August 2013 Archives
This may be a day where the offense ran up the points and Munchie Legaux played like a refreshed quarterback, but the known quantities at linebacker changed the game in Saturday's 42-7 blowout.
CINCINNATI - Prior to Saturday's game, the trio of linebackers Greg Blair, Jeff Luc and Nick Temple gathered and discussed the way they envisioned the 2013 season beginning against Purdue.
While exact words weren't shared, one can only imagine considering Temple declared during camp that this group should be recognized as the best linebackers in the country.
"We were talking, we got to set the tone," Temple said. "Defense has to set the tone."
Tommy Tuberville agreed. That's why upon winning the toss he deferred and sent Temple, Greg Blair and Jeff Luc to the field against the Purdue offense.
Temple wasted little time backing up his words.
He twice tipped a Rob Henry pass then acrobatically stuck a foot in the ground for an interception. One play earlier, Jeff Luc sliced into the backfield to cut off a sweep attempt and Greg Blair cleaned up the rerouted mess.
On the next series, backed up deep in their own end, Luc broke through to throw stuff B.J. Knauff for a loss and Silverberry Mouhon tossed Henry to the turf. Suddenly first-and-goal from the 5 turned into a missed 39-yard field goal.
The defensive momentum began a day the defense suffocted the black and gold even more than the 130-degree temperatures on the turf. Purdue didn't cross the 100-yard mark until 3:45 remained in the third quarter and even then Temple tossed Gary Bush down for an eight-yard loss in the backfield to send them back across the barrier.
Silverberry Mouhon pressed the edge on repeat, Adrian Witty converted an overthrow into a 41-yard interception return for a score. The three starting linebackers combiend for 3.5 tackles for loss, two pass break ups, an interception and nine tackles.
UC forced a total of three turnovers in the Boilermakers worst opening-week loss since 1996 against Michigan State.
On a day where 36,007 left the building talking about Munchie Legaux in an August where the quarterback storyline owned the headlines, the Bearcats defense left the deepest footprint on the new Nippert Stadium turf.
"The linebackers are supposed to set the tone," Blair said. "Our team, that's where the leaders are. It was our job to set the tone and that was what we did today."
They not only set the tone but stomped them out. When the Boilermakers began to waver in the third quarter, the UC defense never relented. Three-and-out, pick-6 and fumble on consecutive possessions left the Boilermakers gasping for air.
They would never find any.
"I don't think there's any doubt that third quarter was huge for our defense," Tuberville said. "We pretty much smothered them."
As reward for their efforts, Blair, Luc, Temple and other starters spent the final quarter wearing a hat on the sidelines and cheering on the younger reserves. Not that they needed the breather. In fact, after the game players gave a standing ovation to the strength and conditioning staff for the fresh legs they felt as the game wore on.
"I feel like they were tired more than anything," Temple said. "You can't think, you can't get the ball from the offense, they were real tired. We were more conditioned team than them. I am looking at Blair, I am looking at Luc, they are playing like its still the first half. I am like, yeah, this conditioning thing is right."
Purdue won't be setting any Big Ten offensive records anytime soon - expect maybe a few based on futility. But this was the first glimpse at a defense capable of dominating its way through the season.
Tuberville saw it, too. The pace set by the linebackers, rippling to the defnes and eventually infecting the offense en route to the 35 unanswered points to close the team exposed a team owning a killer instinct to match their conditioned shape.
"It hadn't been fun for them," Tuberville said. "Today was fun. I saw something in their eyes I thought at halftime. We will make us a pretty good team as we go along. You don't see that very often. These kids love to play, they love to play hard, they love to play for Cincinnati. They know how to win."
If they continue to win, Temple's brash statement ranking his linebacker teammates as the best in the country may hold more weight. At least for one day, his analysis looks legit.
"I said it and I meant what I said," Tempele said. "If you say it, you have to believe in it. We believe in it. We work at it every day as we are the best linebackers in the nation. And I feel like we are."
Only one way to start an in-depth look at the season opener and that's with another smooth hype video from Shane Harrison and the video crew. Welcome to the new age, indeed.
Now, time to take a closer look at what will be the difference and what you need to be paying attention to as the Bearcats host Purdue in front of 35,000 at Nippert Stadium on Saturday.
1) Center of Attention. Forget quarterback, more telling to the success of this team will be the fan snapping the ball to him. With the loss of starter Dan Sprague for the season suddenly a group with five returning starters at the heart of the offense have a hole in the middle. Taking over will be 6-foot-2, 287-pound redshirt freshman Deyshawn Bond. He came out of Indianapolis Central playing guard and tackle but will now be counted on to man the middle.
And talk about being thrown into the fire. When discussing Purdue, who is the top player most everyone will mention? Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. The 6-2, 310-pound behemoth who goes by @bnasty90 on Twitter can ruin the Bearcats day. The Boilermakers top NFL prospect will be as big of a challenge as making all the line calls for the Bond.
"I am not going to go out there intimidated by anybody," Bond said. "I am going to go out there as hard as I can. I know he's a good guy, but I'm not too bad myself. I am going to let him know my presence is there, too. So we are going to battle the whole game."
So, join a team of linemen who spent all of last year playing together, make all the protection calls and take on the other team's best player in your first collegiate game. Welcome, Mr. Bond.
"I love it," he said. "I love competition. I will go out there and do what I got to do. I don't know what he's going to do but I know I am going to get the job done when it counts."
2) Where's RDAIV? No secret exists the most electric weapon on the Bearcats will be Ralph David Abernathy IV, but he's not an everydown back. Tommy Tuberville and first-time offensive coordinator Eddie Gran spent their offseason concocting ways to work Abernathy the ball in space. How often will he line up in the backfield? How often in the slot? How often on a reverse? Regardless, a major problem of the 2012 offense was an inability to find enough touches for their top weapon.
How successful the Bearcats are at finding space for Abernathy will go a long way to deciding how successful they are scoring points. And seeing more absurd plays like this one.
3) On the Hunt. The Bearcats believe they have the best collection of linebackers in the country between Greg Blair, Nick Temple and Jeff Luc. They will have to prove it against one of the most explosive running backs in the Big Ten.
RB Akeem Hunt averaged 8.3 yards per carry last season, though in limited action. His role is expected to be expanded this year and expectations are high he will continue to be the big play threat.
Luc may come with his top linebacker recruit tag, but hasn't played in a college game in about 20 months. How will he respond? Where will his game instincts be at? One slip up in covering an edge or pursuing the correct angle and this guy can take it to the house immediately.
New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell arrives with a dedication to running the football. Consider last year at Kent State he ran it 584 times and threw it only 358. Expect Hunt to challenge the backers ability to track him to the edges. It will be the most important aspect of slowing down the Boilers.
Don't believe Hunt can hurt you in a hurry? Ask Ohio State.
