A return to the New Media Suite with Tom Gelehrter, the Bearcats director of new media and broadcasting for our first offseason podcast of the year.
We discuss Andy Reid's Bearcats farm system, Travis Kelce, Jermaine Lawrence, Gunner Kiel, Bennie Coney, Mitch Pattishall and leave plenty of time to go tangential talking about Kansas City stories, Tommy G dissing my cornhole tournament plus the potential Skippycast.
Not often we lead off with golf around these parts, but not often we see a tournament put together like the one senior David Tepe put together in Orlando the last two days. He enters today's final round of the Big East championship with a two-stroke lead riding back to back 69s.
The crazy aspect of Tepe's run is how far out of nowhere this came from. His best career finish was a second place as a junior, but now he could go home with his first win on the biggest stage in the conference.
Of course, keep it locked to GoBearcats.com for updates on how Tepe fairs in his final round attempting to bring home the Big East title.
As always, if you have any comments, questions or suggesstions, shoot them to me at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Let's eat ...
--- While we are making the rounds, have to recognize the lacrosse team for their first ever Big East victory, 9-8, against Rutgers. Pretty cool the victory came on Senior Day with senior Katie Kiriazoglou netting the game-winner with 15 seconds left. Crazy how those Senior Day games always seem to play out that way.
The lacrosse program finished the season 7-9, 1-7 and the seven wins are tied for the most in program history. Have to believe this will help first-year coach Gina Oliver move the team in the right direction.
--- Wanted to dip into the email questions today, after receiving this one from Al S.,
"I was hoping you could get the scoop on the Offensive Line for this coming season. There has not been much written about them recently. Perhaps it's because the entire starting line was returning from last year or that we have a new offensive line coach. Anyway, I was wondering who the anticipated starters are for the coming season and who on the second unit might be pushing for playing time? Also, I understood Coach TT to say that they needed to get bigger. How is that going? One more question. Doesn't our new O line coach have some experience running from the Pistol formation? Can we expect to see some of the Pistol incorporated into our offense this year?"
--- Let's open with the starters. Yes, all five starting offensive linemen will be back this year with LT Eric Lefeld, LG Austen Bujnoch, C Dan Sprague, RG Sam Longo and RT Parker Ehinger.
If this group wasn't getting enough ink now, don't worry, that will change in the fall because they will be the backbone of this team. I'd argue they are the strongest individual position group, immediately followed by the linebackers.
As for the second unit pushing for playing time, it will be a battle, but it will probably take an injury to unseat any of the starters considering how well they played last year plowing the way for George Winn and keeping Munchie Legaux/Brendon Kay clean.
The offensive linemen are in a strength and conditioning program just like the rest of the team, and I can assure these guys aren't missing any workouts. With Bujnoch as one of the core team leaders heading that room, everyone has bought into what he's selling.
Texas Tech ran some pistol under Tuberville and there were some glimpses of it at spring practice. I'm sure you will see some version of it next year. How much or how little is unknown at this time.
--- The pundits are eating up Louisville for next football season. ESPN has them as the No. 4 team in the country right now. All about Teddy Bridgewater there, who had some experts talking about a top 5 pick next season. Remember, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith were locks for the top 5 this time last year as well.
And what we're learning is that Andy Reid loves the University of Cincinnati. He drafted Trent Cole, Brent Celek and Jason Kelce, also picking up Mardy Gilyard while with the Eagles. Now with KC, he brought Gilyard with him and drafted Kelce in the third round.
Then there was this quote from Reid Friday:
"Seems like every kid we take out of Cincinnati is tougher than shoe leather."
How does Kelce fit in Kansas City? The starter is third-year tight end Tony Moeaki. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after last season, though Reid says he will be ready for training camp. They signed veteran Anthony Fasano this past year.
I've been in the camp that a season under an experience veteran would be ideal for Kelce (or any draft pick really), but this seems to provide that. Moeaki likely isn't going anywhere, though, his took a dip from a productive rookie year (47 receptions, 556 yards) then missing all of the 2011 season due to injury. He caught 33 passes for 453 yards this past season.
Fasano likely will serve as a one or two year safety net in case Kelce doesn't emerge for the Chiefs. But the stage would appear to be set for next year to be the year Kelce could break out as Moeaki's complement. Yet, in the NFL, you really never know.
Elsewhere, no other Bearcats were drafted this weekend, but a number did sign as undrafted free agents. Here's the list:
RB George Winn: Houston
DE Dan Giordano: Arizona
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: New England
LB Maalik Bomar: Jacksonville
--- Have to love the Texans landing spot for Winn. They know a thing or two about the success of undrafted free agents. Arian Foster went undrafted four years ago out of Tennessee but now has reeled off three consecutive 1,200-yard seasons and scored 50 TDs in the process.
Foster is backed up by Ben Tate, but beyond that is wide open. They didn't draft a running back and currently only have those two on their roster.
--- Thompkins fits snugly with The Hoodie in New England. Bill Belichick has never been one to draft wide receivers high and likes to pluck Tom Brady's targets from the odds and ends of the draft and free agency.
Tight ends (Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski), running backs (Danny Woodhead) and converted DBs (Julian Edelman) all helped lead the offense last year. Anywhere where Brady is chucking it, any player can breakout. He'll be joining a cast of Who-Are-They players in NE.
Here's the current list of wideouts: Kamar Aiken, Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Ebert, Julian Edelman, Andre Holmes, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, Matthew Slater.
Somebody's got to catch the ball, right?
--- Bomar joins the recent list of UC products to end up in Jacksonville. His old partner in crime JK Schaffer landed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent last year and nearly made the team in preseason before ending up on the Bengals practice squad. The year before Armon Binns caught a TD in the preseason, but was cut before landing on the Bengals practice squad. So, we should plan to see Maalik at PBS around October, I guess?
--- You don't think undrafted free agents play a major role in the NFL these days? Here's the number of UDFAs on Super Bowl teams the last three years:
2012 Baltimore: 18
2012 San Fran: 12
2011 NY Giants: 12
2011 New England: 23
2010 Green Bay: 17
2010 Pittsburgh: 12
Heck, the Patriots 2011 team was nearly half undrafted players. Once you arrive in camp you are a rookie in a helmet all the same no matter if first-round pick or UDFA. And plenty survive, as seen by the above stat.
The first round of the NFL draft went into the books Thursday night without much intrigue, as expected for the Bearcats contingent. Travis Kelce should be coming off the board Friday night, though.
Any chance of him staying in Cincinnati was erased when the Bengals saw top TE Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) slide to them at No. 21. There aren't too many bad fits for a player like Kelce, if you were weighing the best spots for him to land. If you were looking for the ideal scenario, my top five best fits would look like this:
1. Atlanta: Great team, playbook centered around TE, learn for a year under Tony Gonzalez before he retires.
2. Philadelphia: Isn't this where all Bearcats go? Most importantly, would join his brother with Eagles and play with Brent Celek.
3. Pittsburgh: Quality QB used to utilizing tight end, set to take over for Heath Miller on the back end of his career.
4. Washington: Up-and-coming team using run-pass option at QB suits Kelce, Fred Davis only legit starter.
5. Cleveland: Return to hometown and ability to play immediately. QB an issue, but Kelce would be counted on from Day 1.
I'd also toss San Diego into the mix of great landing spots and I'm sure that city would work just fine for Kelce. Regardless, anybody that drafts Kelce will have plans for him to become a major part of their system. Should be a great day for the Kelce family. And if he ends up slipping into the fourth round on Saturday, that will be a great day, too, for a family unconcerned by what round they're selected.
Remember to shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr if you have any questions, comments or ideas for funneling every Bearcats player to the Eagles.
Let's eat ...
--- Elsewhere this weekend, look for George Winn to be the next Bearcats player to hear his name, probably in the sixth round or so. Whoever takes Winn will be gaining a steal, even though with running backs it's hard to know. Still, to gain that type of production, durability and a special teams dynamo that late in the draft brings significant value.
Kenbrell Thompkins and Dan Giordano will be holding on for the later round selections also. Yet, I'm of the opinion if it's the seventh round, while being drafted would be nice, becoming an undfrafted free agent might end up being the better deal at the end of the day. The signing bonus isn't what you would receive as a pick, but the ability to handpick the best fit for you instead of being shipped into a situation seems worth it.
Look no further than Armon Binns and JK Schaffer, although both picked Jacksonville and didn't make it, they'd shown enough to end up on the Bengals practice squad and set themselves up nicely for playing time. Binns will be in the mix for Miami and Schaffer has a good chance to latch on the back of the roster for Cincinnati this year.
Plus, in this day where such a large number of Pro Bowlers aren't selected, there's no shame in the undrafted tag.
--- In NBA draft decision news, this is a few days late, but Russ Smith will be returning to Louisville. He'll be the preseason player of the year in the conference and maybe the country. The Cardinals are still losing a lot (Siva, Dieng, etc.) but will be the team to beat.
--- If you haven't been out to the Sheakley Athletics Center for an event, this weekend will be a prime opportunity. The lacrosse team closes out its season and will be holding a BBQ Bash. Games are tonight at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
--- Is there anything better forNFL Network's Draft ratings than Chris Berman? To be honest, though, the attempts to make the draft this made for TV event have made it a made for Twitter event. Was more enjoyable following it on Twitter with the sound down on the TV last night than in any year in recent memory.
Obviously, all the talk around the Bearcats right now surrounds the Grant of Rights approved by the ACC which appears to shut down anymore conference realignment circus. At least for now. That's by basic logic. Of course, logic hasn't always prevailed in the game of realignment. Money, however, is undefeated. And all the major players seem to be thrilled with their financial plates and now moving to cover it with both arms.
So, where does this leave the program?
Doc wrote about the latest blow and discussed it with Whit Babcock. You can read that here. The column reads as a bit of an obit on UC, one which has been written before in other forms and circumstances. In the case of locking into the college football lottery the big conferences cashed in, the road to that path certainly grew longer. But the path to relevancy, winning and a national profile hasn't gone anywhere.
Basketball is a no-brainer, this effects the conference schedule and little else. As long as the overall schedule is in the top 40 or so each year there will be opportunity to build an NCAA tournament resume and win there. Continue winning there and players like Jermaine Lawrence and the rest of this year's class will continue to commit to UC.
Think being in a top conference is necessary to be a factor in college hoops? See Butler, Xavier, Gonzaga, Temple, Memphis, Wichita State, Creighton, VCU, St. Louis, New Mexico, San Diego State. This list could go on and on. Many of these aren't just relevant, rather perennial powers across college hoops.
Basketball has been and will continue to be fine.
Much thanks to a lengthy email I received from loyal reader, Twitterer Doug, for sparking this conversation. In it, he talks about how all the goals for making a national splash and playing a similar role in the big picture are still available.
These were his thoughts on football:
"Assuming the AAC will be included in the "Group of 5" arrangement, taking the Big Easts spot, this is a great opportunity for UC. Competing for the top BCS ranking with the Sun Belt, MAC, Mountain West and C-USA seems like a very favorable position for the Cats. Once Louisville leaves for the AAC, UC is by far the class of the AAC.
So you're left with this competition (traditionally) for the top BCS ranking:
Boise State (MW)
Whichever team comes out of the MAC
Likely one of the Florida schools from the C-USA
Honestly, probably no real competition from the Sun Belt
I like those odds. It isn't at all ideal, but it certainly does not signal the end to UC's success in football. When you consider UC has probably the 3rd biggest coaching name in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, I think Tommy T makes up a bit for the lack-luster conference. If the renovations to Nippert are ushered along, the Cats keep winning and fan support remains, UC can dominate the AAC and find themselves with a good BCS ranking every year. Will they make a BCS Bowl every year? Probably not. But what team, besides Alabama, does?"
Tip of the cap, Doug. Quality analysis.
The bottom line is every year, you could argue UC will be more likely to end up in a BCS bowl than 75 percent of the programs the newly-aligned power conferences. When you consider the competition nationally, if they were to put together a team capable of running the table and beating a few B1G teams in the non-conference, they'd be looking at a major bowl along with serious consideration for the four-team playoff.
The trade off clearly becomes a conference home schedule with less traditionally attractive opponents. Yet, let's not pretend like the Big East was rolling Alabama and Texas into Nippert every year.
Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville are all nice programs, but as far as on the field success in the last five years how much better have they been then say a Houston, SMU or UCF? They've been better, but the difference is more marginal than most would prefer to admit. Go ahead and take a look:
UCF: 10+ wins two of last three years, including bowl wins over Georgia ('10) and Ball State ('12)
SMU: Four straight years in bowl games, including 28-6 drubbing of Pitt at 2011 Independence Bowl
Houston: Ranked in Top 10 in 2011, going 13-1, beating Penn State in bowl game
Louisville: Enjoyed emergence last season, previously only one shared BE title coming off Kragthorpe disaster
Pitt: Losing record and bowl losses each of last two years, one shared BE title in last five years.
Syracuse: Two winning seasons in five years. One shared title last year.
The perception will be the obstacle for UC, but dominating The American would help squash that nationally while also making for a number of enjoyable, winning fall Saturdays for the Clifton faithful.
Playing in the ACC (or name other major conference here) would be an ideal scenario, but any idea that success and national relevance are out the window in the current format would be misunderstanding the future system.
Send any questions, comments or other thoughts regarding this whole crazy situation to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Let's eat ...
--- Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated came around last week and put together this fantastic piece on Tommy Tuberville and UC. Nuggets like TT heading down to the circus at US Bank by himself are scribe gold.
--- Awards being handed out around UC:
Babcock was named the College Swimming Coaches Association of American Benjamin Franklin Award recipient. It goes to the person whose efforts most promote the student-athlete ideal. Kudos to Whit.
Former UC runner Kathy Klump was named the Cincinnati/NKY Sports Association College Sportswoman of the Year. Congrats to Kathy who closed out her career as a three-time All-American and four-time BE champion in track.
--- Usually the joke sign in front of the bar will read "Free Beer Tomorrow," but UC baseball is erasing the proverbial signs out front to read "Free Baseball Today." A game against Thomas More originally scheduled for Thursday will be played Wednesday at MSS and admission will be free.
--- For those hoping this epic 10-game Reds homestand ends quickly, this song doesn't apply. But it's as catchy and fun of a country tune as you'll find. And I'm the last guy typically pushing country. Have a great day, everyone.
Well, Bearcats, interesting day yesterday. For outsiders, the ACC passing a Grant of Rights deal through 2027 came as a surprise. A common thought existed that it was only a matter of time until the B1G went plucking for more and the ACC was ripe. Well, no longer. With the TV rights now connected to the league, no teams will be going anywhere.
Likely true. The ACC still remains a possibility as they deal with an odd conference number of 15, the chance exists to add one or two more schools to set a more workable number. Mandel pointed out how much of a scheduling and imbalance headache 14 was last year for the SEC. A few seasons dealing with those nightmares could open the door of additions.
"Today's news from the ACC could certainly halt or slow down realignment, at least at the BCS level," he said in a text message. "Time will tell. We will keep doing the same thing we have been. Working hard to move UC forward every day and position ourselves as best we can on a national level."
If you have any comments, questions or concerns about any topic surrounding UC athletics shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Now then, let's eat ...
--- I wrote about Isaiah Pead yesterday.Hope you will read the story here. Always a great interview, Pead delivered again when I spoke to him. He's open, thoughtful, honest and always able to share a laugh.
You can place me down among those shocked he didn't enjoy success his rookie year. After watching his career here, he seemed destined to breakout in a league where so many teams seek explosive home-run hitters who can do everything out of the backfield. It doesn't always work out that way. Running back certainly is a prickly position to predict, the hardest in my opinion.
He was clearly frustrated -- with maybe that word not being strong enough -- with what evolved during his rookie season. The door appears to be open for him to still make an impact this year with Steven Jackson gone and the job back up for grabs. Though, I'd expect the Rams to draft a RB at some point to jump into the competition with Pead and Daryl Richardson.
There was much left on the editing room floor from my conversation with Pead, here's a few:
On if he'll be paying attention to the draft this weekend:
"Not really. Just because knowing what I know now from being on that side a year ago and being around that now, that day is definitely important and special for them guys and the organization. But that next day is back to reality and starting back from ground zero and you got to make a name. It's still on you. It's not a given."
On how being relegated down the depth chart affected him:
"That's one thing, it shut me up. I just watched everything from Jack to Sam (Bradford) to Cortland Finnegan. Just watching people."
On lessons learned from veteran RB Steven Jackson:
"He would talk to me and let me know that it's a game within a game and everything is evaluated, on the field, off the field, pulling up to a red light. You are always watched, you are always evaluated. You can't ever let them see you sweat."
--- Solid weekend for the Bearcats baseball team which won three in a row before falling in the series finale against Villanova on Sunday.
Ashley Davis documented the offensive rise of these two freshman catchers from her game observations. Here's her note:
Woody Wallace, the everyday catcher, found his swing again Sunday, going 4 for 4 from the plate.
Russell Clark, hitting in the DH spot Sunday, went 3 for 5 with one run scored. Clark has been hitting well lately. He hit his first career home run against Ohio State on Wednesday and Saturday had a hit to drive in two runs. His batting average now sits at an even .300 in 40 at-bats. Cleary has taken notice of his recent success.
"[He] just really started off slow and I think it took a little while to get comfortable in the batter's box," Brian Cleary said. "But he's done a good job with it and certainly we're going to need to take advantage of that bat."
--- Also, freshman Mitch Pattishall continues to drop the hammer. Since scribes are so often wrong, excuse me if I point out a stroy I wrote that's turned out to be right. It seems Pattishall really turned the corner in his development after the game at GABP. He's been phenomenal since that day. He pitched a complete-game shutout on Saturday in the win against Nova.
After one of the greatest careers by a running back in Cincinnati history, Isaiah Pead surprisingly slid down the St. Louis Rams depth chart after being selected 50th overall. He emerges one year later from a year of self-proclaimed misery with renewed hope to live up to lofty NFL expectations.
In the darkest moments, Isaiah Pead sat inside his expansive house tucked in the suburbs of St. Louis and bounced a tennis ball against the wall. Alone.
He'd lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling, music playing, with the loneliness only matched by the frustration.
Pead left the Unviersity of Cincinnati known as much for an outgoing personality and contagious laugh as explosive cuts and game-breaking speed.
Yet, one year after being selected by the Rams as the second running back taken in the 2012 NFL draft, he's recovering from a rookie year spent buried as deep within his own mind as his third spot on the depth chart.
"Honestly, I would call it miserable," Pead said. "Miserable life. Miserable four-five months."
High expectations crumbled to a rubble of humility by the time Pead packed his bags at season's end. The moment the Rams completed their 7-8-1 season with his exit interview, he arranged a flight and wasted no time bolting town and an empty house that symbolized unfulfillment.
"I took off and I didn't come back until it was time to," Pead said. "I just wanted to stay out of this area, I came back for a couple days to pack up then all the memories and walking back into my house by myself, had a couple days by myself, I just needed to get out of that area."
The second-round pick and 50th player selected overall sparingly touched the field, surprisingly beaten out by seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson early in the season, both behind veteran Steven Jackson. He played a total of 42 snaps. Pead carried 10 times for 54 yards and caught three passes for 16 yards. A mediocre half for him at UC, an entire healthy season in St. Louis.
"I was literally fed up with football," Pead said. "Not a quitter, not quitting, I was just tired of football. Tired of practice for the day and I would just lay there play video games and whatnot because it was so miserable, so stressful."
Pead can't explain how his situation reached these ugly depths. He honestly doesn't know. Twice during the year he says he arrived late for meetings, though, those discretions came after the backup position he thought would be his fell to the 252nd overall pick out of Abilene Christian. Combine disappointment on the field with an unattached life off it living away from a social scene, teammates, without a girlfriend and even having his grandparents take his dog back to Ohio in order to allow keener focus.
In uncertain surroundings and football suffocating every moment, the season snowballed.
Lessons like those learned by Pead last season can't be coached. They can't even be taught by parents. They can only be endured.
Long battles inside his own mind stemmed to simplistic roots. Not necessarily his roots racking up 4,009 yards receiving and rushing with the Bearcats. Or even breaking Archie Griffin's Ohio high school rushing records at Eastmoor Academy. His coping mechanism went deeper.
"I find myself taking all the way back to Day One when I first started playing football," Pead said. "I went through progressions with myself. What is going on? What am I doing wrong? What can I do right? How can I change this situation? (Moved) to the point I just stop worrying about it, just went to practice every day. Did the best I could."
He employed the same strategy as Season 2 began last week in St. Louis. Jackson moved on to the Falcons and a wide open running back room awaits with Pead in position to seize the day. Coach Jeff Fisher believes Pead can easily live up to his draft-pick status. ESPN Insider Adam Schefter even pegged Pead as his 2013 NFC breakout player during a recent interview session with Sports Illustrated's Peter King. Despite all that's gone wrong for Pead, the future remains ripe with opportunity.
"He just didn't get a chance because of the other two," Fisher said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, referring to Jackson and Richardson. "But he'll get his opportunity this year. ... He's got a chance to make a lot of big plays for us."
Few understand better than Pead no position comes predestined, no opportunity given. That's especially true for a player with an empty year anchored to his 23-year-old body.
Months removed from the situation in the supportive grasps of friends and family helped provide perspective. He feels renewed and focused on improving his mental approach. Earlier to rise, earlier to bed, more time in the playbook, less time opting for fast food. All small aspects of being a pro which partially contributed to his disappointment.
"Whole new era, whole new attitude, whole new team, whole new Pead," he said.
Humbled and hopeful, Pead doesn't sugarcoat his expectations. He feels capable of breaking out into the player that made him a fan favorite and national star at UC, but admits no matter how hard he tries the decision ultimately rests in the hands of others.
He's come to terms with an unpredictable reality, only prefers to keep blinders on while tracking his personal finish line.
"Now I'm just getting back to what I know what got me here and that's being the best in the workout that day, going home, coming back and giving my best in the workout that day," Pead said. "My goals, I really don't have one. I want to win every day and be the best person every day."
He views the concept of opening the season as the starter more as a complete 180 than desired accomplishment. His goals don't stretch beyond a championship and a chance. Contemplating anything further drags him in the direction of last year's misery.
"I just want to play," Pead said. "I'm not even asking to be the starter, I just want to play."
Touching the field represents the next step toward officially burying those long nights staring at the ceiling or bouncing the tennis ball against the wall. A declared man of action rather than talk, he's finally able to start running toward daylight.
"I'm not going to sit and linger on something, but I am one to not forget about a situation," Pead said. "I am moving on from last year, last year is last year, but I have not forgot about last year. I wouldn't call it revenge, but the chip that I put on my shoulder is just a little bigger."
I want to hear from you! If you have any questions about Pead, UC or any other topics surrounding Bearcats athletics, shoot me an email to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
So much happening around UC right now, it's been hard to keep around these parts. Yesterday alone yielded the signing of top recruit Jermaine Lawrence, an announced contract extension for Mick Cronin and Brian Cleary's baseball Bearcats topping Ohio State, 5-3, at Marge Schott Stadium.
Time to jump right into it, let's eat ...
--- I wrote about theJermaine Lawrence commitment yesterday pointing out everyone needs to hold perspective on the potential impact Lawrence can provide immediately. He can be a fabulous player and will certainly play a significant role in the 2013-14 Bearcats, but people need to understand the development of the majority of Top 25 recruits and not focus on the three or four that jump from dominant frosh to the NBA lottery (basically, everyone who doesn't go to Kentucky).
Most college hoops fans believe Anthony Davis is showing up at their school every fall. When he doesn't, that does not mean the prospect who did is a failure.
To piggyback on the story and add perspective here's a look at the 2011 class of Scout.com forwards rated between 10-30 coming out of HS (Lawrence was 19 on their list this season). There were five players who transferred among the 11 in that group, I left those out to keep the situations similar.
The numbers are separated between freshman -- sophomore seasons.
--- Notice, only Cody Zeller, who entered a rebuilding situation at Indiana, even averaged double-digit points per game. Nearly all sat around that 9/10 point mark while pulling down about seven rebounds. At somewhere in the mid-20s in minutes per game seems to be the norm as well and while even Cronin himself doesn't know how much Lawrence will play that seems to be a nice jumping off point. It'd be hard to imagine it any differently.
--- Moral of the story, understand the standard impact by any freshman and that one-and-done frosh explosions are rare as hitting a full-court heave.
--- UC popped the surprise extension announcement on us yesterday at the afternoon press conference. I knew something had to be up when the special podium showed up in the media room.
Many things to touch on with this, I'll offer up three:
1) No, these contracts don't amount to much on paper as far as security in keeping coaches. Steve Alford signing a long-term contract extension with New Mexico in the last month before bolting to UCLA 10 days later.
Cronin said it best: "In this business, you are either getting extended or extinguished."
This contract does not mean Cronin couldn't bolt for another school tomorrow. It also doesn't mean he couldn't be bought out by UC tomorrow. What it does mean is Whit Babcock and the administration aren't taking for granted Mick's pronounced commitment to stay as Bearcats head coach his entire career. This is where he wants to be and has never hidden that fact.
Expectations are to win games and make the NCAA Tournament. No contract extension will change that.
"You've got to be a big boy when you take these jobs," Cronin said. "You have to realize that there are expectations and if you don't meet those expectations you won't be running the program very long."
2)By offering this financial commitment (terms yet unreleased) erased any thought Cronin has made poor business decisions by making known his desire to stay at UC instead of holding it back for leverage. Which he could have done.
Coaches hold institutions up for more money all the time. Watch college football every December as all these coaches with bigtime jobs are caught flirting with other schools and suddenly have raises and contract extensions. It's a way to play the game of big-money college athletics. Cronin chose not to.
"I want to reward that (loyalty)," Babcock said.
In fact, Babcock adamantly pointed out Cronin never leveraged for anything or made demands.
3) Hey, even the Reds' Todd Frazier is showing love to Mick after his deal yesterday.
--- Zach Wells of Local12 brought me in to talk about all the ongoings at UC in this Google Hangout last night. Love how relaxed Google went with this product name. Just two dudes hanging out, staring at each other's faces. Easy like Sunday morning. If you have time, pop over to their page to check out the rest of the Hangoutsthey have done, informative stuff.
Regardless, was a good conversation about many of the topics you are reading about now. Plus, you can soak in the breathtaking home decor of my house.
