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Bearcats Breakfast 4.16.12

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Mother Nature hates the UC Spring Game. After this weekend, I'll report that as fact. After Butch Jones opening spring game where not a soul left Nippert Stadium dry, the entire event was cancelled due to the storm that rolled through Cincinnati on Saturday.

Sending the guys out in the rain and forcing fans to get soaked watching a scrimmage wouldn't have been the smartest of moves and while nobody wanted to see it come to that, it had to be done.

Instead, Butch Jones invited the fans who were enduring the conditions to come inside the bubble and watch the private workout. While it lacked the allure of a scrimmage and intensity of The Nipp, it allowed glimpse into what life has been like for UC the past few weeks.

What did we learn over that time?

-- Munchie is the incumbent, though not the guaranteed starter -- though Butch did say Saturday night the junior-to-be enjoyed one of the best days of his spring on Saturday, showing control, poise and control of the pocket. 

-- Brendon Kay will be in the conversation.

-- Jordan Luallen will find a way on the field -- somehow.

-- Solomon Tentman is a beast, the feel-good story of this team and your starting middle linebacker.

-- Three running backs are vying for carries and all could be given some. And that wouldn't be all that out of the ordinary.

-- As Butch Jones said on Saturday -- and this may just be coachspeak to stress attention to detail, but I didn't hear Butch say it last year -- "this is a football team where our margin for error is going to be extremely small."

Now, coaches aren't allowed contact with the players and the team will be in the hands of the strength and conditioning staff until the fall. Then the competition truly spices up.

Let's eat...

--- With no new storylines
to explore as a result of the what was supposed to be Bearcat Bowl VI, I was able to talk to a two players I'd been meaning to speak with all spring.

Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano are two of the key remaining parts of a defensive line that carried UC last year. Don't forget, this team was ranked second in the nation in sacks last season.

It became one of two things this team hung their hat on. Defensive line and Isaiah Pead. Those defined nearly every win. Derek Wolfe and John Hughes will be in NFL camps next year with Wolfe projected by Mel Kiper as a first-round selection.

But what will become of UC's dominant line? The senior season for Stewart has been eagerly awaited by the UC fan base since he broke on the scene as an explosive freshman. Replacements are coming on the interior, but arguably the strongest position with the highest expectations on the UC defense will be defensive end.

"That's the plan," Stewart said. "Me and Dan we show up everyday we know the expectation. That's why we come out here every day coaching up the younger guys. We're just trying to set the tone, let people know that hey, we have to win up front."


Of the 46 sacks UC rolled up last season, 25.5 of them graduated. However, 16.5 sacks from the defensive end position will all be lining up Sept. 6 against Pitt.

"Those guys graduated, its opportunities for the young guys to step up," Giordano said. "You can't really replace Derek Wolfe and John Hughes but they set a standard, they raised the bar. The bar is set high."

"It will be different," Stewart said. "We can still be just as good, just our strength will be on the edges. It will be the opposite."

Giordano (5 sacks in 2011), Stewart (6) and Brandon Mills (5.5) admit in a personal competition inside the locker room to win the sack battle. Stewart got the dub in that category last year, but those mean little beyond bragging rights.

Leading the Big East or being second in the country again would be nice, but not the goal.

"We just want the quarterback on his back," Giordano said. 

Looking at the progress Stewart made last season, he appeared prepared to rough up the quarterback consistently for the first time since moving to defensive end. Of his six sacks, five came in the final five games.

"The numbers can be what they are," Stewart said. "Bottom line, that's how we win games."

Both concluded their final spring practice with the University of Cincinnati on Saturday. While in the past some of the practices may have run together and the drills become monotonous, that wasn't the case this season. With the finish line in clear focus, the attitude changed for two guys high on potential but still waiting to post the truly dominant season.

"The clock is ticking," Giordano said. "You are reminded every day. towards the end of your career you are more motivated. Being a senior you have a whole different outlook. Not only are you responsible for yourself, but being responsible for the defensive team. If we ain't ready to work, they ain't going to be ready to work."

--- Saw JK Schaffer at Saturday's
practice. He said teams have been blowing up his phone for a while now, calling regularly. The most persistent has been Jacksonville. He's still unsure what round he would be drafted in or if he'll be drafted at all. He really could care less.

"Just get me to camp," he said.

Man, if you aren't rooting for Schaffer, I don't think you can root for anybody. All he wants is the opportunity to outwork and outhustle people.

--- For anybody who thought I was a stat nerd, check out the tempo-free predictions for next season put forth over at CBSsports.com. This is some in-depth stuff. They essentially came up with a future predictor formula to calculate wins.

As for UC, they have them finishing in a tie for fourth in the Big East again, going 11-7.

They have Louisville leading the way in the conference but ask the legitimate question: who will shoot now with Kuric and Smith gone?

--- Randomness...

--- Eli Manning will host SNL on May 5. He may have one more Super Bowl ring than his brother, but he's got some serious shoes to fill at 30 Rock.

--- The words newspaper and empire were used in the same sentence -- and not by The Onion. that's nearly reason for us journalists to dance in the streets.

--- Nobody can claim the Olympic committee isn't in touch with pop culture. They reached to The Who drummer Keith Moon to perform at the closing ceremonies this summer. Only one problem: he died in 1978.

--- But when Moon did play,
he sure could kill it. Have a great Monday everybody.


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