4) As the QBs turn. The quarterback question followed this team every day during fall practice. Who would it be? Munchie Legaux or Brendon Kay? Injuries have hampered both and they should each play. Likely whoever has the hot hand will take the majority of the snaps in the second half. The question will be how the rhythm of the two play with the rest of the team. Tommy Tuberville doesn't believe that will be a problem, but anytime two different signal-callers enter there will be some change.
"What I am concern about is the timing difference of what we do and how we do it, the center exchange, snap count and all those things," Tuberville said. "But we really haven't had a problem, if that would have been a problem I would have made a decision earlier and said we have to go with one guy, because we're making too many false starts, fumbled snaps and those kind of things. But we really haven't had a problem and these two kids are experienced, they both will have first game jitters but it's not like your putting redshirt freshman or sophomore knowing they haven't played a lot."
5) The Tub. The excitement over Tuberville spilled over into the ticket sales as a white out record crowd is expected for the opener Saturday. How will the crowd hamper Purdue's ability to deal with adjustments under their own first-year head coach in Hazell?
Most importantly, not only will Tuberville be leading this team on the field for the first time but Gran will be calling his first game as a coordinator. Not knowing how certain players will react to the big stage and taking on calling games for the first time will be an intriguing adjustment. Going against a team dealing with similar issues turned out to be a major advantage for Saturday. Although, it leaves both sides as in the dark about what to expect as you can imagine. Few games will be more decided by in-game adjustments as this one.
UC sure would like its opener to look a lot like last year's against Pittsburgh.
Welcome back, college football. Welcome back, Nippert Stadium.
Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux will both play quarterback in Saturday's opener against Purdue, but only because Tommy Tuberville knows they can handle the challenge.
CINCINNATI -- Maybe the situation would be different. Maybe in a different program, maybe with two different quarterbacks, maybe with a different history.
Maybe elsewhere running two quarterbacks on to the field for a sold out opener against Big Ten opponent Purdue would elicit concern from a coaching staff and his competing signal-callers. Just not here. Not at Cincinnati. Not with seniors Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux.
Both quarterbacks will play Saturday and the official starter has yet to be announced by head coach Tommy Tuberville. The new coach prefer to have a starter, but as the situation evolved amid bumps and bruises this spring it became apparent pulling off the double duty would be the best option for now.
That's primarily because of the two he's asked to pull it off.
"These two kids are experienced, they both will have first game jitters but it's not like your putting a redshirt freshman or sophomore knowing they haven't played a lot," Tuberville said. "Their maturity has really played a role in how we have handled this."
For Legaux, few better understand the fragility of playing quarterback in college football. The same kid who suddenly stepped in for Zach Collaros to secure a shared Big East title the final four regular season games of 2011 then endured the humility of being pulled as a teammate salvaged another conference title share last year.
The change in Legaux today compared with a year ago stretches far beyond his shaved dreadlocks. Last year's experience altered his perspective and even through dark moments invigorated his attitude.
"It was an eye-opener," Legaux said. "Shows you its a competition, your spot can be taken any day. I was already a humble guy before that but it humbled me more. Be ready. Always stay off your heels, always be prepared, always take advantage of your opportunity and never let up. I learned a lot those last four weeks."
Tuberville vetted Legaux like a presidential candidate upon arriving in Clifton. He probed coaches, staffers, really anyone with information on how the former starter reacted to the Kay benching. As questions sprayed at Legaux from his new coach, unearthed was a player thrilled for the success Kay enjoyed even if distraught the change came at his expense.
Meanwhile, Legaux only needed one question to learn what he needed to know from Tuberville.
"When I had my sit down with Coach Tub during Spring I just had one question for him about the quarterback position, was it open?" Legaux said. "He was like, 'It's an open competition.' That was all I needed to hear. I didn't care if he was the first one, I was the second one, 1a or 1b had it listed I just wanted to know if it was an open competition, that's what he said and I took it and ran with it."
Despite what most would consider to be an awkward situations, Legaux and Kay remain friends. Conversation rarely moves to the competition, rather both support the other in every way possible and prepare to live whatever role coach decides.
Anybody who believes Kay could struggle with an unsure quarterbacks situation, didn't pay attention to the entire 2012 season where nearly every week the second half of the season he stood on call in case Butch Jones decided to give him a shot.
And anybody who believes Kay can't deal with discomfort playing the game of football hasn't a second of his injury-plagued career where he's constantly practiced through pain of a wide variety of ailments. That will likely be the case Saturday, but no mind. He's played through pain before and will do it again.
"Oh, it's not one thing it's another," Kay said. "Overall my time here just really makes you appreciate everything and how it can be taken away so quickly. Full-go at camp and then something quick happens and there is really nothing you can do. You just have to go rehab it, take care of it and be ready to go."
Kay referred to sharing time as "not the ideal situation" but should be considered a standard situation at UC. Dating back to beginning of the Brian Kelly era in 2007, two quarterbacks have started at least one game every year. In four of six years, the backup tossed more than 100 passes.
- 2007: Dustin Grutza started two games in place of Ben Mauk
- 2008: Grutza opened season as starter, Tony Pike took over two weeks in
- 2009: Zach Collaros took over for injured Pike for four games
- 2010: Chazz Anderson started one game in place of Collaros against Syracuse
- 2011: Legaux started final four regular season games for injured Collaros
- 2012: Legaux pulled for Kay, who started final five games
Maturity and experience allow Tuberville to deal his QB card by feel Saturday against Purdue. The primary concern comes in the consistent details of presence under center and inside the huddle.
"What I am concern about is the timing difference of what we do and how we do it, the center exchange, snap count and all those things," Tuberville said. "But we really haven't had a problem, if that would have been a problem I would have made a decision earlier and said we have to go with one guy."
That's not the case here. Not at UC. Not this year. Not with these two.
I want to hear from you! Send me any comments, questions or suggestions regarding UC football to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Happy Game Week, everybody.
This Saturday, noon, Nippert Stadium. UC. Purdue. White Out. Sell out.
You've waited a long time for this, so let's soak in the fact we are finally talking about football players making football plays in a football game on a football field.
On that note, how about the 2012 highlight video to amp you up.
Let's eat ...
--- There will be a sell out at Nippert Stadium as clearly the excitement over the Tommy Tuberville era coupled with a challenging regional opponent connected with the fan base in ways you could only hope for as a department. Whit Babcock discussed Tuberville and the football program in this piece by Bill Koch on Sunday. As always, well done by Bill, but one quote from Whit stood out to me.
"I didn't have the sense that it would be so well received," Babcock said. "I didn't think people would criticize it, but it made a lot of our fan base happy in a way that it happened quickly and an established coach came in. The morale and uplifting of Cincinnati fans and alumni, that made me really happy, not for my ego, but I thought, you know what, these people have had coaches leave and walk out and people seemed to hold their head a little higher. That was one of my favorite moments.