--- Not to promote this too early, but I recently spoke this week with the guy who George Winn replaced last season, Isaiah Pead. Great interview as always and it was incredibly interesting to hear his perspective on a rookie season that fell far shy of expectations. A humbling turn of events for the #BestPlayerOnTheField. Look for that next week.
Pat ranked top 20 in average yards per kickoff (63.4) and percentage of touchbacks (48 percent). When the ball doesn't get into the end zone, bad things can happen. Remember Toledo?
He's moving closer to his family in Miami (Fla.) as he transfers to The U and will likely do well down there. The Bearcats have options at punter with CHCA grad John Lloyd next on the depth chart, but Tommy Tuberville will also be bringing some folks in for a tryout.
This young team seems to be gaining slightly more confidence every game. That was going to be the plan at the beginning of the year to be hitting a stride with so many freshman by the end of the season and with wins like this they continue to be on their way.
More than all that, how about the crowd of nearly two grand at MSS last night. Great night for baseball and great atmosphere.
--- Typically, I open my blog on this day every year celebrating one of my favorite holidays of all time, but with all this UC news, had to push it down here.
Happy National High-5 Day everyone!
Third Thursday in April every year and I plan on breaking out the high-5s all over the place. And I don't want this to disregard the low-5, it has it's place and we shouldn't discriminate on this day of all days. So, slip some skin, hit the 80s sitcom freeze frame, or wind around for the double-up, just remember to distribute those 5s!
Mick Cronin didn't hold back. He didn't need to. With top prospect Jermaine Lawrence officially in the fold for Bearcats basketball, he didn't need to hesitate when discussing a recruiting class now ranked among the Top 25 nationally by numerous services.
"By far the best recruiting class I've had as the head coach," Cronin said.
That's with much thanks to Lawrence, who verbally committed in Feb. 3, but officially signed his letter of intent on the first day of the late signing period Wednesday. The 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward arrives as the do-it-all specialist who provides the offensive depth on the interior the team searched for and never consistently found last season.
Around the rim he's polished. He finishes, dishes and creates matchup problems with his versatility. On defense, he can block shots with the best of them and play three different positions. Sure, he was ranked as the No. 19 overall prospect in the country by Scout.com, but rankings can be misleading, right? Yes. What's not misleading is his county championship game as a junior when Lawrence scored 25 points with 15 rebounds and 15 blocks.
He turned into a double-double machine that junior year when he averaged 18.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 6.4 blocks at Pope John Paul XXIII HS (N.J.). Suffering through a tendon injury that derailed his senior season, his stats dipped to 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds but he will arrive at UC 100 percent healthy.
The potential is clear.
"He can win a game for you with points," Cronin said. "He can pass, he can rebound, feel for the game, he can defend three positions, he can block shots. He understands how to play."
Searching for comparisons within the history of the program, Cronin couldn't pinpoint one. He's hard to match with players of the past at UC, he's very much of the future mold Cronin has envisioned since taking over seven years ago. His length, versatility and athleticism on the court more correlates to Thursday night's on TNT than grainy UC flashback videos on YouTube.
Cronin said by the looks of him, he resembles Kenyon Martin in many ways, but he doesn't play like him.
"He's a way more skilled offensive player at this point in his career than Kenyon was, if he can get Kenyon's ferociousness then he will not be here very long," Cronin said with a smile. "Which would be OK with me."
The kid can play, no doubt. The question for UC next year is how to gauge his possible instant impact. Thrusting freshmen into the lineup can be a risky maneuver and Cronin repeatedly stumps about veteran teams being the key to sustained success. Lauding praise and expectations can stunt growth and be emphatically unfair to the incoming player. Cronin's taken the development of freshmen with caution as his team depth built during the run of three straight NCAA tournament berths.
When Lance Stephenson and Cashmere Wright debuted together as freshman in 2009 they averaged a combined 47 minutes per game because other options were limited. You can see how the leading freshman in minutes has been much lower in recent years.
2012-13: Shaq Thomas: 10.8
2011-12: Ge'Lawn Guyn: 10.1
2010-11: Sean Kilpatrick: 20.6
2009-10: Lance Stephenson: 28.2
2009-10: Cashmere Wright: 18.5
It would be unfair on signing day to speculate how many minutes Lawrence will play this year and not at all the point in this case. What should be noted is the delicate balance necessary between asking for impact and allowing a player to develop naturally.
Cronin plans to be cautious in not only placing expectations on Lawrence -- something us media types will do enough of -- but in forcing him into an atmosphere where will be a central figure immediately.
"It would be grossly unfair to ask whether it be Jermaine Lawrence or Kevin Johnson or Troy Caupain to come in and be a savior in any way, shape or form," Cronin said. "I will guard against that happening. Jermaine gets the illustrious tag of being the highest rated recruit; I told him you get a box of popcorn with that, too.
"That doesn't translate to immediate success at our level. That doesn't translate to the NBA Draft lottery. Life starts over. You get your first elbow in the chest then we are going to see who gets to contribute the most as a freshman."
Across the country the demand for freshman to become an All-American has grown exponentially over the past decade with everyone on a timetable to the NBA, but that's rarely the path to true success.
Take a look at the 2013 All-Americans, for instance. Not a freshman on the first team -- three juniors and two sophomores. The second team featured freshmen Ben McLemore (Kansas) and Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), but they come as rare cases. That's the misconception with the early-entry, one-and-done binge. Everyone looks at the select few who end up as lottery picks and misses the vast majority who develop naturally and effectively.
Big East Player of the Year and first team AA Otto Porter went from averaging 10 and 7 his freshman year to 16 and 8 this past season. Teammate on the AA, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, didn't average more than six points until his junior season this year.
Would UC like Lawrence or Caupain or Johnson, etc., to become All-American? Of course, they'd be the first one to do so since Steve Logan. But to expect him or anyone else in this talented freshman class to make that type of instant impact and take all the pressure off Sean Kilpatrick the minute they walk on campus would be misleading and misinformed.
Lawrence can be a productive player and supporting asset to this team this year in Cronin's eyes, but he won't be forced into more than that until he's clearly ready. The coach will be sure of that.
"He has a chance to have a great career, how soon is a matter of how quickly he or any of the guys adjust," Cronin said. "I don't want any undue pressure on Jermaine Lawrence coming in here. I want him to stay focused on developing and becoming part of our team, whatever shakes out shakes out for him."
Cronin completed that statement, before being sure to quickly add an important tagline.
"But he's definitely capable of making an impact."
I want to hear from you! What do you think of the Jermaine Lawrence signing, Mick's extension or any other development around UC? Shoot me an email with comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
It you want to see former UC standout George Winn
flash an ear-to-ear smile, all you have to do is mention a certain
helmet-haired NFL draft expert.
"Mel Kiper," said a grinning Winn."Every time he mentions me it's something
"I get excited every time he gives me a shout-out.I really appreciate it."
The ESPN analyst has been singing Winn's praises in
recent interviews previewing the upcoming NFL draft.
"A guy that I think will be a great 5th or 6th round
pick -- you're always looking for that next Alfred Morris -- is George Winn at
Cincinnati," Kiper told reporters."George
Winn, for me, is a very underrated player who I thought definitely showed the
capability of being a guy who can contribute in the National Football League as
a nice late-round pick."
Morris, who is listed at the exact same size as Winn
(5'10", 218), was selected in the sixth round by Washington last year and had a
sensational rookie season, setting the Redskins' single-season rushing record
with 1,613 yards.
"It's a privilege to be compared to someone who had
that great of a season." said Winn.
The Redskins' rookie - who played college ball at
Florida Atlantic - saw his draft stock dive when he ran the 40-yard dash in
4.67 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.Of the 44 running backs that ran in 2012, 33 posted faster times.
"I had a tight hamstring at the combine," Winn told
me."The couple of weeks I had to
prepare before my Pro Day helped me to improve the strength and health of my
hamstring which really helped me run a better 40."
In his March 13th Pro Timing Day at
Cincinnati, Winn improved his time in the 40-yard dash to 4.53.
"They say it doesn't matter much and you shouldn't
put much emphasis on it, but if it wasn't that important they wouldn't have us
doing it," said Winn."So it's clearly
Winn took part in the Bengals workout for local
prospects on Tuesday at Paul Brown Stadium, and since he grew up near Detroit,
George will participate in a similar workout with the Lions on Wednesday.What is he hearing from NFL scouts?
"They like my running style, how I pass protect,
they like my special teams value, so I'm pretty excited," said Winn."I'm excited to get out here and prove what I
One year ago, nobody would have expected NFL teams
to have George Winn on their draft boards.In his first three years with the Bearcats, George never carried the
ball more than 40 times in a season. But following the departure of All-Big
East running back Isaiah Pead, Winn had a monster season in 2012, carrying 243
times for 1,334 yards and 13 TD.
"It's surreal," said Winn."To come from where I came from and to be
where I am now is amazing.It's a
"I always go back to my freshman year when I was
dead last on the depth chart.I started
at the very bottom and worked my way up to the top."
And if you believe Mel Kiper, Winn isn't finished
"You think about what George Winn is physically, and moving forward, I think he can hold up in this league," Kiper told reporters. "He's five-foot-10-and-a-half, almost 220 pounds, and played a lot faster than (his 40-yard dash time). I think he's got a chance to be a guy that could help your football team."
I pointed out to Winn on Tuesday that Mel Kiper is a
great guy to have in your corner at draft time.
"He definitely is," George agreed with a laugh.
Has Winn met the nation's most famous draft analyst?
"I haven't," said Winn."I'm looking forward to it.I'm going to thank him a lot."
With positions in need of fortification on the two-deep following spring practice, Tommy Tuberville will be reliant on a slew of junior college transfer to fill the gaps this summer.
CINCINNATI -- Standing yards from the spot he observed nearly all of the 15 spring practices and only minutes from soaking in the final seconds of those sessions, Tommy Tuberville held his vision of the 2013 Cincinnati Bearcats clear in his head.
Beyond the emergence of enthusiasm and potential explosiveness, Tuberville couldn't move past an unavoidable fact in his mind. His team needs an injection of depth.
Rarely at this level of FBS football do freshman deliver the necessary impact on a depth chart the new coach expounded upon through his southern drawl. He instead swerves the conversation to his influx of junior college transfers.
Eight of them in all were signed in February with the mind of providing instant impact. Two months later, Tuberville remains convinced he took the proper tactic.
"We're going to need to get four or five junior college kids in here in the summer we have signed," Tuberville said. "We are going to need to get to the point where we can put them in places and get them to the point they can understand what we are doing on offense and defense."
Acclimation will be most important at the running back position where, beyond starter Ralph David Abernathy and current backup Tion Green, Tuberville seeks runners who can handle the force of a 12-game season. Abernathy, for all his flash and flare, doesn't fit into the every-down mold at 5-foot-7, 161 pounds.
Fortunately, Tuberville loves what he acquired in Rod Moore (5-10, 185) and Hosey Williams (5-11, 205). Moore, in fact, rated as the top JuCo running back transfer in the country by 247Sports.com.
"That's really going to up the tempo when it comes to competition in August," Tuberville said.
The question becomes, how effective can anyone expect a junior-college player to be in his first year? For reference, last year's top RB recruit from 247sports was Marion Grice, who committed to Arizona State. Grice combined for 19 touchdowns for the Sun Devils with 103 carries for 679 yards along with 425 yards receiving.
Any stats within earshot of Grice's numbers would be more than enough to complement RDAIV and take pressure off his small frame, particularly in pass protection. Assuring Williams and Moore know where to pick up blitzes and assignments associated with Eddie Gran's offense will be the challenge of the next few months as they arrive on campus.
The same goes for the wide receiver position where Tuberville observes a need for speed. Anthony McClung can hit the home run, as has been evidenced throughout spring practices, but the collection of athletic big bodies lacks the true elite speed to take the top off the defense opposite McClung.
Cue Johnny Holton. Expectations are for Holton (6-3, 190) to compete for time and provide the same explosiveness that allowed him to average 23.8 yards per reception last season. Exactly one-third of his 24 catches at College of DuPage (Ill.) went for touchdowns.
"This guy can run," Tuberville said. "He's a difference-maker in terms of the deep-ball threat that can help open up the running game inside because you got to cover him with two guys every once in a while."
The primary position in need of instant help on defense would be the secondary where Tuberville estimates one safety and one corner capable of competent snaps would be the ideal fit. He'll likely turn to highly regarded freshman safety Mike Tyson (6-2, 190) along with CB Howard Wilder (5-11, 180).
"They got to come in and learn what's going on," Tuberville said.
Coach's aren't allowed contact with players during the summer. Much of the implementation falls back on teammates to install the details. Core members of team leadership such as Brendon Kay and Austen Bujnoch serve as the default setting as TA's in Tuberville 101.
"It's all about coaching the younger guys up," Bujnoch said. "We have a couple guys coming in, freshman don't play we just teach them the basic fundamentals. For those wide receivers and running backs, Brendon is going to have to take some of them ... and bring them along because we know we are going to need some of them."
Too much is needed of these players immediately to allow an arrival without significant knowledge of the playbook on the first snap at Higher Ground.
"That's the reason you got to have good leadership," Tuberville said. "You got to have guys on your team who can teach. We can't as assistants and head coaches do that. They got to watch film on their own, they got to watch film with the other players. Other players have to teach them what to do. They can't start where we started here in spring practice."
