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."
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