Jameel Poteat finding his burst for Bearcats

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Jameel Poteat and his recruiting hype watched behind Isaiah Pead last year. At Higher Ground, he's again showing the burst that made him a prized recruit and possible successor to the Rams running back.

WEST HARRISON, Ind. -- Only one week into Bearcats camp at Higher Ground, a noticeable development took place in the Bearcats backfield.

Remember the explosive running style that made Jameel Poteat one of the top 15 backs in his recruiting class? Well, after a year hiatus, it's back.

"He's shown quickness that he hasn't show before," offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said. "What's happening for Jameel is the game is slowing down for him mentally and he's able to play fast. I tell you what, he looks phenomenal."

Poteat.jpgThe only thing more impressive than his play is his timing.

With the departure of Isaiah Pead, the need for a back to produce explosive plays and wear down defenses comes at a premium.

Pedigree insists he's capable. He broke some of the records held by Eagles running back LeSean McCoy at Bishop McDevitt High School in Pennsylvania. Poteat racked up 1,724 yards and 31 touchdowns his senior season, setting the all-time mark for career touchdowns with 84.

He fell from the man to watching the man last season with only 23 carries in Pead's sprawling shadow. Poteat played on special teams and for what it's worth did average 4.7 yards a rush when given the opportunity.

Though, upon arriving this year, he looks less like the back with wide eyes from last year's group and more like the highly touted star out of Harrisburg, Pa.

Defensive players told me today I got faster," Poteat said. "They asked, 'What you been doing in the summer?' I have a burst now that I didn't have. Coach (Butch) Jones and all my coaches tell me that."

Nearly as important as his burst will be his unselfish attitude. Despite an obvious confidence, he happily subscribes to the coaches plan to feature multiple running backs this season. With the power of George Winn (5-foot-11, 210 pounds), speed of Abernathy (5-7, 161), Poteat (5-10, 207) fits in as the all-around back.

At 5-10, 207 pounds, he's big enough to grind tough yards, while shown enough speed to break long runs. The combination of the three only makes the individual parts stronger in his eyes.

"We all bring something different to the table," he said. "Isaiah is probably going to be the best to ever play here, but we all complement each other and we are going to be fresh subbing in. It is going to be hard for defenses to game plan against us because of our different styles of play."

Finding a rhythm amid the rotation will be an early challenge, but Poteat believes finding a groove will be easy enough. He learned plenty about being prepared to play from the sidelines last season. Bajakian says his work on special teams helped acclimate him to the speed of the game and became a major reason why he's returned with confidence.

"It humbled me just having to sit out," Poteat said. "I feel like last year I was ready, but I really wasn't as much as I thought I was going to be. So I stood back and watched the best. But I feel like once the season start and I start getting my rhythm I'm going to be back to myself again."

This may or may not become Poteat's breakout season, but certainly the season opener is custom built for him. Remember, Poteat originally committed to Pitt, but instead switched to UC.

Now, in his first season playing a central role, he opens on ESPN Thursday Night football against the hometown team he passed over and their star running back Ray Graham.

"I go home, people are at my door, they can't wait," he said. "Everybody is at my house at home (talking about the game). My mom text me when the schedule came out and said everything happens for a reason. I can't wait. I really can't wait."

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