I want to hear from you! If you have any questions, comments or thoughts shoot me an email to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
In all the commotion of the the Sean Kilpatrick announcement last week and end of spring football with interesting comments from Tommy Tuberville (You can read about SK here and here. As well as key spring football observations here), a number of other interesting storylines based on comments from the head coaches developed.
The current cross-section of faith between Mick Cronin, Tommy Tuberville, Whit Babcock and President Ono is as strong as possible right now. They all are very much on the same page and understanding belief in the direction of the department in both the short/long term. At least, they are saying repeatedly in public with us media types.
That's a prevailing reason Cronin is so happy here and why the University has reciprocated their desire for him to stay.
Look around, folks. To have a coach with the success Cronin's enjoyed and dedication to staying for the long haul is rare. Consider the new American Athletic Conference.
Here are your AAC basketball coaches with tenure at the school and record:
Louisville: Rick Pitino (12): 310-111
UC: Mick Cronin (7): 135-99
Temple: Fran Dunphy (7): 158-75
USF: Stan Heath (6): 85-109
Memphis: Josh Pastner (5): 106-35
UCF: Donnie Jones (3): 97-75
Houston: James Dickey (3): 47-46
UConn: Kevin Ollie (1): 20-10
SMU: Larry Brown (1): 15-17
Rutgers: Interim (0)
--- That's right, only one coach -- Rick Pitino, who will be gone after one season -- has spent more years at one school. Half of those coaches have spent three years or less.
--- If you want to take a shot at The American, here's the Catholic 7 with their coaching tenures at the school and record. Cronin holds up there as well with only two coaches owning more years on the bench.
Villanova: Jay Wright (12): 257-154
Georgetown: John Thompson III (9): 277-130
Marquette: Buzz Williams (5): 122-35
DePaul: Oliver Purnell (3): 30-64
St. John's: Steve Lavin (3): 40-30
Seton Hall: Kevin Willard (3): 49-48
Providence: Ed Cooley (2): 34-32
And Mick will return next year with statements like this one from Wednesday repeatedly on the record:
"There is a lot of commitment. There is a lot of forward-thinking people in charge. That's exciting because we want to continue to upgrade everything. Not just basketball stuff, football stuff. It's a process. We have challenges, there's no doubt about it, but we have people that aren't afraid of them that are in charge. For me, it's comforting but it's exciting.
"I'm happy to be here. Everyone knows where I want to be. That's not a secret with me. The end of the day when I get a chance to huddle with Whit we both know we got challenges, but we are both young guys looking to forge ahead and we are willing to sit down and attack it."
--- Combine stability in the most important positions along with a proactive administration and it's clear why Cronin finishes answers to questions like he eventually did the above quote: "They know I'm all-in."
Remember, send any comments, questions or thoughts on this or anything else UC sports to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
--- He also put together the women's highlight video, equally cool. Watch that here. Somebody give our guy an ovation followed immediately by a day off, please.
--- Dan Hoard wrote about Tion Green. All indications are he'll be sharing duties along with RDAIV in the fall. The two junior college transfers will add depth, but Green earned the inside track.
As Tuberville says in this piece, Eddie Gran is very high on Green and Gran knows his backs. He's specialized as a RB coach on his rise to coordinator.
--- Grantland took along-form look at Lance Stephenson (along with Ricky Davis), who will be a key figure in the NBA Playoffs this season. He's now a starting guard for Indiana. He scored a season-high 22 points Sunday in a return to The Garden.
The Pacers patience has certainly paid off with Born Ready.
--- Had this question fired off to me a few times on The Twitters after my SK maturity story last week.
This particular one from follower "@nheld: unless we are talking about Europe does killa's decision show maturity or common sense?"
The answer to that and my response to Nick, was if you take a look around college basketball right now you realize you can't have one without the other. They are mutually exclusive. The maturity to listen to those around you and understand the common sense reality of a situation as a kid in your early 20s is much more difficult than for those of us on the outside -- particularly older folks with some perspective.
Consider some others projected for 2nd round or undrafted that declared, according to this Chad Ford ESPN Insider piece: C.J. Aiken (St. Joe's), C.J. Leslie (N.C. State), Eric Moreland (Oregon State), Marshawn Powell (Arkansas), Phil Pressey (Mizzou), Adonis Thomas (Memphis).
That's just where the list stands now, there are dozens more still on the fence, many of which won't make "common sense" decisions.
--- After writing about freshman pitcher Mitch Pattishall last week, it seemed like pitching well on the big stage of the GABP game could have been a turning point for this talented prospect. He backed up that thought process Saturday throwing 6 2-3 innings of one-run, three-hit baseball in the team's 3-2 win at Rutgers.
If sophomore-to-be Ti'on Green becomes an outstanding running back
for the University of Cincinnati, Bearcats fans have his mother Leticia to
Green verbally committed to Cincinnati in October of
his senior year at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, FL, but by
National Signing Day the following February, Ti'on was wavering.
"My signing day announcement was broadcast live on
Bright House Sports because I won the (Central Florida) Player of the Year
award," said Green."I was about to sign
on the dotted line with USF and my mother moved the paper away and said,
'No.I will not let you ruin your
life.Get out and see something new and
meet new people.Get out of Florida and
get away from home.'She'll try to deny
that she did that.You really can't tell
on TV because you just see her slide her hand, but she moved the USF paper
right out of the way."
"He was teetering and leaning toward South Florida
for a minute, but my heart said Cincinnati," said Leticia Strickland."So I put the Cincinnati paper a little bit
above South Florida and he went from there."
"I had the Cincinnati paper on the left side and USF
was on the right," said Green."As I
went to sign the paper for USF, my mom slipped it out of the way.If you watch it on TV, it looked like we
practiced it, but she moved it and gave me a little smile."
"I just felt like Cincinnati is where he needed to
be," Leticia told me."I didn't have
anything against South Florida; I was just more at peace with Cincinnati."
Although Tommy Tuberville was not UC's head coach
when Green signed with the Bearcats in 2012, he's happy that Ti'on - and
Leticia - chose Cincinnati.
"Eddie Gran is one of the better running backs
coaches in the country and he likes him," said Tuberville."He likes his stamina.This is a tough sport for a running back and
what we're going to ask him to do is be very physical in carrying the ball,
blocking, and protecting the quarterbacks."
UC fans got a limited look at Green as a true
freshman last year as he carried 16 times for 72 yards (4.4 ypc), including a
2-yard touchdown vs. Miami.But
following the graduation of All-Big East running back George Winn, Ti'on will
be in the mix to get significant carries in 2013 along with Ralph David
Abernathy IV, and incoming junior college standouts Rodriquez Moore and Hosey
"I like Ti'on but there's going to be a lot of
competition there," said Tuberville."I
think Ralph probably came out (of spring practice) as the number one running
back, but he's not the type of guy that's going to be able to take on
linebackers on the blitz on every down.So he's not going to be an every-down running back."
"We're going to run the ball under this coaching
staff and I don't know of one back who can do it by himself," said Green."Whatever my role is, I'm just going to step
up and do my best to help the Bearcats be successful."
"I was so proud of him his first year because he
went from being a superstar who carried the ball on pretty much every play to
having a limited role," said Ms. Strickland."He was so positive and had a good spirit.I've always taught him to stay humble and
when your time comes, to handle business.He's carried that attitude and I'm a true believer in what's meant to
As a high school senior, Green showed his talent by
carrying 194 times for 1824 yards (9.4 ypc) and 21 touchdowns.Now he looks forward to learning the finer points
of his position from Coach Gran who has sent numerous running backs to the NFL
including Rudi Johnson, Ronnie Brown, and Brandon Jacobs.
"He's a phenomenal coach," said Green."He sits you down and breaks down the offense
as simply as possible so that you're able to understand it.His track record is crazy but he doesn't
mention it one time.He treats everybody
equally and gives everyone a fair chance to showcase their talents."
"The biggest thing for Ti'on is consistency," said
Gran."Each day you have to pay
attention to the details and the little things and that's my job as a coach -
to get him to do that.Once he decides
to do that, he's going to make a really big contribution to this football
"He's got to mature a little bit and he knows that,"
said Tuberville."He hasn't played that
much - especially on this level."
But Green will get his chance.Ti'on still has three years remaining to make
an impact at the school - he claims - that his mother ultimately selected.
"Maybe he took it that way, but he still had the
last say," said Strickland.
"I don't regret it at all," Ti'on told me with a
grin."I love it here."
Spring football concluded Wednesday at the Sheakley Athletic Center. For the most part, these practices all are pretty run of the mill and few true developments can be taken away.
As Tommy Tuberville said himself, "they're all boring, they're all about the same -- it's kind of like watching paint dry."
This year proved slightly different with the beginning of the Tuberville era and a collection of new coaches learning the skill set of their new personnel. From one month of watching drills and scrimmages, interviewing players and coaches, I've come away with a few lessons learned, heard and observed.
1) Brendon Kay sits in the driver's seat for QB1
Kay rode the momentum of his second half of the season into spring football and looked a step crisper than every other quarterback on the field. He made far fewer mistakes and showed a unique weapon nobody else possesses with his consistently accurate deep ball.
In the three scrimmages, Kay's numbers were far superior to anyone else as Munchie Legaux struggled at times with incompletions and interceptions.
Tuberville stated multiple times he doesn't plan on naming a starter until camp, but even he abstained from commenting on the obvious with the media.
"Yeah, I'd say he's a step ahead of everyone else," Tuberville said.
The coach went on to say he's not so far ahead that the ground can't be recovered during summer or fall camp, but he's clearly earned the advantage.
In other developments in the quarterback world, Bennie Coney made a push into the race for starting quarterback. Coney looked excellent playing primarily against the second-team defense, but excellent nonetheless. He's shown a soft, accurate touch but also a rare ability to break away from chaos in the pocket as well or better than anyone else. At the very least, he's separated himself from Trenton Norvell for the No. 3 spot and could easily be the backup come Aug. 31 against Purdue.
"I think there's going to be a place for all three quarterbacks," Tuberville said. "They need to learn their role and we got to learn what to teach them and make their role."
And here were the complete stats from the combined three spring scrimmages.
Quarterbacks in three spring scrimmages
22 of 37 (59%)
19 of 42 (45%)
26 of 42 (62%)
18 of 41 (44%)
2) This team will attempt to out-physical opponents
Tuberville recognizes the strength of this team as the two lines up front. With all five starting offensive linemen returning, the offensive side makes sense. The continuity, depth and summer of adding muscle makes them the top position group on the team from my angle.
The return of starters Jordan Stepp and Camaron Beard, along with rapid progression of Silverberry Mouhon has Tuberville excited for the capabilities of the defensive line. Yet, when talking physicality, this stretches beyond the front four to the linebackers. Greg Blair, Jeff Luc and Nick Temple will be among the best linebacker group in The American. The pure physicality of Luc at his size and strength for an outside linebacker can be heard by standing on the sidelines of practice. His hits just sound different.
There will be questions in the secondary and offensive skill positions as to who will step in and seize the opportunity, but these lines will be the strength and Tuberville plans on building the gameplan around that being the case.
"Trying to be more of a physical team, not that what they did in the past (wasn't), I did what they did in the past where I was at," Tuberville said. "We've got the type of team that can be more of a physical team other than a finesse team on both sides. We can be a little more balanced in the run and pass."
A first-year coach couldn't ask for a better strength than the front lines. As players attempt to learn coaching style and understand the institution of a new offense through the first season, not as much knowledge is needed to line up and move people backward at the point of attack. That alone can win games without needing a mastery of the new system.
3) Anthony McClung is ready to be a star
Few players shined this spring to the extent of senior WR Anthony McClung. He's coming off three productive seasons, but appears destined for a breakout in the pro-style attack. Far more than any other receiver, he consistently worked himself wide open and showed the ability to make plays on the ball down the field.
McClung's best season came his sophomore year when he caught 49 passes for 683 yards and 6 TDs, last year his numbers dropped to 34 receptions for 539 yards and 2 TDs.
With new starters jumping in around him, he'll be looked at as the go-to receiver more than at any point in his UC career. Tuberville expects speedy JuCo transfer Johnny Holden to come in and help stretch the field, but other than him, McClung is one of the few deep threat wideouts among a group of big body athletes.
He'll be counted on to carry the passing game, but appears ready to handle the job.
4) Tommy Tuberville lives on the opposite end of the coaching spectrum from Butch Jones
Practice sessions at the Sheakley Athletic Complex couldn't look more different this year. Gone are the microphones with Jones screaming at his players through every drill. Gone is the sprinting and yelling from station to station.
Tuberville brings a more laid-back approach centered on teaching and technique rather than passion and power. Players told me practices are much easier this year without all the running around and wondering how long it would actually go.
Where Jones would be involved in most every drill at one point or the other, working hands on with the players, Tuberville is rarely heard during practices. He sits back, lets his coaches coach and takes it all in with most of his words coming at the end of practice and in the film room.
And the guy just has that charisma about him that plays into the hands of players, coaches and media alike. If you don't believe me, just take in his post-practice interview with Tommy G from a few weeks back.
Certainly not stating either style of Jones or Tuberville as better or worse, only they couldn't be much more different.