"Now you have to keep this in perspective. He's going to have to win games and run the program the right way, so the honeymoon is about to be over. I have great faith in him to do it."
Moral of the story: Love you, Tubs. So far, so good. But you have to win just like everyone else.
--- One of the most difficult tasks to overcome for coaches in their first year is building the comfort level with players who have won in previous systems. Typically, you see the biggest jump in the second/third seasons when the new players know what to expect from their new coach.
With so much transition in the sport, you see it every year. It takes time for these coaches to have their program and understand how these new players will react when the lights come on.
Tuberville will fight that Saturday. Luckily, across the field, so will new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell.
Look at last year. Here are all the coaches who took over programs who enjoyed better than .500 seasons the year before and how they fared.
|John L. Smith, Arkansas||11 and 2||4 and 8||-6 ½|
|Gus Malzahn, Arkansas St.||10 and 3||10 and 3||None|
|Tony Levine, Houston||13 and 1||5 and 7||-7|
|Tim Beckman, Illinois||7 and 6||2 and 10||-4 1/2|
|Larry Fedora, UNC|| 7 and 6||8 and 4||1 1/2|
|Bill O'Brien, Penn St.||9 and 4||8 and 4||-0.5|
|Kyle Flood, Rutgers||9 and 4||9 and 4||None|
|Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss||12 and 2||0 and 12||-11|
|Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M||7 and 6||11 and 2||4|
|Matt Campbell, Toledo||9 and 4||9 and 4||None|
Of the 10 coaches who took over new programs next year half of them equaled the win percentage of the previous year or increased it. And really, if not for Penn State being locked out of a bowl game Bill O'Brien would have made it 6 of 10.
The significant drop offs such as epic fail at Southern Miss and falloff at Houston following departure of Kevin Sumlin draw headlines, but as a whole first year coaches last year showed and ability to post wins on the board.
Here is a look at the results from the 2011 season under the same circumstances:
|Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut||8 and 5||5 and 7||-2 1/2|
|Will Muschamp, Florida||8 and 5||7 and 6||-1|
|Randy Edsall, Maryland||9 and 4||2 and 10||-6 1/2|
|Al Golden, Miami||7 and 6||6 and 6||- 1/2|
|Brady Hoke, Michigan||7 and 6||11 and 2||4 |
|Everett Withers (I), UNC||8 and 5||7 and 6||-1|
|Dave Doeren, Northern Ill.||11 and 3||11 and 3||None|
|Luke Fickell (I), OSU||12 and 1||6 and 7||-6|
|Todd Graham, Pitt||8 and 5||6 and 7||-2|
|Rocky Long, San Diego St.||9 and 4||8 and 5||-1|
|David Shaw, Stanford||12 and 1||11 and 2||-1|
|Steve Addazio, Temple||8 and 4||9 and 4||½|
|Bill Blankenship, Tulsa||10 and 3||8 and 5||-2|
|Dan Holgorsen, WVU||9 and 4||10 and 3||1|
Most notably, four of the 15 coaches guided their teams to double-digit victories in the first year with the new team. That's substantial and more than anything proves success immediately is attainable. Even though, 10 coaches trended in the wrong direction only Luke Fickell amid the Ohio State disaster (an impossible situation) and Randy Edsall at Maryland (just bad coaching) were more than two wins in the wrong direction.
So, in the past two years, 25 teams have inherited new coaches on a team that finished the previous year over .500:
- 60 percent decreased win total
- 24 percent finished with double-digit wins
- 20 percent slid at least 5 games in the wrong direction
- 20 percent increased win total
- 16 percent stayed the same
The bottom line of all these numbers are this: Improving with a team already used to winning fights the odds. Yet, many have made the jump without much problem. As in any coaching subset, there will be outliers, but most end up right around the same spot they were the previous year.
--- In case you didn't see it,
ESPN did add an AAC blog after it appeared the dissolution of the Big East blog might leave you without extra fodder. Not expecting anything groundbreaking there, but here's their season preview of the Bearcats.
--- Pat Forde with Yahoo
! on Tommy Tuberville
, his golf cart, moving past Texas Tech and being the centerpiece of The American. Great piece.
--- Randomness ...
--- Only one song really fits as we start up the first game week of the season. New jam from Robert Randolph and the Family Band, which you should know if you don't. Everybody get amped up. Have a great day.
Silverberry Mouhon and Brad Harrah represent fresh faces starting at defensive end as two of the primary beneficiaries of the new coaching staff.
WEST HARRISON, Ind. -- For three long years, Brad Harrah fought a frustrating reality.
No matter how hard he worked in practice, no matter how many hours he spent working out in the offseason, no matter his cognitive understanding of the schemes, the truth was apparent for him.
He would not receive any meaningful reps on gameday.
Harrah endured a redshirt season followed by a freshman year where he sparingly touched the field in situational spots. Last season, his role decreased even further to only playing on the field goal unit.
"I had a feeling (coaches) were trying to weed out the people that didn't want to be there," Harrah said. "I wanted to be there but you get the feeling you know when they don't want you there."
The most difficult moments didn't come watching games from the sidelines or squeezing out a last repetition on the bench with no payoff in sight.
True tests came in casual conversation with friends, family, acquaintances.
"What some people don't realize when you are that old and you are not playing you go out and people ask, 'Are you playing? Are you starting?' You got to tell them no," the 22-year-old redshirt junior said. "That probably gets on you more than anything. You have to play it off like it's not a big deal when it really is. It really cuts deep when you should be playing when you are not. If it's fair or not, it's still a pretty hard feeling."
Those feelings almost a year later look as different as the coaching staff. The fresh slate provided by Tommy Tuberville and defensive ends coach Robert Prunty allowed Harrah to play free and believe production would equal playing time.
The 6-foot-5, 258-pound defensive end converted from high school tight end to the defensive line upon arriving at UC. All needed to do was prove he belonged. Has he ever.
"The guy that's playing the best is Brad Harrah," Prunty said, interrupting conversation about other players. "He has three sacks last scrimmage. He had a safety on Saturday. I am high on him. He's playing well."
Harrah runs with the first team right now. Silverberry Mouhon starts on the opposite side the line but his story sounds nearly the same.
Mouhon played a limited role last season for the Bearcats in a rotation behind starters Dan Giordano and Brandon Mills. In spots, he provided glimpses of potential even recording a sack.
When Prunty arrived to inherit his new personnel, his head turned.
"I was shocked he hadn't played that much," he said. "Hard worker, got great leverage, great get-off. It all starts with him up front for us."
The redshirt sophomore didn't spend as much time fighting a losing battle last season as Harrah, but equally benefited from the fresh start.
When asked for a player Mouhon reminds him off, Prunty quickly snapped off an answer.
