Five questions the Bearcats must answer at Higher Ground

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UC opens training camp Wednesday at Higher Ground and will be out there for 16 days of football boot camp in preparation for the Sept. 6 opener against Pitt.

A young football team in need of players stepping up across the roster enters with a number of questions and hopes to leave with answers. What are they? Here are the five questions Butch Jones and his staff will seek answers for over the next three weeks.

1. Who can handle the reps at running back?

Replacing Isaiah Pead would be impossible. Maybe no back in UC history can replace his performance last season. UC needs to find an effective combination to take pressure off of Munchie Legaux. It enters with a number of candidates who'll receive reps, but three frontrunners: Jameel Poteat, Ralph David Abernathy IV and George Winn.

All three bring different skill sets expected to contribute at some point and likely some version of a three-RB rotation will emerge, but a strong camp could change the perspective or place one further in front.

Poteat appears the closest to an all-around back who could succeed Pead. He possesses all the physical skills and comes with all the hype as one of the top running back recruits in the country in 2011.

The Bearcats love Winn. He mostly filled the role of short-yardage specialist for Pead last season, but did all the little things coaches drool over and found a way to gain the tough yard. Look for him to fill the short-yardage role again this year, but certainly will do much more in the base-formation game.

RDAIV screams scat back. His explosive style fits the home-run hitter ability both in the backfield and catching passes in space on the outside. As Bill Koch wrote, UC plans on giving him plenty to do.

Two-back rotation? Three-back rotation? Poteat main with Winn and RDAIV situational? A freshman breaks through?

All questions that will be answered when UC leaves.

2. Munchie Legaux is the guy, right?

All indications are the QB job will belong to Legaux, but he needs to seize the opportunity at camp. If he falters, the door will be left open for Brendon Kay. Munchie's experience last year gives him a significant upper hand and Jones wants to name a starting QB early. As long as he shows the same progress seen during the spring, he should be the guy. But nothing's official yet.

3. Can Solomon Tentman hold down the middle?

One of the great stories of UC's offseason has been the rehab of Tentman from a catastrophic knee injury that occurred almost two years ago. He enters camp as the replacement for all-everything MLB JK Schaffer. Huge shoes to fill to be sure.

Schaffer racked up 325 tackles in three years, 28 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage. He led the defense in every way imaginable.

Tentman doesn't need to do all those intangibles, but does need to be a force in the middle. Or, at least, somebody needs to be a force in the middle. In the spring Greg Blair, Clemente Casseus, Colin Lozier and Kevin Hyland worked behind Tentman. They will push him, but he owns the inside track.

Can he hold it?

4. Where does the defensive tackle depth stand?

Derek Wolfe -- second round, Denver Broncos. John Hughes -- third round, Cleveland Browns.

What becomes of the defensive tackle position as the two starters from last year move on the the NFL?

One of the reasons both Hughes and Wolfe were so successful last season was the rotation that kept them fresh. As games wore on, so did Hughes and Wolfe on opponents and fueled UC's repeated fourth-quarter comebacks.

Yes, Jordan Stepp returns as a key member of that rotation last year. But who else will join him and how much pressure will be placed upon Stepp to play extended snaps?

Others must emerge for the Bearcats to reach near the level of dominance up front that became the calling card of the defense.

Redshirt sophomores Camaron Beard and Roney Lozano head the charge to fill the space while names like the massive Brandon Mitchell (318 pounds) is among the young players coaches will be closely tracking this month.

The bottom line is Jones and company don't want a DT taking 80 percent or more of the snaps up front as Wolfe did in 2010. UC needs to develop depth and this will be the time to figure out how much exists.

5. What is the offense's identity?

This will be a larger post as camp commences, but to me becomes the biggest question not only of camp but of the season. The Collaros-Pead identity moved on and this offense filled with talented, but many unproven players must figure out what will make it go in 2012.

Will it be improved playmaking with the run/pass threat of Legaux?

Will it be the emergence of a three-headed monster in the backfield?

Will Anthony McClung, Alex Chisum or Kenbrell Thompkins take the next step as elite receivers?

When UC must have a big play, in what direction will it turn? As of today, that question remains unknown. Three weeks from now, it can't be.

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