As always, I want to hear from you! Send your comments, questions or thoughts on the 2013 football season to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
At the youth football clinic last weekend, UC football players learned valuable lessons about service all while providing unforgettable unique experiences for the collection of kids participating.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- Junior running back Ralph David Abernathy IV might have had the biggest smile on his face of the almost 500 kids and 80 teammates who participated in the UC football youth clinic at Sheakley Athletics Center on April 6.
Running around, high-fiving kids and getting them pumped up with chants of "Are you ready?" could be heard across the field.
It was Abernathy's second year participating in the event and his favorite part is just interacting and having fun with kids in the community.
"Just getting the chance to come out here and enjoy it," he said. "For us, football's always been fun. But now we get to share our fun with somebody else."
The kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to eighth grade and all from the Greater Cincinnati area, came to learn basic football fundamentals from almost all of the UC football players. Most of the UC coaches also participated.
Antrione Archer, the director of player development and responsible for running the camp, says the youth clinic is a great opportunity for kids to be able to say they were on the field at UC with Bearcats players right after a scrimmage when the players are still in their game gear.
"It's all about getting them while they're young, planting the seed into their hearts," Archer said. "The whole goal is to talk to the community and show these kids a good time that maybe one day in the future they can take the right route and go to college."
The clinic started with stretching lines, just as the players do in their own practice. Then the kids, divided up by age groups, went to different stations to do drills. There was a catch and celebrate drill where the kids got to catch a touchdown in the end zone and do a touchdown dance. Others included a sack the quarterback drill, an interception drill and an equipment race.
Of course, the clinic did not go without some Bearcat spirit either, as Archer led the kids in the Down the Drive chant before and after the drills and the players had them huddle up at the end of every drill, putting their hands in the middle and shouting 1-2-3, Bearcats.
Abernathy led the run and leap drill with the other Bearcat running backs. The kids had to run through pads while holding tight to a ball and leaping onto another pad as if they were scoring a touchdown. Abernathy and the rest of the running backs assured the kids performed their touchdown dance after scoring.
Deionte Buckley, a sophomore running back, also understands what this means.
"It's a great experience for the kids," he said. "They get to watch us a lot, but they never get to see our faces because we keep the helmets on. I think it's a great day for them and a great day for Bearcat Nation."
But it's not just about the kids. The clinic is important for the players, too. It teaches them how to lead and coach, while being able to interact with the community.
"It teaches the players how to serve," Archer said. "They have a platform, whether they like it or not, being a Division I athlete, especially at the University of Cincinnati. But it also humbles them to let them know that this is bigger than any individual person."
Abernathy knows UC football is his platform and he is a role model, especially for young kids. And that's why he did everything he could to maintain a positive attitude while making sure the kids had fun at his station last Saturday afternoon.
"As a college athlete, a lot of people look up to you," he said. "They look to you like you're their hero."
Kilpatrick expects to graduate in December and accounted that as the biggest reason for returning. Yet, in the meantime, he could reach hallowed ground in the Bearcats record books along the way to go down as one of the great UC players of all time.
His legacy will certainly be as a premier scorer. Kilpatrick finished his junior season averaging 17.0 points per game. For his career, he's scored 1,444 points placing him 16th on the all-time scoring list.
Here is the all-time list:
1. Oscar Robertson (1958-60): 2,973
2. Steve Logan (1999-02): 1,985
3. Deonta Vaughn (2007-10): 1,885
4. Danny Fortson (1995-97): 1,881
5. Roger McClendon (1984-88): 1,789
6. Pat Cummings (1975-79): 1,762
7. Ron Bonham (1962-64): 1,666
8. Lou Banks (1988-91): 1,644
9. Jack Twyman (1952-55): 1,598
10. Lloyd Batts (1972-74): 1,585
11. Darnell Burton (1994-97): 1,584
12. Jason Maxiell (2002-05): 1,566
13. Robert Miller (1975-78): 1,498
14. Yancy Gates (2009-12): 1,485
15. Dwight Jones (1980-83): 1,451
16. Sean Kilpatrick (2011-present): 1,444
17. Paul Hogue (1960-62): 1,391
Mick Cronin talked about how SK improved every season since his arrival at UC and the numbers bare that out. Kilpatrick's points per game average jumped at least 2.7 points each year.
"He's probably the most improved player that I've coached as a head coach," Cronin said.
Here are his career stats in average per game broken down by year:
Points per game
The biggest difference this season would be his increased trips to the free throw line, though it was coupled with his falling 3-point percentage. That said, let's go under the assumption he again averages exactly 17 points per game and doesn't continue his current career trend arc.
At 17 points in each of 35 games, it would place him at 595 points for his senior season.
Add that up, his career total would be 2,039 career points. That would place him all alone at second all-time in UC history in points scored by 54 points. He would be only the second 2,000-point scorer in the history of the school behind the great Oscar Robertson.
Elite company, indeed.
Just for some perspective, SK would need to average 43.7 points per game this year to equal the career total The Big O did in three seasons with the Bearcats. Ridiculous.
His pursuit of the all-time scoring record books will be the most discussed, but not the only record SK will chase down.
Here are a few:
--- Career 3-pointers Made: He'll be in a battle for the record of career 3-point field goals made. He's at 220 right now. Should he make as many as this past season (82), he'd finish with 302 and the third most all time. But he will be close on the heels of Vaughn and Burton. Kilpatrick made 92 3-pointers as a sophomore. Replicating that season would put him neck-and-neck with Vaughn.
The current record book looks like this:
Career 3-pointers made:
1. Deonta Vaughn: 313
2. Darnell Burton: 306
3. Field Williams: 262
--- Career Shots Attempted: Few shoot as much as Kilpatrick and he'll be among the great gunslingers in UC history. He currently has 1,181 career shots. Should he shoot the exact same number as this past season (488), he would end up second behind Oscar Robertson at 1,669.
Career shots attempted:
1. Oscar Robertson: 1,968
2. Deonta Vaughn: 1,539
3. Jack Twyman: 1,477
--- Three consecutive years as leading scorer: Almost certainly SK will leave UC as one of the few to lead the team in scoring for three consecutive seasons. Since Oscar Robertson did it in 1960, only four others have accomplished the feat. Those are Deonta Vaughn, Roger McClendon, Lloyd Batts and Rick Roberson.
--- Preseason Conference Player of the Year: Reseraching preseason players of the year is about as easy as finding a preseason poll worth paying attention to. So, I can't tell you how many preseason players of the year there have been in UC history.
Kilpatrick will be in the conversation as preseason player of the year in the new American Athletic Conference. There is a chance he could end up the Player of the Year in the conference, that would make him the first player since Steve Logan in 2002 to accomplish the task.
UC dominated the award in C-USA: Danny Fortson (2x -- '96 and '97), Kenyon Martin (2000), Logan 2x (2001, '02). In the Metro, the only two UC players to win were Pat Cummings (1979) and Gary Yoder (1977).
Who would be some of his competition for preseason POY?
Russ Smith, Louisville: If he returns to Louisville would earn the award, but appears he'll bolt.
Shabazz Napier, UConn: Hasn't declared yet, but averaged 17.1 points and 4.6 assists last year
Joe Jackson, Memphis: C-USA POY. Averaged 13.8 pts and 4.8 assists, 49.3 percent from deep.
That's about the list and SK will be in the conversation among these. Regardless of all these numbers and facts, Kilpatrick will go down as one of the most accomplished Bearcats of all-time. He solidified that fact Wednesday night.
I want to hear from you. Shoot me any questions, comments or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Tommy Tuberville has been the SEC Coach of the Year
at two different schools, has a 7-3 record in bowl games, led Auburn to six
straight victories over archrival Alabama, and coached the Tigers to a perfect
13-0 season in 2004.
That's an impressive resume.
But it you're a golf fan like me and excited for the
start of The Masters, then this might be the most interesting Tuberville
factoid of them all:He's golfed at
"I have some friends who are members and I've had
the chance to play quite a few rounds," Coach Tuberville told me on Wednesday."Just being able to walk around that course
knowing that Jack Nicklaus hit a shot from here...or play Amen Corner...or play the
16th hole and try to hit it in the middle of the green and watch the
ball roll down toward where they always put the pin on Sunday.
"I've had a chance to stay in Butler Cabin, eat in
the clubhouse, and go to the Crow's Nest where the amateurs stay - it's been a
lot of fun just for the history of it."
So inquiring minds want to know:What's his best score at Augusta?
"I've never broken 80," said Tuberville."I've been pretty close to it - probably 81
or 82.The course is wide open - it's
not like some of these courses where you have to hit an iron off the tee to
keep it in the fairway.The biggest
challenges are the undulation in the fairways where you never have a flat lie
and then the slick greens.If you just
hit the ball on the green, there will probably be several times where your
caddy will say, 'You've hit the green but there's no way you can get it in the
hole from there in four putts.'"
Hold on a second.Has Tuberville actually four-putted on one of Augusta's greens?
five-putted," Tommy said with a laugh."The first time I played there, I hit a good drive on the first hole and
my caddy said, 'Whatever you do Coach, keep it below the pin. Don't hit this
shot above the pin.'Well I hit what I
thought was a good shot, but it was a little bit thin and rolled about 15 feet
past the hole.My caddy kind of grunted
and shook his head.I got up to the
green and I had a 15 foot downhill putt and he said, 'You're going to end up in
the sand trap.'I just barely touched the
ball and it rolled right into the trap."
With that story in mind, Tuberville says that the
winner this week will be the person that hits his approach shots to the most
favorable areas on the green to putt.Since Tiger Woods is the popular pick to win, I asked Tommy if he would
choose Tiger or the rest of the field?
"I'd take the field," said Tuberville."Tiger is not the Tiger of old even though
he's won a few times this year.Years
ago I would have taken Tiger over the field, but there are so many good young
golfers now that can hit the ball longer than him and putt.Tiger is putting as well as he's ever putted,
but I still say there are a lot of other guys that are putting just as well."
When every high school senior signs on the dotted line to play major Division I college basketball, the thoughts immediately flutter to the NBA. Some view it as a required one-year pit stop; others the holdover may be longer, but still see themselves bolting early for a career of riches.
Anyone who denies those thoughts is lying. Sean Kilpatrick felt that way. One of his goals for this season was to become the latest Bearcats player drafted by the NBA.
Prior to the team's postseason banquet Wednesday he announced he'd be returning to Cincinnati for his redshirt senior season.
To some, this would seem an easy decision. After all, the NBA consensus was he would be a second-round pick at best. But look around college basketball, unwise decisions by underclassmen are occurring on a nightly basis. The temptation for a young man to jump toward his dream on a personal timetable and leave the life of struggling college student behind is strong. For the country's fiercest competitors to admit they aren't yet good enough can be debilitating.
That's why so many jump early -- ill-advised, stubborn. It's happened before at UC as well as every other major program in America.
Place Mick Cronin in the camp viewing this as an easy decision for Kilpatrick. Not necessarily because the evidence insisted this decision be his best choice - which it clearly is. No, he viewed this as an easy decision because he knew Kilpatrick would be mature enough to understand reality and make the logical, informed call.
Maturity comes as much a part of the Sean Kilpatrick Package as the split-second release. He sees the bigger picture, listens closely to trusted voices and embraces betting on his own work ethic. In an age of college basketball where mentioning pursuit of a degree is more often used as a punchline than point of emphasis, he stands as a rare breed of character.
"I don't really sit here and worry about the NBA because it's going to always be there," said Kilpatrick, who averaged 17.0 points per game last season. "I am just focused on making myself better as a person. That's being more responsible than I am and taking care of my school stuff and getting that degree. That comes first. Being able to sit here and get my degree and hang that paper up on my mom's wall when she gets her house, that's more important than anything."
Kilpatrick spent most nights wide awake the last two weeks. His says his father would be up to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m., only to pass his son wide awake in the house. Confusion over his decision and the process kept his mind buzzing all hours.
After sitting down for a long conversation with Cronin, the truth of his situation became apparent. Part of what has made this coach not only a great asset to the university, but universally beloved by his current and former players, is his ability to put the facts of the case on the table and let the decision fall in the hands of the player with fully support of his coach every step of the way.
In many ways, that made all the difference for the two-time Second-Team All-Big East guard.
"My final conversation with coach was the most important one," Kilpatrick said. "That was something that really meant the most because for him to say the things he said and for me knowing that he's here for me throughout everything and every decision I do make, knowing he's here for me throughout everything that meant the most."
Cronin couldn't help but smile when telling reporters his top scorer had news for them. The smile comes as much because of the player he is on the court as the person he's become in being able to make a decision that looks beyond the short-term satisfaction so common with today's youth.
"The key word is maturity, which has really been the case with Sean his whole career," Cronin said. "The issue is expectations. The thing we talked about is trying to have enough maturity to look at what's the worst possible scenario? You have to work for a living. He has a daughter, you want to be able to tell your daughter you worked for your degree. How much that means to his parents."
In many ways, this decision wasn't about basketball. It was about life and figuring out what type of son, father, friend and role model he wants to be.
"As driven as SK is, trust me, (the NBA) was his goal this year," Cronin said. "But he's mature enough to realize the benefits of improving, getting his degree, continuing to improve. In life, whether you play in the NBA or not, that's not what this is about. Yes, that's your goal but that can't be the end-all, be-all for your life."
Kilpatrick's life moves on now with an excitement over leading a promising group of young, athletic players during his final season. He can chase down the top scorers in the history of the university. He can enjoy preseason accolades cascading from all angles. He can focus on improving his level of play, as he has every season at UC to move from nearly unrecruited to one of the premier players in the conference. He can soak in the refreshing knowledge he was mature enough to see the benefit in all those endeavors.