"Michael Strahan," he said of the former New York Giants DE who owns the NFL single-season sack record. "The way his body is, those long arms. He's got some of those tendencies. I want him to stay humble. He could be a special player here at Cincinnati."
A dominant spring session and continuation this month surfaced Mouhon as the leader of a front line currently featuring three new starters sandwiching Jordan Stepp.
Finding production up front comparable to previous years brings a steep challenge. Remember, this is the same group that churned out Derek Wolfe of the Denver Broncos, John Hughes of the Cleveland Browns and Dan Giordano of the Arizona Cardinals.
Cranking out 21.5 tackles for loss like Wolfe may be a goal, but not the focus for these two as the Purdue game gains clearer focus. For now, they're thrilled for an opportunity. They're thrilled to be given a chance.
"It was tough, but you got to be grateful," Mouhon said. "It gets you ready for this year and the years coming up. That was just more of a test to see where I am at. Now it's the d-line's year, my year, everyone is going to do great things."
When they do, those conversations with friends, family and acquaintances will sound much different.
I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or suggestions about UC football to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
We are nine days away from the Bearcats season opener
at Nippert Stadium. With fewer than 1000
tickets available to the general public, it appears that the game is going to
be sold-out, so here is a quick reminder to those of you who are lucky enough
And Don't Get Up To Use The Restroom If It's
That final item is a tongue-in-cheek reference to new
head coach Tommy Tuberville and his history of making gutsy calls in hopes of
pulling out a win.
"It started back when I was at Ole Miss," Coach
Tuberville told me. "We weren't very
good and had to take a lot of chances.
Tim Brando was working for ESPN at the time and we went for it on fourth
down a couple of times and made it and did some other crazy stuff and ended up
winning the game. That's when he
nicknamed me 'The Riverboat Gambler.' We
really had no choice."
"When we first got to Ole Miss together, the program
was kind of in disarray," said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. "We had to 'smoke and mirror' some people,
and he told our guys before every game that we weren't going to hold anything
back. We were going to go for it on
fourth down, we're going to have fakes, and we're going to do it when they're
not expecting it. That's what he
did. It was a lot of fun and the kids
believed in it."
"I like to take chances," said Tuberville. "I don't like to give games away, but I like
to give players a chance to win games."
One of Tuberville's most famous gambles came in the "Deep South's
Oldest Rivalry" between Auburn and Georgia in 2001.
"They were probably favored by three touchdowns,"
said Tuberville. "We were only down by
seven with a few minutes left in the half.
They had a really fast return man and we couldn't cover him on punts, so
on fourth down and about a foot at our own 13 yard line I said, 'If we punt it,
they're going to return it to about the 15 and score anyway so let's go for
it.' We ended up making it. A few plays later, it was fourth-and-nine in
our own territory (27 yard line...you
can look it up) and we faked a punt and picked up the first down. That was probably one of the crazier things
that I've done, but it worked."
Auburn 24 Georgia 17
"In another game, we were able to score but we
couldn't stop the other team," Tuberville told me. "So I told the players at halftime before we
went back out that there was no reason for our punter to even come out. We were going to go for it on every fourth
down. We ended up going for it on fourth
down three times in the second half. We
made it every time and won the game."
Beginning in his third year at Auburn, Coach
Tuberville led the Tigers to at least one victory over an AP Top-10 team in a
school-record seven consecutive seasons.
He had a stretch of six straight wins over archrival Alabama in the Iron
Bowl. Two years ago as a four-touchdown
underdog, his Texas Tech team ended Oklahoma's 39-game home winning
streak. Tuberville's record in bowl
games is 7-3.
Is there a correlation between winning big games,
pulling off upsets, and making the occasional risky call?
"I don't think there's any question about it," said
Gran. "Sometimes you see head coaches in
big games and if they get stressed out and are hooting and hollering and
screaming, then that's the mentality that the kids are going to take. They feed off of the mentality of the head
football coach. He's always been
unbelievable in big games."
Of course, the calculated gambles don't always work,
but after 17 years as a college head coach, Tuberville says he's not afraid to
"I don't care about that - we're trying to win
games," Tommy told me. "Everybody is
going to second-guess you - there are times where people want you to go for it
and you punt. I'm going to do what I
think will give our players the best chance to win the game and a lot of times
it's by gut feeling.
"You can't be predictable. And you want the guys in the Red and Black to
know that this guy is trying to win the game."
Just remember that before you leave your seat.
I'd love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I'm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1
UC basketball released the 2013-14 schedule today. Many of the opponents were known, but now the entire picture is laid out. Here's the non-conference portion.
Nov. 8: North Carolina Central
Nov. 12: N.C. State
Nov. 16 Appalachian State
Nov. 20: Campbell
Nov. 26: UMass Lowell
Nov. 29: Kennesaw State
Dec. 3: USC-Upstate
Dec. 7: @New Mexico
Dec. 14: vs. Xaver (US Bank)
Dec. 17: vs. Pittsburgh (MSG)
Dec. 21: Middle Tennessee
Dec. 23: Chicago State
Dec. 28 Nebraska
Also, there will be two conference games a piece against: Louisville, Memphis, Temple, UConn, Rutgers, USF, UCF, SMU, Houston.
First number that needs to be noted is the Bearcats' non-conference RPI continues to drop. Here's the totals the last three years:
- 2013-14: 168
- 2012-13: 173
- 2011-12: 213
Beyond that, taking a look at the non-conference, the presence of premier non-conference games stacks UC up with most every Top 25 team.
They will take part in the Jimmy V Classic against Pittsburgh -- as large of a stage as any. Then they will also return for a second season to US Bank Arena for the showdown against Xavier on the new Fox Sports 1.
The home game against. N.C. State will be a part of the ESPN 24-hour college hoops marathon. Arguably two of the biggest college basketball events ESPN does all season (JV/Marathon) will involve the Bearcats. How many schools can make that claim?
The sleeper of the non-conference schedule will be Middle Tennessee State. KenPom actually had MTSU rated as the 37th best team in the country at the conclusion of last year and they made the Big Dance as an at large.
Universally, people were thrilled with last year's Bearcats schedule. It concluded the season ranked as the No. 24 most difficult in the country. This non-conference slate keeps up with that notion.
The biggest difference will be in the quantity of conference powers, but the quality of them is as good as any. Louisville is projected as a top three team universally coming off their championship while Memphis and UConn will both land in the Top 20 of most polls.
Would everyone love to see Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette and the others from the old Big East still on the conference menu? Of course, but this offers plenty of punch to keep UC in the conversation among the top programs in the country.
Howard Wilder covered the United States in search of a place to play FBS football and finally found a home in Cincinnati.
