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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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."
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Allow me to point out that McClung held on to the
ball for a 29-yard gain with a 15-yard penalty tacked on.
I have no idea if UC's new head coach Tommy
Tuberville has seen video of either of those receptions, but he's watched
enough of McClung at practice to know that the Bearcats wide receiver doesn't
"He'll catch the ball across the middle," said
Tuberville."That's what really
separates a good receiver."
"When the ball is in the air, I feel that it's
mine," said McClung."I can't control
what happens after that.All I try to do
is look the ball in and make the catch for my team."
Unlike Tuberville, McClung has definitely seen the video of his gutsy catches after some gruesome
"Sometimes you get goose bumps and say, 'Wow that
really happened,' " McClung told me."But during the game, you have so much adrenaline going that you don't
really feel it."
After having 49 catches for 683 yards and 6
touchdowns as a sophomore, McClung battled a series of injuries last season and
saw his numbers drop to 34 catches for 539 yards and 2 TDs.To his credit, Anthony played with pain and
appeared in 12 of 13 games.
"I pulled my quad, hurt my groin, my knee - there
were a lot of different things," said McClung."But I'm a tough guy.I always
want to play for my team."
Now the senior-to-be is healthy again and it
shows.In Cincinnati's first scrimmage
this spring, McClung finished with 4 catches for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns,
and in Saturday's second scrimmage held at Paul Brown Stadium, Anthony led all
receivers with 7 grabs for 92 yards.
"He's deceptive," said Tuberville."He's one of those guys that doesn't show up,
doesn't show up, and then all of a sudden makes big plays.
"I've been very impressed with him.He works hard and never says anything."
McClung might not say much to his new head coach,
but he's very talkative to the less-experienced receivers that Cincinnati will
be counting on this season.
"He's been a great leader in the room," said
receivers coach Blake Rolan."The kids
listen to him and that makes my job easier.They've been trained well in the past and won a lot of games and he
understands what it takes."
"They ask me a lot of questions," said McClung."When I was younger I used to look up to
great receivers like Armon Binns, D.J. Woods, Vidal Hazelton, and Kenbrell
Thompkins.They were leaders to me and
now I have to fill that role and be the leader to the younger guys."
"He's a quick learner," said Rolan."He studies the game and it means a lot to
Following the departures of Thompkins and tight end
Travis Kelce, McClung appears likely to be Cincinnati's number one receiver in
"I trust him to get open, and he trusts me to get
him the ball," said quarterback Brendon Kay."The more reps we get together, the better we'll be as a duo."
"I have a great opportunity with two great
quarterbacks," said McClung."Hopefully
we'll win a lot of games.But even if
I'm not the number one guy, I want to play a role and make plays when my number
is called.The bottom line is that we
want to win the league title outright this year."
Well-stated from a guy who will go over the middle
to get to the top.