For at least one night, though, they can all take a back seat.
"I'm just happy I can really sleep now," Kilpatrick said.
I want to hear from you! Send any questions, comments or thought on SK returning to UC to me at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
The Bearcats resilient comeback victory against Xavier left coach Brian Cleary as proud as he's been of any win this year as UC showed an ability to find a way to win amid trying circumstances.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- The first words out of head coach Brian Cleary's mouth after the Bearcats came from behind to beat crosstown rival Xavier 7-6 in the first round of the Joe Nuxhall Classic came out bluntly.
"What a stupid sport this is."
Amid the laughs from the surrounding media, he referred, to the idea no one can predict what will happen in the game of baseball. Tuesday night was a perfect example of the craziness that can occur in this sport and why a resilient group which finds a way to win can prove invaluable.
Down 5-0 after the top of the first, the Bearcats wouldn't allow another run and clawed their way back, highlighted by three runs in the fifth and three runs in the eighth.
With players in the dugout wearing rally caps and the crowd of approximately 2,000 doing the Down the Drive chant, freshman Devin Wenzel lined a double over the head of the right fielder in the eighth to put UC ahead 7-5.
"I'd come up with bases loaded quite a few times this year," Wenzel said. "I was just looking for a pitch that I could get the barrel on and see if it could go."
Cleary almost seemed surprised his team came back to win on Tuesday. At the same time, he's proud of them for battling through adversity.
"I'm most proud of this win maybe of any we've had just because of the way that they hung in there and found a way," he said.
He knows what this group of young guys is capable of doing and is optimistic they can put it all together.
"This team that we've got, as these guys get more physical, we're going to be really good," he said. "We're going to be more talented than some people."
He thinks they're due to erupt offensively soon, which would mean turning the corner for a pitching staff that hasn't given up more than eight runs in any of the last 20 games.
"We just got so many guys that are still trying to figure it out in the batter's box," Cleary said. "I told these guys before the game, have a feeling that any time now, we're going to start really scoring runs."
Scoring seven runs and coming back from a five-run deficit might be a sign of just that.
Not only did the win boost the team's confidence, but it also was a win against a rival. Because the Bearcats have a young team, they might not be familiar yet with this rivalry and just how big it is to beat Xavier. Cleary made sure they knew how important it is to everyone in the UC community.
"We talked before the game about how important this is to this university and to our players and our former players," Cleary said. "This is a big deal."
It's always a big deal to beat Xavier, no matter what sport. And the way they won: well, it's just stupid.
On dealing with the frustrations of redshirting and if he had any thoughts that he made the wrong decision:
"I knew it was the right place, I prayed about it every day. I talked to my mom, my family, I prayed about it at the time. I knew it was the right place it was just a matter of when it was going to happen. With the new coaching changes I knew I had a chance now. They didn't know anything about me, so, it was an opportunity. We all got equal reps, we all got equal everything. It's up to me now."
On what those conversations with his mother were like:
"'Son, you got to stay in it, son, it's going to be tough.' She always tell me it's going to be tough I just got to be patient. She's the reason I come out here every day the way I come. Just be patient, your time will come. You don't have to rush anything."
On what happened when his Plant City HS team played Florida power Plant High, led by UGA QB Aaron Murray:
"They tore us up."
On how comfortable he feels now at UC:
"I'm acclimated to eveything now. This is my new home for the next four years. I'm adjusted now. I don't even like going home no more, man. I've been able to run away from all my past, everything that happened. I have been able to get out and just go far and not have to worry about running home to moms when everything goes bad. I just wanted to get out and explore things, try new things."
On working with QB coach Darin Hinshaw:
"I feel like I've been playing well, one thing I can say about Coach Hinshaw is he's a great teacher. It's not about all yelling and all that. You mess up, he walks up to you and says, you are good, man. This is what you did. This is what you can do to get better. That is one thing that helps me out with the film study with him and all that stuff. That's one thing that has made me more comfortable out here."
On not being able to be full contact as a QB:
"I kind of wish we were live just so we could prove to the defense that any time you guys reach with your fingers that we are not sacked because we got a lot of movement going on. I just want to prove to them sometimes that we can get out when we need to."
QB COACH/PASSING GAME COORDINATOR DARIN HINSHAW:
On Coney's development and maturation:
"With him, he's making really good decisions. He can make a lot better ones though. I want him to be perfect but he's also a redshirt freshman. When you talk about redshirt freshman you talk about them growing up. You got to grow up and he's in that process where he's grown up a lot in the last four weeks. I've seen a kid get a little bit more mature. A bad play happens and you can't get into sulking the head, body language and all that. He's getting to where now he's understanding, OK, I made a mistake, let's go to the next play. So, I'm excited about that."
On Coney's greatest strength as a QB:
"Him being able to move in the pocket and throw accurate balls -- that's the game. There are so many guys that can drop and go throw the ball accurately and do things with nothing around them. When all the sudden things are happening around them, to be able to step in and throw with somebody right in your face, he's completed numerous balls when there are guys right in his face and he's completed it. A huge quality to be able to move in the pocket and be able to find the playmakers. Guys that can't do that, everything has to be perfect all the time and you are sitting here just sick to your stomach. That's a great quality he has."
On dangers of plotting him out on a course for 2014:
"I've been with teams where we've had to win with the fourth guy. Guys get hurt, you've seen guys get in situations where my job is to prepare whoever is playing out in that game, whether second, third, fourth guy that we are going to be able to move the offense and never miss a beat."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Redshirt freshman QB Bennie Coney entered UC with a special skill set but reputation of an attitude problem. After 16 months quietly working in the shadows of the UC football program, a mature Coney is finally seeing the light.
CINCINNATI -- For years, a checkered past haunted Bennie Coney. Every scouting report, every newspaper story, every whisper under the breath of onlooking coaches.
Sure, this kid could play, but would he be more trouble than he's worth?
Coney was the starting quarterback his junior year at Plant City (Fla.) High, but was suspended once, then later dismissed from the team midway through the 2010 season for what he would tell reporters to be "an altercation with a teammate." He'd return and mend fences for a senior season, but his reputation remained in rubble.
The incident lived as the most significant hindrance on a promising football career. Two years later, entering his redshirt freshman season at UC, the emerging quarterback views it as the biggest blessing.
"The one thing I can say about that is I'm glad it happened when it did," Coney said. "Because if it didn't happen then, it would happen now and I'd be home. Now I can see what I need to do and what I need to work on - and that's my attitude. That's one thing I've been harping on, my attitude and just leading."
A contrite, more mature Coney views life through a different prism now. His developmental years were laced with trouble, immature actions and all the ego saddled by any teenage quarterback offered by schools like Michigan, Arkansas and Virginia Tech.
Changing opinions and healing a reputation only occurs with time served. Coney spent many hours over his redshirt year therapeutically spilling this concept on the phone with his mother in Florida. He didn't doubt he chose the correct school, but waiting for his opportunity to prove he's more than the questioned character made for long, frustrating nights and days.
This now humbled, 6-foot-3, 205-pound QB spent the last 16 months quietly grinding away in the dark corners of the Bearcats program, peeling the layers off his potential and persona. One not only utilizing his physical tools to impress on the field, but tapping into maturity and leadership in the process.
This spring, Coney changed the conversation.
"It's fun when you can actually see the light now, man," he said. "I'm seeing the light now. My opportunity is coming."
He's earning it. Of the four quarterbacks taking the majority of snaps through the spring's three scrimmages, he led them all in completion percentage (62 percent) and ranked only behind Brandon Kay in yards per pass. While both Munchie Legaux and Trenton Norvell struggled with interceptions, he threw three touchdowns with only one pass picked off.
Last year, Coney arrived as an early enrollee at UC and participated in spring football. A year later, as he made play after play this spring, he noticed the response from his teammates changing. When he ran on the field with the backups last season, the huddle would be met with a silence, as if they all were looking at him, judging, wondering. Today, Coney sprints directly to his offensive lineman with a smile and swagger.
"Oh my gosh, man, it's so weird," Coney said. "Most of the O-line when I first got here we really didn't talk much. Now when I step out it's, 'Let's go, man, let's go, man, put us on your back. You got to lead us. Come on, 10, you got to lead us.' I feel like I have been making strides and they see it."
Hard not to, combining his natural athletic ability with a climbing confidence produces results to make anyone look twice. Quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Darin Hinshaw raves about his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket and instinctual knack to focus downfield as protection breaks down around him.
During the scrimmage at Paul Brown Stadium, pressure forced Coney out of the pocket and his burst distanced linebackers sprinting off the edge. Just as he appeared destined to take a loss out of bounds, Coney snapped off a throw 20 yards down the sideline to hit a late-breaking receiver who tiptoed in for a completion. Special stuff.
Coney circled through his teammates on the sidelines as he ran back to the field clapping his hands and urging on his offensive team to keep the momentum rolling.
On the surface, his ascension came on plays such as that one during each of the 15 practice sessions, but Coney's always excelled on the field. His spike in development came off it. Now, when practice ends, Coney only begins. Nights and days are spent buried in the playbook and film study instead of assuming his talent will take over on gameday. A constant stream of questions are directed at Hinshaw in a relentless effort to learn.
While Coney's far from perfect, attitude, enthusiasm and maturity are beginning to catch up to the talent.
Hinshaw witnesses the transformation every day. Even over the last four weeks, he's seen Coney jump out of his shell and into the acceptance of teammates.
"No doubt, you see it," Hinshaw said. "As a quarterback you do it with your play. That's the only way. You go out there and run the offense and score touchdowns, you move the chains.
"People make mistakes in life. You don't learn from them unless you make them. He's made them, he's learned from them, now the worst thing you can do is make them again. I think now he's growing up. That's what I talk to him about. You got to grow up. Freshman have to become juniors and seniors out there pretty quick if you are going to play."
Theoretically, the table appears set for him to play on opening day in 2014. Kay and Legaux both graduate after this season and he could position himself to be the redshirt sophomore quarterback to replace them. Coney admits he views that date as when the path clears for him. He's also seen too many teams forced deep into their depth chart to think he's still 16 months away from hitting the field.
"For right now, I am competing like I am the starting quarterback," Coney said. "You never know what can happen. I've seen teams play with their fourth string. My goal is be third string or the backup. That's all I'm focusing on right now. Take a step in front of the freshmen, take a step and learn as much as I can from the seniors so I can be ready when they leave."
Coney spent much of the last three years running from his past. Now, having embraced and learned from it, he's finally prepared to move past it. He finally ready to become a leader.
He's finally able to see the light.
I want to hear from you. Send me your comments, questions or thoughts on Bennie Coney or any other members of the UC football team to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
People may look at the 4-1 loss to Louisville at Great American Ball Park on Saturday and discount it as just another loss for a maturing Bearcats baseball team against a current national power. In some ways, yes, on the surface that's true. For those who attended that game against Louisville pitcher Jeff Thompson, whose numbers have shown him to be nearly unhittable this season (5-0, 0.59 ERA entering the game), they saw a different story.
Running five freshman position players and a freshman starting pitcher out there in GABP against one of the top prospects in baseball and eventually racking up nine hits all the while holding the Louisville offense in check showed the potential of this group in the coming years.
They aren't there yet, obviously. Now 11-18 overall and 1-8 in conference, much progress needs to be made. The bright future can be seen from here, though.
I focused a piece on Mitch Pattishall, the 19-year-old starting pitcher who fought nerves and the No. 9 team in the country for five sparkling innings before seeing a few runs cross the plate in the sixth. Gutty performance from a young kid on a big stage.
As always, if you have any comments, questions or just want to talk about the weather, feel free to shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Let's eat ...
--- One extra quote from the game on Saturday regarding how great this experience was for the UC players. This from freshman catcher Woody Wallace on his attitude and the sense he got from his teammates as the game rolled on:
"No doubt, something goes wrong in that game you kind of shake it off more than normal and easy because you are playing in this facility," he said. "Kids would kill to do this. We were blessed to have this opportunity. For the most part everyone was out there enjoying themselves today, which was really fun."
Regardless of outcome, Standing O to the Reds, Bearcats and Cardinals for coming together on a cool event that had an estimated 4,500 folks in attendance at GABP. Some of those left by the time the final pitches were thrown, but plenty stuck around to take in college baseball and that's a win for everyone involved.
--- Once again, Silverberry Mouhon with a great day. I spoke with him after last week's scrimmage at Paul Brown Stadium where he racked up 1 1/2 sacks and a pick. In what's become a run of great defensive ends around Nippert Stadium, he appears to be falling in line and has become the pleasant surprise of the spring on defense from my angle.
Over the last four years, four Bearcats defensive lineman have been drafted by the NFL. We'll see what becomes of Dan Giordano on draft day (possible last-round pick) which could make it five in five. Throw Walter Stewart in there and the reputation grows regarding that position here. Mouhon has the potential to be that next guy.
Now, plenty of players look great in the spring and we don't hear a peep out of them in the fall, but keep an eye on the redshirt sophomore out of Georgia.