WEST HARRISON, Ind. - For the last three years, Howard Wilder always focused one eye on the football field and one eye on the stands. Whenever he took the field, wherever he took the field, a coach at the next level watched with thoughts of pulling him away.
Wilder rose as a top defensive back prospect in Washington, D.C., before being pulled across country to College of the Canyons Community College near Los Angeles. After a year there, he transferred across town to Pierce Community College. At every step, with every sensational play, a flock of coaches followed hoping to enlist his services.
He eventually landed in Cincinnati this July. After years of unpacking boxes only to know they would soon be filled again, Wilder can finally relax.
"I feel like I am at home," he said. "This is my last step now. Ain't no more moving around after this. It's a big relief. Now I don't have to think about all these schools coming, all for me, me visiting there, all that and making a decision. I can just stay here, work on my technique, work on my craft and get better with the fam. Get better with the Bearcats."
Plus, his arrival instantly made the Bearcats better. Tommy Tuberville searched for help at corner and found it in 5-foot-11, 180-pound Wilder. On a depth chart which changes in confluence with the sun rising, he's worked his way to the starting cornerback spot opposite Deven Drane.
His scouting report will open lauding his speed, but ask Wilder and he'll quickly summon his swagger. The trash-talking, head-bobbing kid from inside the I-495 belt in D.C., arrives with a belief in himself necessary to man the outside island.
"I'm a playmaker," he said. "I just like locking up receivers, talking trash and playing the ball, go to get the ball.
It's just playing with swag."
Tuberville soaked up Wilder's swag, despite only two weeks of practice.
"Howard has done good," Tuberville said. "He is going to be a hit and miss there because of experience but he's got speed. He can flip his hips well. He backpedals well. He competes. The thing about corner, the most important thing is knowing sooner or later you are going to get beat. And can you forget about it and go to the next play?"
The latest play for Wilder involved flipping his verbal commitment to USF and stiff-arming schools such as Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri, Rutgers and Arizona State.
Coaches can thank last year's JuCo standout Damon Julian for helping deliver him. The two crossed paths as Wilder arrived at Pierce while Julian took off for UC. When it came time to find a home, Wilder watched Julian slide into the end zone for a touchdown against Virginia Tech and saw the possibilities. As the two spoke, Julian sold the product the rest of the way.
More than playing time, location or atmosphere, Wilder sought stability. The years of wandering in search of a permanent home drained him.
"It weighed on me a lot," he said. "Every time I turned around it was a new team, new coach coming at me. I like where I took my choice and I like where I am right now."
Wilder still finds himself figuring out this new home. He's not a fan of Skyline and in search of a great steak joint. Pretty much everywhere he seeks comfort in new surroundings. Everywhere except between the lines. Those always feel comfortable for him. They represent the closest thing to home he's known.
"You got to be comfortable as a DB," Wilder said. "You are already in your backpedal all the time and you got a receiver running full speed. Just be comfortable and be patient."
Finally, he can do both.
I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or idea about the 2013 Bearcats football team to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
After taking in the second scrimmage of the Bearcats training camp and barreling toward an opener now less than two weeks away, here are five observations of where UC stands for Purdue on Aug. 31.
1) Greg Blair looks every bit one of the top defensive players in The American. Blair, a first-team All-Big East selection last year, lost weight this offseason. After every spring practice there would be Blair running afterward until his shirt sweated into a darker shade of black. It shows. He's moving faster and consistently broached the backfield Saturday. On one play he bolted from the middle to sniff out an RDA screen before the RB could even reach the line. He looked explosive.
Defensive Player of the Year in the conference is not out of the question.
2) The Bearcats need a receiver to play big. UC lacks the dominant, tall wide receiver to serve as a long target on the outside. That onus for now looks to fall on to Alex Chisum (6-3) and Chris Moore (6-1). They both recorded touchdowns Saturday with Chisum catching a 25-yard back-shoulder pass from Munchie Legaux. The reception came on tight coverage from Deven Drane. Chisum faded into a sophomore slump last year but looks invigorated as a junior. If you need to know about Chris Moore, just read this story I wrote on him last week. He caught the offense's first TD of the scrimmage Saturday beating his man deep. This team needs someone to stretch the field with RDA and Anthony McClung running underneath. Without a 6-6 speedster to track down bombs, these two appear ready to lead the way.
3) Hosey Williams could be a threat at RB. He's only 5-9, but weighs in at 200 pounds and runs like a bowling ball, powerful and low to the ground. As the team looks for depth behind RDA, Williams could hold his own. He did a nice job picking up a blitz from Blair on Saturday before breaking the game's lone long run. He sliced through the middle of the line and broke free for a 25-yard score. He also did a nice job bouncing a run outside after being stopped up in the middle. The running backs didn't show much Saturday, but Williams looked the best.
4) The QB battle is closer than originally thought. Those were the words of Tommy Tuberville. He's kept the QB derby open, but under the knowledge that Kay had been ahead of Munchie since midway through spring. Now, with the shoulder soreness he experienced which limited his snaps on Saturday Tuberville opened the idea that this could be pushing him to a position where they must go forward with Munchie.
"It's going to be a lot closer than what people think," Tuberville said. "We will see what happens with Brendon, see when he can come back. But if he can't come back soon we will make Munchie our starting quarterback because we have got to start gameplanning here in a few days."
5) Gunner Kiel to Mekale McKay looks nice for 2014. When the third-string team ran plays Saturday, transfers Kiel and McKay showed a nice connection with each other, including a touchdown pass in a red zone attempt. Kiel shows nice touch on his passes and with the 6-6 frame on the former Arkansas WR, he's the perfect target to take advantage. So much can happen between now and opening day next year, but that could be a combo to watch for the future.
I want to hear from you! Shoot me your comments, questions and suggestions regarding UC football as they approach the opener against Purdue at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Sophomore Chris Moore showed ripples of greatness last season and his relationship with Brendon Kay could be the reason those become a tidal wave in 2013.
WEST HARRISON, Ind. - Down the hall of the seventh floor football offices at the Lindner Center the window behind the desk of Tommy Tuberville peers over the stands and onto the field at Nippert Stadium.
During long days of summer kicking his boots up on the desk or making phone calls, he would spin around and glance to the home of Cincinnati football. More times than not, he'd twist his neck and see quarterback Brendon Kay and sophomore wideout Chris Moore, throwing and running routes.
They weren't often alone, but they were always part of the group.
"They worked a lot in the summer together," he said. "They all did, but those two I would see them out there in the summer through my office window throwing all the time."
Occasionally the two would mutually agree to take a day off of the player-organized sessions. Kay's arm and Moore's legs aren't robotic, those days were few and far between. They had to be. In the game of evolving into a much-needed deep threat at wide receiver for the Bearcats, off days can't be afforded.
"We are all hungry," Moore said. "I feel like we want to go undefeated first of all and want to win the conference outright. Every day we had to work. I don't think there was a day I had to get him going. We had that hunger."
