The opening of the Tommy Tuberville era is less than three months away when the Bearcats host Purdue on Aug. 31. An influx of recruits and return of familiar stars leave an excitement of what UC can accomplish in The American.
With mass change in coaching staff comes unknown quantities up and down the roster. After holding a long conversation with Tommy Tuberville I churned out a list of the 10 players whose development will be most crucial to crossing the 10-win mark for the sixth time in seven years.
This won't be about pointing out the top players on the roster, though some stars will make the list, this will be about pointing out those who must take a step forward and spike production in order for this team to be successful. We'll run one player a day every day for the next two work weeks, counting down to No. 1.
Today at No. 6:
Ralph David Abernathy IV
Position: Running back
Weight: 161 pounds
2012 Stats: 69 rushes, 366 yards rushing, 28 receptions for 341 yards, 7 total touchdowns.
The Opportunity: Wait, are you trying to tell me RDAIV -- the most electric player on the field for UC -- needs to develop? I know, sounds crazy, but it's true, kind of. RDAIV doesn't need to be a different player. He really doesn't need to change much about what he does on the field. Yet, he needs to prove he can handle more touches per game because his team will need it. George Winn sucking up the barrage of hits moved on to the New England Patriots. Abernathy won't be asked to take the load as a bellcow back, but will be asked to do more as a runner, receiver and anywhere else on the field Eddie Gran can place him.
Why development is crucial: Last year RDAIV averaged 5.6 yards per touch but touched the ball less than 10 times per game (9.8). As a diminutive scat back finding creative ways to involve his skill set will be a challenge, but increasing his versatility and, more importantly, durability will be a key to the offseason. He must be built to endure an extra 50-100 hits next season, because they are coming.
Tommy T's Take: "I don't think there's any doubt he could carry the ball 25 times in a game. But he's not going to do it 25 for 12, he's not big enough. He can't physically handle that. We are going to have to pick and choose what we want him to do. When we want him to do it. What his strengths are to help the team, he's fast, he's quick, he's an excellent football player. We don't want to overuse him but we don't want to underuse him. We got to pick a happy medium."
I want to hear from you! Agree, disagree, befuddled? Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or hit me up on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) with your thoughts on this list or anything else Bearcats football.