--- Chris Moore reeled in a remarkable one-handed catch that led to one of his three touchdowns Saturday. He's currently got a spot as a starter at the outside receiver position with Anthony McClung in the slot. Max Morrison has been lining up opposite him with the first team in three-wide sets. An interesting battle in the fall will be what happens when Alex Chisum returns from the injury that kept him out of spring. A host of others could break through as well, ideally, Eddie Gran would like to have four receivers he can rotate in and out on the outside with McClung owning the middle of the field.
As with every storyline in the spring, this one ends with "we shall see."
--- Brendon Kay has shown well this spring and appears to be rolling off the momentum he gained the second half of the season. His three touchdown passes Saturday only cemented a solid month.
--- Joe Reedy withmore Mel Kiper chatter about UC draftees. He continues to love George Winn and claims Travis Kelce's stock has dropped a bit into the fourth round with his abdominal injury. Others have Kelce higher despite it, wait and see. If anybody should know how little the round selected matters, it's Kelce whose brother Jason went in the sixth round and he was the starting center on opening day his rookie year.
Consider this: Not only did Caupain average 26 points per game this season, but also averaged 15 rebounds per night. Sounds like a UC guard if there has ever been one.
His coach pointed out he was the best defensive player on the floor because he would guard any position. Some night take the opposing guard, some night the opposing center. Exciting to see how this translates to UC.
--- National Title Game tonight: Louisville vs. Michigan. Our guy Rob Dauster at NBC Sports writes about how you couldn't ask for a more fitting final game. > He's right. And for those of you who scoff when I quote KenPom here all the time, your two national title participants own the No. 1 team in defensive efficiency (Louisville) against the No.1 team in offensive efficiency (Michigan). Not to mention the second-ranked team at turning opponents over (Louisville) against the No. 1 team in not turning the ball over on offense (Michigan).
So much of March and April are about creating the few extra possessions to make the difference. Whoever is able to win the turnover margin tonight will likely be cutting down the nets.
--- I'm most excited tonight for One Shining Moment, which as everyone who reads this blog knows, I'm moderately obsessed with. I'll post it here tomorrow. For today, here's Cincinnati's own Afghan Whigs with an old classic.
The Bearcats managed seven hits against Baseball America's top 100 prospect Jeff Thompson, but couldn't cash those hits into runs to flip the outcome of the 4-1 loss to Louisville in the Reds Collegiate Invitational at Great American Ball Park.
CINCINNATI -- Junior outfielder Justin Glass has been good friends with Louisville junior pitcher Jeff Thompson since they were young. They played travel ball together, faced each other in high school and now play each other every year in college. So it's not a huge surprise that Glass was able to get two hits off Thompson in the Bearcats game against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park.
"I've probably (had) 20-30 at-bats against him," Glass said. "I knew what he was about. He made good pitches on me, I put a good swing on it and I found the holes. I got a little bit of bragging game on him then."
Thompson came into the game with a 5-0 record and a 0.59 ERA, giving up only three earned runs and striking out 46 in 46 innings pitched for Louisville. He hadn't allowed a run in his last three outings.
He pitched like that at GABP on Saturday, striking out nine UC batters and once again allowing no runs in Louisville's 4-1 win over the Bearcats.
While UC did get seven hits off Thompson, they failed to take advantage of several scoring opportunities. Most notable was in the bottom of the sixth when they loaded the bases with only one out, but did not score. Designated hitter Ryan Quinn struck out and pinch hitter Brendon Neel popped out to the first baseman.
Head coach Brian Cleary knows that Thompson is a good pitcher and liked what he saw from his young team at the plate.
"I thought we did a pretty good job against him," head coach Brian Cleary said. "We [just] left some guys on base, we had some chances, even there in the ninth. It was just hard to really get going against him."
Cleary understands that it's going to take time for his guys, especially the freshmen, to get better at capitalizing on scoring opportunities. He says they try too hard at the plate and it leads to chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
"In general, we chase too many pitches that aren't good pitches to hit, and when you do that, there's no reason for the guy to give you one you can hit," Cleary said.
Glass agrees the team tries to do too much. They let the idea of missed opportunities get inside their head and then try too hard to get a hit. His solution: Relax.
"Home run doesn't have to be the answer every time," he said. "We just got to play more relaxed, not make it as big of a deal; (instead) make it more like a backyard wiffleball game and have fun with it."
Whatever relaxation techniques Glass is doing must be working since he's currently riding a 13-game hitting streak.
"I've been watching the game more, learn how people are pitching me," he said. "I'm taking it over to BP and I'm taking that same BP swing into the game. It's working out for me."
Despite the outcome, Glass and his teammates still enjoyed playing on the field where the Reds had played just 30 minutes before.
"It was a good experience and playing against a great team in Louisville was awesome too," he said. "Hopefully we get another opportunity to do it. It's definitely something I'll remember the rest of my life."
Freshman starting pitcher Mitch Pattishall took the loss in Saturday's 4-1 defeat against No. 9 Louisville but hardly walks away the loser in the big picture of UC baseball.
CINCINNATI - Buried in the bullpen beyond the left-field power alley, 19-year-old Mitch Pattishall warmed up only moments after the chaotic aftermath of two of the best teams in Major League Baseball spilling into tense extra innings.
For a freshman pitcher with only 18 innings of college baseball under his belt, following their lead onto the largest stage of the Bearcats season at Great American Ball Park with the ninth-ranked team in the country in the opposing dugout left him searching for breathing techniques.
He could handle warming up in the bullpen. The tall fences and focus on stretching out kept blinders blocking the 42,000-seat stadium.
Once reaching the mound, however, there was nowhere to hide.
"It wasn't too bad warming up in the bullpen, it was just me, (catcher Woody Wallace) and coach down there, so it didn't bother me," Pattishall said. "But once we got out there it really set in.
"It was a huge stage."
The landscape can be overwhelming for 10-year MLB veterans, much less a pitcher like Pattishall who last year at this time was hurling for Pendleton Heights High School in games played in the rural expanses outside Indianapolis.
"He was, as you might guess, really nervous," Bearcats coach Brian Cleary said.
Something funny happened as Pattishall endured those nervous moments in the first inning on Saturday. He started dealing.
He gave up but one run through the first five innings and left a crowd of about 4,500 at GABP wondering if UC could pull off an upset of the preseason favorite to win the Big East conference this season. While his breaking ball didn't snap into the strike zone as much as he would have liked, he found ways to make outs.
Cleary didn't hesitate to give an inexperienced freshman this stage when setting the rotation on Wednesday. He knew Pattishall. He came as one of the top recruits in a class lauded by Baseball America as among the best in the Midwest Region. Cleary believed this kid could handle it.
In the end, a rough sixth inning and the inability to spot his breaking ball ran him off giving up four runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 as part of a 4-1 defeat. He struck out one and walked one facing 24 batters. But this game wasn't about the two hit batsmen and walk from the final inning. For Pattishall, and in many ways the near future of this program, this was about rising to the occasion during a trial by fire which may not be rivaled in his UC career. Almost certainly not this season.
After six innings of guts and survival, he showed his potential to take the ball whenever and wherever UC these Cats need a bulldog on the mound.
"He's been pitching really well," Cleary said. "I felt comfortable he'd go out there and compete. He's been throwing the ball over the plate. As he gets more fine with command and can locate better I think he's going to be a guy that will be the weekend starter that you are after."
He looked it Saturday, despite the admitted nerves. In fact, once he settled in as the game wore on, the freshman was able to soak in an experience of a lifetime. Hard to feel like a freshman anymore after passing an advanced class in bigtime baseball.
"This gives me a lot more experience," Pattishall said. "I still have a lot to learn. They capitalized on the mistakes I made and I just got to take that back and try to work on those and try to have success in the future."
Pattishall didn't leave GABP with the urban legend stories you hear of a player tossing his cookies before a big game or needing someone to talk him off the ledge. His catcher, the junior Wallace, knows Pattishall as a "relaxed guy." That said, he thought he imagined he might need to play the role of counselor today.
Instead, all he had to do was enjoy the blossoming of a young pitcher before his eyes.
"He controlled himself pretty well," Wallace said. "All I did was encourage him."
Pattishall returned the favor by leaving everyone else encouraged about the bright future for this prospect.
"I think he did a pretty good job considering," Cleary said. "He kept us in it; he's going to be really good."
I want to hear from you! What did you think of Saturday's game at GABP, shoot me any questions or comments to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Big weekend on and off campus, as has been referenced all week. More than anything, a great opportunity for a young baseball team. We've talked multiple times this week about playing at GABP and how great that will be for UC and college baseball to stay at the forefront of the minds of baseball fans in the area -- and exposure will be the primary benefit. Yet, looking at three games against No. 9 Louisville means a chance for an emerging, young team to learn where it stands in the big picture.
UC gritted out two close victories this week with the 6-2 win at Wright State and 9-7 walk-off victory at MSS on Wednesday against Toledo. Louisville will be a completely different animal, though.
The Cardinals are 22-6, coming off a 10-inning loss to No. 6 Kentucky in front of the largest crowd in their home stadium's history. UK scored two runs in the first inning Tuesday to become the first team to notch a run in the first against Louisville all year. Last week the Cardinals played a three-game set with then-No. 15 Notre Dame and swept the series.
The Bearcats are held to a different standard right now. Five of the starting eight are freshmen.
This class still awaits the breakthrough moment. Freshman Ian Happ's walk-off homer Wednesday began the ball moving in the right direction, but earning a win against a rival and top-ranked opponent such as the Cards would mean more than any dramatics. A talented, young team with confidence suddenly becomes a dangerous team. Finding a way to scratch out a win or two this weekend would go a long way toward building the next step in this reboot.
No freshman will more feel the pressure this weekend than Mitch Pattishall. He's started four games in his collegiate career and his fifth will be at GABP against U of L starter Jeff Thompson (5-0, 0.46 ERA), whose rated the No. 87 college prospect in the nation by Baseball America and hasn't allowed an earned run in three starts. Pattishall has pitched 18 inning of college baseball, but couldn't ask for a greater opportunity to make a name for himself.
--- TE Travis Kelce held his pro day Thursday at UC. He didn't workout with everyone else last month due to recovery from an injury. All these numbers are great, and I'll of course taking a deeper look at them, but plays like these two make a much bigger impact on his draft stock.
Here are Kelce's numbers, according to UC, from Thursday (scouts had own individual timing):
Height/Weight: 6-5, 250 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.64/4.69
Vertical leap: 37-inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.33
60-yard shuttle: 12.0
3-cone drill: 7.12
For context, here's where all those numbers would have ranked among TEs who tested at the Combine (Kelce didn't participate there also because of the injury)
40-yard dash: 3rd
Vertical leap: 2nd
20-yard shuttle: 4th
60-yard shuttle: 9th
3-cone drill: T-8th
Now, the all-important 40 time should be noted the two tight ends with faster times also weighed less than Kelce. Chris Gragg from Arkansas led the vertical leap at 37.5 inches, so Kelce was closely behind him in that area.
Tape like the video above more correctly displays the tight end's ability, but these numbers confirm he's at the top of size/speed combo among tight ends in this draft. Multiple times the comparisons to Rob Gronkowski have been made about Travis, mostly because of his prototypical tight end frame. Gronk came out of Arizona at 6-6, 264 with massive hands at 10 3/4. Still, the speed and size combo were in the same ballpark, as was the production. Remember, Gronkowski slipped into the second round that year.
Ending up in the middle of the draft for a tight end has proven to be a fantastic jumping off point over the past few years, highlighted by one of the best tight end classes of all time in 2010. Tight ends just rarely go in the first round, the Bengals Jermaine Gresham in 2010 was the last TE to go in the first round. There have only been three tight ends selected in the first round the last five years (Gresham, Brandon Pettigrew, Dustin Keller) and none were taken higher than No. 21 overall.
With most having Kelce around the fourth or fifth overall tight end, here's a look at where that spot has gone the last five years:
Here's a list of some of the most productive tight ends drafted in the 2nd-4th rounds the last three years. Being among this group is not a bad deal in the least:
--- Speaking of ZC, Tom DeWees caught up with him to talk about playing for the Toronto Argonauts, including the game where he set up the game-winning field goal against the Ty-Cats. If you remember that kicker's name was Swayze Waters. You know I won't miss a chance to mention that name. #CrazyForSwayze
In this type of situation, that's probably the best you could hope for. Anything you put out there would struggle to grab attention or break new ground, you just don't want overwhelming negativity. Cough*Legends and Leaders*Cough.
--- Tough week for the talking points in college basketball: Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti, Ed Rush, Jimmy Martelli all officially let go. This week is supposed to be about basketball and the Final 4, instead more about controversy and out of control behavior outside the lines. Should make all UC fans appreciate the clean programs and accountability that's going on at UC right now.
--- Jurassic Park in 3D is released today. Count me in. Still remember nearly gripping the arms off the theater seat as a teenager watching that thing for the first time. To boot, here's an oral history of the movie. Hard to remember now how groundbreaking the creation of those CG dinosaurs was at the time.
Kenyon Martin -- still doing it. He's been a spark for the Knicks, they are 16-6 since he joined. Much because of plays like this one. All that was missing was the Kenyon Shimmy afterward.
Headed down to football practice early this morning for some coffee and conversation about UC football. As we come to the end of spring practice the major storylines have all been exhausted. The Tommy Tuberville new car smell has begun to wear off and it's back to finding the strengths and weaknesses of the team -- as it is with every team, every year.