The hunger mixes with an established trust. Moore and Kay rose up last season after spending the majority of days working together with the second string during practice. As Kay emerged as the starting quarterback against Temple so did Moore surface in the rotation at wide receiver.
It took minimal time for the two to show off their signature play. Moore made a living in at Tampa Jefferson high school running deep and hauling in bombs from his quarterback on the way to the school's first state title. The big arm and deep accuracy became a perfect match.
In the third quarter against the Owls, Moore gained a step on the defense and Kay placed the bomb perfectly in his hands for a 65-yard touchdown. In the Belk Bowl, the two repeated the act to gain the lead in the fourth quarter of the Belk Bowl.
"Same thing, just on the other side," Moore said. "The one for Temple that is my favorite play. All I had to do was run, I just ran past the dude and that was an easy six points."
He made the most of limited opportunity, he only caught four passes on the year and two of those came from Kay, both going to the house. The trend rolled over to the first of 2013 when he opened up the first scrimmage catching a 75-yard bomb from his workout partner.
"We've done it since last year in the summer," he said. "When you have that connection you just keep doing it."
Moore finds himself in the mix with another 10 receivers for a spot in Tuberville's receiver rotation. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds coaches need Moore to perfect using his body to shield smaller defensive backs. He learned from the best spending portions of the offseason watching Larry Fitzgerald college highlight tapes.
Fitting that mold would plug a hole in this offense.
"Chris is going to be a guy we are going to depend on," wide receiver coach Blake Rolan said. "He's got to be our playmaker. He's got really strong hands, he's fast, he can run all day."
The redshirt sophomore broke his collarbone in his state title game in high school and the other collarbone at Higher Ground his freshman year to force a redshirt. Both came extending for catches. Injures won't change his mantra of sacrificing body for brilliance.
"If the ball is up in the air I've got to go get it," he said. "I think I make the catches that are harder to make. Deep balls and a catch difficult to make I can make those."
He'll need to make more than two this year, but if the peak at his connection with Kay last year and summer dedication are any indication, Moore plays are coming. Even if the lights go out.
"I have caught in the dark with him before," Moore said. "That's just trusting him. I trust he is going to put the ball in a spot where I can get it and he trusts that I can get open and catch the ball if he puts it there."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or suggestions about Tommy Tuberville and the 2013 Bearcats prospects at email@example.com.
The most prolific quarterback in high school
football history is Maty Mauk - the younger brother of former Bearcats QB Ben
Mauk - who passed for 18,932 yards and 219 TD at Kenton High School.
While Maty wound up at Missouri, his favorite target
wound up at Cincinnati.
Wide receiver Max Morrison caught 289 passes at
Kenton H.S. including a mind-boggling 142 receptions for 2,033 yards and 27
touchdowns as a senior. His
single-season reception total was reportedly the fourth highest in history at
After seeing those astonishing passing stats, I had
to ask, "Did Kenton even have running plays in the playbook?"
"No we did not," Morrison told me with a grin. "It was a five wide (receivers) air raid and
we threw the ball. Our only running play
was if the quarterback didn't see a receiver open, he took off and ran."
Morrison will be a redshirt sophomore for the
Bearcats this season and is looking to be a key figure in UC's passing
attack. With leading receiver Anthony
McClung nursing a sore hamstring in training camp, Max has generally practiced
with the first string offense.
"I'm confident, but it's fall camp and there's a lot
of competition," said Morrison. "I'm
running with the 'ones' right now, but that's just a depth chart. You have to come out every day and compete."
After redshirting as a freshman, Morrison appeared
in 11 games last year without making a reception. But in his first spring practice under Tommy
Tuberville, the 6'1", 181 pound receiver caught his new head coach's attention
by catching nearly every pass thrown in his direction.
"Max probably had the best spring of anybody catching
the ball," said Tuberville.
"As soon as the new coaches came in, I looked at it
and said, 'I need to show them what I can do,'" said Morrison. "I think I did open a few eyes. I didn't get a whole lot of opportunities the
last two years here, but that's said and done.
They're giving me my chance now and I'm trying to do what I can with it."
Morrison hasn't stood out quite as much in the first
week of training camp - perhaps because he's often been matched up against top
cornerback Deven Drane - but Tuberville expects him to play a significant role
"He'll be an on-and-off starter," said
Tuberville. "We'll probably play eight
to 10 receivers every game and he'll be in the rotation. I'm pleased with his progress, but after
watching him in the spring I had bigger hopes for him coming back and being
stronger in two-a-days, but for some reason he started off a little slow. But he's getting better."
"Camp is a grind," said Morrison. "Everybody out here gets dead legs, but you
have to be mentally tough and keep working.
I'm going against a three-year starter in Deven Drane every day and that
can't do anything but make me better."
Max is not the first member of his family to play at
UC. His grandfather Joe finished his college
career in 1958 as Cincinnati's all-time leading scorer (since broken) and went
on to spend 14 years with the New York Giants who eventually retired his
"I remember coming here on my official visit and one
of the coaches showed me the school's Hall of Fame and lo and behold, there he
is: Joe Morrison, number 21," Max told
me. "I thought it was really cool to see
that and follow in his footsteps."
And while it will be difficult to match his crazy
high school stats, Morrison aims to be a reliable target for Bearcats
quarterbacks in the years to come.
"I have three years left and it all starts this
season," said Morrison. "I got a few
plays last year at the end of games, but now it's a new coaching staff, a new
fresh start, so I'm going to come out here and work hard every day and
hopefully everything falls into place."
I'd love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I'm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1
The Bearcats announced Monday morning they will play the 2014 season at Paul Brown Stadium while Nippert Stadium undergoes renovations. Some logistical details still need to be worked out, but the two sides agreed to a deal to make it happen.
No, the Bearcats didn't have many other options, but this serves as the latest example of the relationship improving between these two sides. That's not just as observation regarding this deal. There have now been a series of events where the two have done things to help out there other.
The Bengals allowed the Bearcats to come practice down at the stadium in the spring while Marvin Lewis and Tommy Tuberville have developed a relationship. On the flip side, the Bearcats bubble has become the bad weather home of the Bengals.
These two sides haven't always been able to work out deals or act as the best of friends, but being able to come up with a deal that works for all involved in this situation is a great sign and one that will benefit all the UC fans. The bright side of games at PBS were the easy in, easy out, comfortable experience provided by the facility. For one year, it makes for the perfect home and eases the renovation transition.
Let's eat ...
--- The first play of the first scrimmage of the season opened up
with what I believe will be a staple of this year's team. I have been talking about Brendon Kay's deep ball capabilities all offseason and he tossed a 75-yard bomb to Chris Moore to get the 2013 action going.
