pounds. And this is how big the ring looked on his finger.

I'd need to hit the weight room and do some finger curls of some sort in order to keep the hand stable.

The rings were modeled after those of the San Antonio Spurs when they last won an NBA title for any ring aficionados following the blog.

By any design, impressive and a grand symbol of a grand accomplishment.

Let's eat...

--- Last year about this time,
when offering up predictions regarding the 2011 season, all signs pointed to the offensive line as the question mark. Sure, Zach Collaros could toss it. Sure, Isaiah Pead could run it. But could a refigured offensive line attempting to replace a starting NFL center find a way to give them both time to do their worst to opponents?

The answer was a resounding yes. Last year's group finished second in the Big East in sacks allowed (16), plus first in yards per carry (4.6) and rushing touchdowns (28). That's one of the primary reasons UC ascended to a share of the Big East title and victory in the Liberty Bowl.

One year later, a reconfiguration occurs again. Only this time, with maturing components surrounding them at quarterback and running back, the pressure increases exponentially on this group to lead the way in offensive production.
bujnoch-thumb-400x262-22509.jpgTwo of the five starters from last year's opener will be the same as Sean Hooey will play RT and Austen Bujnoch will man LG, but the three other spots will consist of two Bearcats with little to no experience (C Dan Sprague and whoever wins a competition at RG) and a third playing the most important position on the line for the first time in his college career (LT Eric Lefeld, moved over from RT).

Recapturing the magic of 2011 won't be as easy as repeating the steps taken along the way one year ago.

"Every offensive line is different," Bujnoch said. "We already have conversations with Hoffman, Randy (Martinez), Evan (Davis) about how we are going to be better than them. Try to be better than them. It is a competition each year. We are going to try to be more physical than them."

Easy thoughts to consider when opening day sits five months off in the distance. Coach Don Mahoney said we caught him on a bad day yesterday as the group suffered one of the valleys along the roller-coaster of mixing and matching the team's best lineman to form a cohesive group.

He knows without Isaiah Pead and Zach Collaros behind them, this group can't afford to be just as good as last year. The must be better.

In all reality, when you do have a back as talented and electrifying as him, you can be a little bit wrong and he covers that up," Mahoney said, pointing out they need to sustain blocks longer this year. "We can't be wrong, not slighting our backs we have right now, there aren't many Isaiah Peads in the country. We love George Winn, love Poteat, love Ralph David, Buckley, those electrifying backs only come so often. We all have to be right on a consistent basis a lot more than ever have before."

At the centerpiece of the line is the intriguing story of Sprague, a senior whose yet to start at game for UC. He sat back and watched All-Big East centers Chris Jurek and Jason Kelce develop the Bearcats reputation for the league's top centers. He did so while being converted from a high school linebacker. Not exactly the standard move.

Dan's been a story that has been ridiculous, his freshman year, Dan didn't know anything," Bujnoch said. "From Year 1 to now completely different."

Making the calls and enduring the mental rigors of playing center are progressing nicely, picking up the speed of the game challenged his talents. Luckily, he's surrounded by a group learning new spots as they go along with him.

It was definitely hard for me to try to learn the offense inside and out," Sprague said. "I had to learn what I was doing. I had to sit back and trust everything and watch those guys before me. Our communication is really good. All of us are pretty close, tight-knit group, communication comes naturally for us. We are all taking this big step forward, trying to drag each other along the way."

--- Sprague called Jason Kelce the greatest athlete he's ever seen, not just on the offensive line. Kelce was back at practice roaming around yesterday. His beard was as well.

Seeing it in the flesh, I can tell you it is one of the most impressive facial hair productions I've seen in years.

"He looks terrible," Bujnoch said with a laugh.

After speaking with him for a bit, he talked about the optimism the Eagles have for next year after finishing strong. He pointed out they should have beat the Super Bowl champion Giants twice.

He's one of the good guys and most engaging personalities in the league and the Cats are lucky to have him represent them. Especially because of the beard.

If you need a visual, here he is talking with Tommy G.

--- TG also spoke with the always insightful OC Mike Bajakian about the progress of his guys.

--- Also, ran into Mick Cronin up on the 8th floor as the rings were given out. Talked to him for a bit about new JC signee Titus Rubles. He gave his assessment of Rubles talent in a way that made sense in both name and game.

He compared Rubles favorably as a taller version of Ruben Patterson. The same way Patterson could score and attack athletically from all over the floor, he sees Rubles in that mode as an instant impact guy.

With the starting three guards of Cash, SK and Parker all but set, he'll fall into the rotation with Justin Jackson and others at the four for now -- depending on what happens with the still vacant final scholarship.

Not saying this will happen at all, only pointing out in his second season with UC before being drafted by the Lakers, Ruben averaged 16.5 points and 6.3 boards. Add even half that to next year's team and the team will be developing scary depth.

--- Eamonn Brennan at ESPN pointed out UC among the preseason Top 25 snubs to look out for.

--- Apparently, Kenny Satterfield
left his team in Japan. He was the league's leader in assists, but bolted because he was unhappy with his situation. Here's the piece from the Japan Times.

Maybe he'll join Eric Hicks with the Commandos.

--- Once again, hope to see everybody out at the Bearcat Bowl tomorrow. Remember, activities going on all day up at the Varsity Village, be sure to come check it out.

--- Randomness...

--- All the Jay-Z fans out there can appreciate this couples jersey combination.

--- Mike Tyson. Not sure what to make of this, only know it's probably marginally entertaining.

--- If attempting to rob a bank, you'll likely need a weapon more menacing than a plunger.

--- All my man wanted was his shocks replaced on his car. The dealer wouldn't cooperate. Thus, his bad day reached its tipping point. And we all were given this gem.

--- Happy Friday everybody. Enjoy it and we'll see you tomorrow. In honor of Axl Rose refusing to show up to his band's HOF induction, how about some classic Guns and best opening lick in the history of rock n' roll.

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