Any questions you feel have gone unanswered? Unless you have a pressing need we've all somehow overlooked, I'm going to spend time hitting the off-the-beaten-path market. Those are far and away my favorite stories to conquer anyway. Many people when they talk to me about my career ask how great it must be to interview A.J. Green or Tom Brady or Chipper Jones or any of the other famous athletes I've chatted with. No. The best part is finding the players nobody knows and telling their unique story. Anyone can document a rise to greatness, but unearthing a truly remarkable journey against the sports backdrop always are the ones leaving me saying how much I love my job.
I've got a few ideas, so we'll see what we can drum up. Keep an eye out.
We delved into the when, where, why and how the UC open practice is being held Saturday morning at the Sheakley Athletic Complex. UC has heard from a few people about there not being an official spring game at Nippert as there has been in the past. With the GABP double-dip baseball featuring UC-Louisville after Nats-Reds, there is no reason to step on the toes of a great event for the athletic department. Plus, you don't want to compete with the Final 4 for a very late event.
Placing the practice in the morning allows fans who want to do the football practice and baseball doubleheader the opportunity to do so. Plus, this day is so much about the free youth coaches clinic anyway, and allows that to go off immediately after in a time convenient for families.
As far as holding it at Sheakley, have you seen this new facility? It's a fantastic place to take in an event and is finally 100 percent complete. Why not show it off and enjoy the intimate atmosphere?
Always a fan of trying something different and this could be a more memorable experience for those who attend.
UC will host Toledo at 6:30 p.m. tonight, then begin the big three-game set with rival and 10th-ranked Louisville. Games are Friday (6:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at MSS with the GABP game 30 minutes following Reds-Nats.
--- Have been thinking a bit about Ge'Lawn Guyn lately when assessing the 2013-14 Bearcats and I may jump deeper into this topic at a later date but wanted to open up conversation now.
There will be much made of the journey to find a replacement for the production of JaQuon Parker and Cashmere Wright, particularly at PG. Obviously, this year's backup Guyn will enter the discussion along with incoming freshman Troy Caupain.
About the last 10 games of the season we started to see a change in Guyn. He became more aggressive offensively and wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on an open shot. His minutes were limited, obviously, behind Wright, but he made more of them. He's already an excellent on-the-ball defender so adding a touch of offense to his game could go a long way toward making a difference.
This sophomore to junior year transition has produced significant bumps from role player to star in recent years. Most notably recently was Dion Dixon and Parker. Both returned as juniors looking like completely new players and helped lead UC to NCAA tournament wins.
UC needs that out of this sophomore class and Guyn stands among them.
Take a look at his final 10 games:
He scored 71 points in 68 minutes of play during the final stretch. He scored at least one field goal in eight of those 10. Guyn connected on 6 of 14 shots from deep (43 percent). The sample size is small, but the only real representative available to evaluate how a confident Guyn could look playing 20-25 minutes a night.
If you extrapolate those numbers out to points per 40 minutes, that would be an average of 14.6 points. Even if he played 20 minutes per game, that would be 7.3 points a night, factor for improvement, game rhythm and more reliance on his offense and you could easily be in the 10 points a game range for Guyn. As the point guard, though, he needs to improve his passing which only yielded two assists in the final 10 games. Of course, you could say most everyone on the team needs to improve their passing.
Now, if Guyn's level of play doesn't spike this offseason his opportunity will be limited, but the window is wide open for him to seize a chance much as Parker and Dixon did.
--- Pittsburgh received some bad basketball news yesterday with Trey Zielger transferring and Steven Adams going pro, but unfortunately UC won't be there to take advantage as they move to the ACC next season. Still, always gratifying around Clifton to see bad breaks for the Panthers.
--- Elsewhere filed under "another conference's problem," video surfaced yesterday of abusive Rutgers coach Mike Rice and it's reprehensible. Throwing basketballs at players? Awful. Pushing kids around? Terrible. Kicking them? Demeaning. But the use of the gay slur language, to me, tops the list of the most disgusting element of the entire scandal. What would the reaction have been if he used the N-word? Would he have been fired instead of suspended? They should be treated equally. In a world -- and in this case place of higher education -- where everyone is supposed to be equal and intolerance is unacceptable, that bigotry can't be allowed to go on.
--- Story on thelife of a cabbie in Boston. It's, uh, interesting. I was in a cab in Boston one time where the cabbie got out when some kids threw snowballs at his cab. He stopped in the middle of the road, yelled some choice words, then took off running after them. Meanwhile, me and my buddy sat in the back of the car in the middle of a side street in downtown Beantown looking at each other.
--- This videoof deer fighting is about what it would look like if Tommy G and I ever came to blows. (Disclaimer: And why that would never happen)
--- Jose Calderon walked to the wrong locker room with his former team, the Raptors, rather than his current one, the Pistons. You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side, well, sorry Jose, both yards are burnt to a crisp.
New Media and Broadcasting director Tom Gelehrter joins me again for the latest Inside the Bearcats Podcast. We range in topics from the opportunity at hand for baseball at GABP this weekend, address the outlook of the 2013-14 Bearcats basketball team and talk about who impressed us at spring football.
Of course, we devolved off the beaten path this week to plan an Inside the Bearcats podcast road trip edition to Sweden for the Midsummer festival (to which Shane Harrison so beautifully dramatized above), fitting sausage endorsements and discuss the intricacies of the Tommy G shuttle service.
Take a listen below, or follow this link to hear it on iTunes. Of course, remember to subscribe to the pod on your mobile device to listen while you are on the go. Just search Inside The Bearcats Podcast and subscribe.
Such a cool day in the city Monday. Have to love how much it comes alive to celebrate Opening Day. Really never gets old for me. Ever since I started working down at the stadium with the videoboard team four years ago it changed my perspective even more.
We see just about every type of crazy fan on those cameras and I'm particularly thrilled about the Mr. Redlegs winter hat trend, but really I'm a sucker for anything with a mustache.
Love Scott Rolen, but Opening Day without Coldplay=victory.
Also, hope people were at pregame before team intros when Reds organist John Schutte (also a sleeveless star on keys for The Rusty Griswolds) broke out "Cincinnati Love" remix to California Love on the organ with a Talk Box. One of the coolest things ever. Don't worry, it will be back again, but he's raised the bar for cool things an organist has ever done. (Disclaimer: That list probably isn't very long)
All that said, no single event brings everyone in the city together more -- even if a third of the fans Monday won't be back to a game the rest of the year.
This baseball craze will probably continue through the homestand which makes UC's game Saturday against Louisville at GABP following Reds-Nats all that much better. Can't say enough how great of an idea this is for not only UC baseball but for baseball in the city. This will help open the eyes to the city about college baseball, even if they don't stick around to watch the game. Keeping in the conversation UC baseball and the incredible deal they deliver at Marge Schott Stadium is a public relations home run (See what I did there? Home run is a baseball term, you know).
And if you don't have tickets to the Inaugural Reds Collegiate Invitational, you can get them here through the UC site. Also, as a reminder UC baseball plays at Wright State today and home against Toledo on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Good talk, let's eat ...
--- Hope everyone found some time to read my story on DC Art Kaufman and Tommy Tuberville. These guys are the epitome of football-crazy boys from down South. Love the way they talk about the game. My first job in this business was came in 2004 at a small paper in Arkansas where I covered the Gulf South Conference. Southern Arkansas where Tuberville played and Arkansas-Monticello where Kaufman played were in the conference. That is good-ole-boy football where the game is all that matters. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for those hours on hours where Tuberville and Kaufman were talking about football in their early days. Both can tell a story.
Speaking of, few extras from my interview with the DC. Found this interesting and one of the biggest differences between this coaching staff and the last one. Butch Jones and his crew were very, um, vocal in yelling at players during both practice and the game. Just ask anyone within a two-mile radius of the microphone he yelled into during practice.
Kaufman had this to say about his coaching style:
"I'll holler as much as I need to holler," he said. "But I know this, if I'm hollering all the time they tune you out."
Along the same lines, more from Art on how he goes about getting all this new information to take hold with his players:
"As we are putting stuff in, we have a system of how it goes in and the progression. I know this, if he can't tell me what I said then he doesn't know it. I'll give the information and turn around and say, tell me what you heard. Then get up here put it on the board and teach it. They can't do that then I know they don't have it. And we'll go over and over until they get it out."
The vocal style fit Butch's passionate ways, everyone is different. Not better or worse, different. In the end, the record will show which was better.
--- UC will hold their open football practice Saturday at 10 a.m. at Sheakley Athletic Complex. It will be followed by the youth clinic. With the UC-Lou game at GABP later in the day, should be a full one all-around for Bearcats athletics.
--- Travis Kelce will hold his Pro Day on Thursday at UC. Will be curious to see his 40 time. We saw his burst this season, particularly in the Belk Bowl against Duke. If he can post a great number to back up what everyone saw in that game, could secure him at least a second-round pick. At last look, Todd McShay has him sitting around the top of the third round.
--- Phil Steele ranks UC's schedule118th out of 124 in difficulty next season. Tough to know at this point, too many variables, but as I've said before, sweeping a winnable B1G double dip (Purdue, Illinois) could mean quite run to Rutgers, Louisville late in the year if the team clicks.
--- NC State's CJLeslie is going pro and with New Mexico's Alford headed to UCLA, the Bearcats non-con schedule for next year grew slightly more favorable.
--- Eatocracy busts5 BBQ myths. And they are right, Texans aren't the only ones that know how to do BBQ. Of course, if you are looking for an expert on BBQ, you can just talk to your head football coach. He can talk BBQ all day.
--- With the return of baseball yesterday means the return of Joey Votto. So there's this. Have a great day everybody and shoot any questions or comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and head coach Tommy Tuberville go back to their playing days in the obscure colleges of rural Arkansas, but their football coaching chemistry has never changed.
CINCINNATI -- Tommy Tuberville and his current defensive coordinator Art Kaufman both plugged away as low-level assistants throughout their early career, as all coaches do. Those days tend to be as long as the climb to the top rung of the coaching ladder.
Neither Kaufman nor Tuberville were on the same staff during those days in the 1980s and early 90s, but lived in the same circles. You see, both growing up in the South as former players from small, Division III Arkansas schools, coaches not crossing paths would defy the science of that football-crazy region.
When those paths did cross, the intersections didn't last for minutes with a handshake and hello. They drug on for hours, days. They only occasionally veered from football. No need. Not with two coaches so infatuated with the details and intricacies of the game.
"We used to talk football together when we were both assistants," Tuberville said. "Sit down for hours and talk and watch film."
During those sessions of stories and stats, a friendship based in philosophical agreement blossomed.
"We were kind of on the same page," Tuberville said, "kind of speak the same language."
The language matched more than dueling southern drawls. They found a bond over technique. It leads every discussion of teaching and learning the game with both of them. Both rose in ranks as linebackers coaches dedicated to teaching correct form to every step. So, when time came for Tuberville to find a defensive coordinator for his first head-coaching gig at Ole Miss, he wanted someone fluent in his language.
"You got to know what to do and how to do it," Kaufman said. "Making plays is technique, that's what it's all about. Defensively, if you are not a technician then the other team has to screw it up for you to make a play."
The trusted symmetry between Tuberville and Kaufman sat at the centerpiece of the revitalization of Rebels football that eventually led the head coach to Auburn and Texas Tech. Yet, entering last season in Lubbock, Texas, Tuberville boasted a disastrous defense that finished 2011 ranked 114 out of 120 FBS teams in yards allowed.
Tuberville needed someone able to return to the roots of great defense and what he preaches. So, 14 years after last coaching together, he reached to the roots of his own head-coaching career.
"He said, we got an opening, you want to get this thing going?" Kaufman said. "He had a couple of guys that I knew on the staff. I went out there and we talked. He said, 'Hey, here's what I need.' I said, 'Hey, that's what I'm looking for. Let's roll.'"
Roll they did. Wheeling out a Rosetta Stone of defensive football in the South, Kaufman transformed the defense through technique and simplicity into a top 40 unit in total yardage allowed, moving up 76 spots in the national rankings.
Molding a group enduring their fourth coordinator in four years, Kaufman relied on a system trimmed as far down to bare bones as necessary to assure each player understood their job fully. Remove complexity if necessary and let players react.
"Art is one of those that will never give up on technique," Tuberville said. "He'll never get in a game and panic. If we are not playing very well, we'll go back to base defense and play that. That's what I like about a coach."
The base will be a 4-3 with a principle focused on avoiding busted plays. A confident, consistent and persistent defense represent the characteristics of what would be Kaufman's ideal group.
"No. 1, (my ideal defense) knows what they are doing and smart," he said. "They chase the ball and they are physical when they get there. They don't bust, I've been around them when mistakes were made. We're not going to have any issues with that; whatever we got to do to make it simple enough. Two, we are going to chase the ball and be physical."
Kaufman hopes they'll execute all the philosophies he and Tuberville droned on and on about for hours decades ago. As much as the faces, lives and locations change between these two, the football doesn't. It's what bonds them. It's why they are together in Cincinnati.
"The thing that I'm adamant about and so is he, the little things, technique," Tuberville said. "You can line them up and run them through gaps all you want but if you don't play technique you can't beat some teams that are probably better than you. Football is a sport where you got to put 11 guys out there and they got to play well together. Only way to do that is to play your position and continue to stress that."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me an email with comments, questions or suggestions to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.