Who will be the most consistent deep threat is yet to be seen, but Kay's shown a remarkable ability to drop deep passes perfectly.
Eddie Gran had this to say about Kay taking ownership of the team:
"He's done a great job. He takes it personal and everything he does is about this team. I think the good part is that all the quarterbacks have done that. They are all leading in their own way. It's been neat to see and they are all competing. That's really good especially at that position. If you don't have that you don't have a chance."
--- Speaking of competition at QB, continue to keep an eye on Bennie Coney, who threw four touchdowns working with the third team.
--- Randomness ...
--- Which only leads us to a little Wu-Tang Monday. Have a great one.
Is there a statute of limitations on the exclusive
use of a nickname?
In the 1940's Army won three national championships
thanks to Heisman Trophy winners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis who were known
as "Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside." Now
that 67 years have passed since their last college game, that nickname could be
revived for pair of junior college running backs looking to make an immediate
impact at Cincinnati.
Hosey (pronounced like Jose) Williams is "Mr. Inside"
- a 5'9" 199 pound battering ram who rushed for 1,269 yards and 14 TD on 177
carries (7.2 ypc) for ASA College in New York (see video here).
"I think Hosey is a Rudi Johnson-type," said Tommy
Tuberville who coached Johnson at Auburn.
"He's got big, strong legs and a low center of gravity."
"I feel like I'm an all-around back," said
Williams. "I can run through you and I
can run by you."
Rod Moore is "Mr. Outside" - a 5'10, 176 pound
jitterbug who was ranked as the number one junior college running back by 247Sports.com
after rushing for 902 yards and 11 TD on 147 carries (6.1) for East Mississippi
"What you see with Rod is his quickness," said
offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. "There
was a play today (at practice) where he hit the hole and you saw a burst. That's what you're looking for is a guy like
that with really good speed. I've been
excited about him."
"I try to play fast and show my speed," said
Moore. "Mostly I like to get out on the
edge, but I can run between the tackles when they need me to. It I get to the second level, it's most
likely going to be a big gain."
Williams and Moore say they chose Cincinnati largely
because of the coaching staff. When Tuberville
and Gran worked together at Auburn, they sent eight running backs to the NFL
including Ronnie Brown, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, Brandon Jacobs, Heath
Evans, Kenny Irons, and the previously mentioned Johnson.
"(Coach Tuberville) is a laid-back, straight-forward
person," said Williams. "He lets his
coaches coach and does a great job. And
Coach Gran is an excellent coach. He's
big on all of the little details being perfect."
"I was committed to Texas Tech, but I wanted to
follow this coaching staff," said Moore.
"They recruited me first and I feel like this is going to be a great fit
for me. All I have to do is listen and
they'll take me where I want to go."
Following the departure of leading rusher George Winn,
the Cincinnati coaches are counting on the JUCO duo and walk-on Anthony King to
provided needed depth to a running back group led by Ralph David Abernathy IV
and Tion Green.
"Anthony King has looked really good," said
Gran. "I've been surprised and excited
for him because he's worked his tail off.
In all of the cut-ups that we watched in the spring, he keeps showing
up. I'm going to give him some reps with
the ones this camp and give him a shot."
Williams and Moore are also sure to get plenty of
reps at Camp Higher Ground, but their running ability is not the only factor in
determining which of the two gets the most playing time.
"It's whoever can learn the offense the quickest and
be durable," said Tuberville. "Both of
them can run the ball, but one thing that they both have to learn in this
offense is protecting the quarterback.
If you can't protect the quarterback, I'm not going to have you in there
because a lot of times we have to check off and he has to pick up a linebacker
or an end. We can't afford any missed
assignments. We probably run 12 to 15
protections per game and they change every week. Things change very quickly at the line of
scrimmage - who they block, if they block, of if they go out for a pass."
Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside say they're ready for the
"I feel like everything is going extremely well,"
said Williams. "It's basically about how
I apply myself. If I study the playbook
like I'm supposed to, I don't think it's going to be a problem."
"It's the most talent that I've seen in a backfield
in a long time," said Moore. "We're
going to have a little rotation and it's going to work out great. I'm just trying to be a part of it and help
us win some games."
I'd love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I'm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1
The days of one back lugging 35 carries for 200 yards are gone with along with standard definition TVs and Big East football. In the new age of college football utilizing depth to endure 13 games of the grind falls closer to necessity than a want for coaches. That's especially true for new coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
Nobody on staff understands the concept better than Gran, a running backs coach by trade over his 26 years. When assessing a Bearcats team possessing backs with styles as different as the numbers on their back.
The diminutive, explosive Ralph David Abernathy IV comes offset by the powerful frame of Tion Green. Junior College transfer Hosey Williams brings a burst along with great hands out of the backfield. Fellow JuCo Hosey Williams comes as the compact bowling ball at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds. Darkhorse Anthony King (222 pounds) brings size as the biggest of the five RBs taking reps.
As plans are devised to utilize RDA without forcing him to withstand a beating 13 times a year, what type of rotation wheels out against Purdue will be decided over the next three weeks at Higher Ground.
In the past Gran's best seasons came while utilizing a rotation of running backs. Last season at Florida State he had three RBs with between 91 and 111 carries. Much of that came because of Chris Thompson tearing his ACL midseason.
|FSU RB 2012||Carries||Yards||TD|
The rotations worked with FSU posting a Top 25 rushing offense and Top 20 overall offense. Back in 2004, working with Tuberville during Auburn's perfect season, the rotation proved even more effective with the combination of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, who both went in the Top 5 of the NFL Draft.
|Auburn RB 2004||Carries||Yards||TD|
Expect at least two running backs to have at least 100 carries this season, with one of them being RDAIV, but Gran remains flexible to whatever works best for the offense as the season progresses.
"If a guy does have his rhythm and we are going, we go," Gran said. "I make sure if he's got the hot hand, go, but at the same time if something is not happening, I will get somebody else in there. ... I don't mind playing two, though, I don't mind playing three. If they are all going to be productive I have no problem with that. It's a long season."
How many and who of the five competing end up earning those carries began three days ago. Pressure for the junior college transfers will be on how fast they pick up the system. For everyone else, Gran will be watching closely and piecing together the puzzle of how their skill set can fit into effective personnel groups.
"What you got to find out
when we are tackling, whose breaking tackles? Whose getting the YAC
yards and see from there where they fit in and what they do," Gran said.
Entering Day 3 of Camp Tubs as the team still practices on campus before moving to Higher Ground on Friday. The team has been moving between the Sheakley Athletics Complex and the newly turfed Nippert Stadium and will do so again today.
Let's eat ...
Those are the moments why you put in the extra work, the long hours and spend every waking minute working on your game. You can't replicate that feeling, the moment anywhere else in sports.
Harrison's career experienced highs and lows but he's rising along with the Jolly Roger right now. He's been playing mostly for Triple-A Indianapolis and some for the big-league club, but this was his signature moment. He's slugging better than he has any year in his career (.500) and hitting for better than his career average (.265 while a small sample size of 37 PA).
He looks harder and harder to send back to Indy the more time he gets with the Pirates, who have the best record in baseball.
Next, I want to see a helmet cam on Video Shane as he cuts one of his masterpiece videos he's known for. That will be true behind-the-scenes magic.
--- When the Mannings wear bronzer, I watch. These two are the gift that keeps on giving.
Congratulations. Football has finally arrived. We can stop speculating on speculation and report on the media reporting on the media reporting on the media reporting on the NCAA. What a fantastic day.
Let's talk UC football.
So, today marks the first camp practice of the Tommy Tuberville era and with an influx of new players and last year's holdovers, battles begin everywhere today. While most everyone will be fighting for playing time, these are three of the most important battles to watch as UC barrels toward Aug. 31 against Purdue.
How should you keep up with those battles? Well, of course, keep it locked to GoBearcats.com for updates from myself, Dan Hoard and video from Tommy G and the crew about all the happenings in Clifton and Higher Ground.
Battle 1: Wide Receiver
Possible Starters: Anthony McClung (Sr.), Chris Moore (Soph.), Alex Chisum (Jr.)
In the mix: Pretty much everyone else, Jeremy Graves (Soph.), Max Morrison (Soph.), Shakim Alonso (RS Fr.), Johnny Holton (JC transfer), among many others.
Analysis: The position generally is stacked but Tommy Tuberville loves to rotate deep at every position. A cast will be auditioning every day for the right to play outside starter Anthony McClung in the slot. He's only definitive starter at this point and will be counted on to help carry the offense. But he needs help. Bearcats fans caught a glimpse of what Chisum could do in 2011 but he endured a sophomore slump last season. If he can take the next step he adds a dangerous element because of his size and body control. Coaches love the blazing speed of Johnny Holton. Chris Moore impressed in the spring and enjoyed pockets of success last. The list goes on and coaches will be evaluating every snap. Anybody listed as a WR in camp has a shot to line up outside on the first play against Purdue.
Battle 2: Cornerback
Possible starters: Deven Drane (Sr.), Trenier Orr (Jr.)
In the mix: Howard Wilder (JC transfer), Leviticus Payne (Soph.), among a host of young players.
Analysis: Drane will be the starting corner and the senior already has received love from NFL scouts, a big year gives him next level potential. Beyond him, an open contest should be fun to observe. Orr always was a Butch Jones favorite and showed well in the spring. Tuberville eyes depth at the position and plucked the junior college ranks to provide it, Howard Wilder, a transfer from Pierce College will attempt to show his game translates to FBS. Sophomore Leviticus Payne played sparingly as a freshman but reported increased comfort and confidence during spring ball. In all, six other freshmen are listed as either CBs or DBs. It will be a wild chase to see who can show enough to enter the rotation.
3) Running Back
Possible Starter: Ralph David Abernathy IV
In the mix: Tion Green (Soph.), Hosey Williams (JC transfer), Rodriguez Moore (JC transfer), Deionte Buckley (Soph.), Anthony King (Sr.)
Analysis: The plan to utilize Abernathy IV will go a long way to deciding the efficiency of this offense. Expect multiple facets but don't expect 20 carries in the I-formation. Green, Moore, Buckley and Williams will share carries and see who proves most effective. Often hitting is limited in training camp but Tuberville won't shy away because he must find out who to play thunder to RDAIV lightning. He's been a big believer in rotating the backs since his days at Auburn most notably rotating Kenny Irons, Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. Backs take a pounding, especially in his pro style system, and he'd love to find two to match with RDA.
For a new conference looking to build credibility, Cincinnati's hiring of two-time SEC coach of the year Tommy Tuberville was well-received news in the league office.
"I was thrilled when I heard about it - absolutely thrilled for a couple of reasons," said American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco. "Number one, he's a great coach and you can't argue with his record. But he's also a great guy. I've known Tommy for a long time - he's understated, he's highly effective, and he's a classy person.
"It signals that Cincinnati is going to continue to move forward. They've always hired good coaches whether it's Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, or Butch Jones - now you get Tommy Tuberville and you may have even taken it to a new level because I don't know that anybody had the record that he has."
Tuberville's record is 130-77 including 7-3 in bowl games. He led Auburn to at least one victory against an AP Top-10 school in seven consecutive seasons and was named the National Coach of the Year in 2004 when he led the Tigers to a 13-0 season.
With a glittering resume in meat grinder conferences like the SEC and Big 12, Tuberville has heard a recurring question since accepting the head coaching job at UC roughly eight months ago.
"A lot of people have asked me, 'Why Cincinnati?'" said Tuberville. "My answer is, 'Why not?' Heck, this is as winning of a program as anybody in the country. We have a good established base, but we have a lot of room for improvement."
Tuberville's track record made him one of the most sought-after interviews at The American media days this week in Newport, RI. In the league's golf outing on Monday, he was put him in a group with Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, and with several other national writers in attendance, Tuberville had an opportunity to sell his vision for UC football and its new conference.
"We don't have to sell Cincinnati," said Tuberville. "I'll tell you, over the last six or seven years, Cincinnati has been the up-and-coming team in college football. When you win 10 games as many times as Cincinnati has done the last few years and gone to bowl games and two BCS games - you don't have to sell that. What we have to sell is the conference. We have to get this conference going. We have new teams coming in, we have to talk well of each other, we've got to play good football, and we've got to put a good product on the field.
"Cincinnati is going to survive, but we want this conference to be one of the better conferences in the country and everybody is going to have to pitch in."
The American currently includes a Louisville program that won the national championship in men's basketball, was runner-up in women's basketball, and won the Sugar Bowl in football. In the preseason college football coaches' poll released on Thursday, Louisville was ranked ninth.
But the Cardinals will leave the American for the ACC at the end of the year. Is the league counting on Cincinnati to be its dominant program moving forward?
"I don't think there's any doubt that one of our flagship programs will be Cincinnati," Aresco told me. "I think the Bearcats have a really bright future. They've also had a great record of success in our conference so you have to already put them in the top echelon, and Tommy Tuberville is another in a long line of great coaches at Cincinnati. He just has an outstanding resume and I know he is going to have great success there. I think Cincinnati is going to be a very important school for us - I don't think there is any doubt about it.
"Whit (Babcock) is really one of our most able athletic directors, and Santa Ono is a visionary president who wants to be good in athletics. He understands athletics but he also understands the mission of the university."
Tuberville's mission is to build on the momentum generated by the coaches that preceded him.
"We've had several coaches at Cincinnati that have really gotten the program on the track - but sort of on a jog," Tommy told me. "I need to get it going on a run."