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In the immediate aftermath of a disappointing 26-20 loss at USF on Saturday, head coach Tommy Tuberville sounded exasperated in our radio postgame interview with sideline reporter Tom Gelehrter.

"You can't give away 14 points on the road and win - I don't care who you're playing," said Tuberville on 700 WLW.  "We knocked their running back out, we knocked their quarterback out and we still struggled."

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The Bulls entered the game 0-4 and lost quarterback Steven Bench after one pass.  They lost the nation's 10th-leading rusher, Marcus Shaw, after 9 carries.  But USF didn't need an offensive touchdown against UC, scoring on a 75-yard TD return of a blocked field goal and a 10-yard fumble return.

"You just can't do that," said Tuberville.  "I don't care how many games they've won or how they're playing; we gave them all the incentive they needed.  When you're playing on the road, we just opened up a can of whoop-tail when we gave them 14 points."

Combine those touchdowns with four field goals and it was enough to beat a Cincinnati offense that sputtered to gain 162 yards in the first three quarters before erupting for 188 yards and a pair of TD passes in the fourth.

We had 86 yards of offense in the first half," said Tuberville.  "You're not going to win any games - I mean any games - if you don't play better than that on offense.

"We're going to have to get much better to have the opportunity to win games.  We have to get physical and we have to block somebody.  That's the number one thing that we have to get better at.  We're not doing a great job at the point of attack in our running game."

That was especially telling during a key sequence midway through the third quarter.  The Bearcats had a second-and-one at the USF 9-yard line and could not pick up the necessary yard on three running plays.

"You've got to be able to get a yard," said Tuberville.  "We had them coming through gaps and we were turning people loose.  We made some changes on the offensive line during the game and got a little bit better, but we have to be more physical up front.  If you can't get a yard in three downs then something is wrong."

Brendon Kay gave Cincinnati a chance to rally from a 26-6 deficit by going 11-for-14 with 145 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

"I'm proud of Brendon," said Tuberville.  "I didn't think he'd play in the second half.  He took a late hit and really got bruised up in the sternum.  We thought about pulling him out, but he wanted to play and he played his heart out in the second half.

"He played his tail off.  He ran for his life, he threw on the run, and we're just not giving him much protection.  And we have to be able to run the ball a little bit better."

And while the Bearcats struggles on offense began up front, Coach Tuberville says the responsibility for the loss begins with him.

"We have to do a better job of coaching," he said.

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A Spectacular Start: On The Field And In The Stands

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The Tommy Tuberville era at Cincinnati is off to a spectacular start.  And if you attended the game and were impressed by UC's new head coach, you'll be happy to know that Tommy and his wife Suzanne were impressed with you.

"My wife's been to a lot of tailgates over the years and she said that was the best she's even been to," said Coach Tuberville.

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A record crowd of 36,007 packed 98-year old Nippert Stadium, breaking the old attendance mark by 901 fans. 

"I want to thank our fans for coming out because they were very supportive," Tuberville told me.  "They got behind the team from the beginning to the end.  We need to keep it going like that.  As I've said before, we're all in this together.  If we want to keep making this program better and better and take it to another level, it's going to have to start not on the football field but in the stands and work down to the field.  We're going to try to do our part, but we need the help of everybody out there.  We got off to a great start."

It was such an impressive performance that it was easy to forget that after opening each of the past two seasons with a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, the first offensive snap this year resulted in a Munchie Legaux interception off a deflected pass.

"I told Eddie Gran that I was going to have a football printed up of his first play ever as an offensive coordinator - an interception," joked Tuberville.  "I didn't say anything to Munchie because it wasn't his fault.  We're supposed to cut those offensive lineman and keep their hands down.  He was throwing to the right guy, the guy was open, and the timing was good.  They made a good play.  I was proud of Munchie bouncing back and playing well the rest of the time until his last play when he threw another interception.  Munchie is going to make mistakes - they're all going to make mistakes - but they have to bounce back and forget about the last play.  That's what we've been preaching."

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While Munchie directed the Bearcats to a 42-7 win, the Cincinnati defense made life so miserable for Purdue quarterback Rob Henry that he opted to quit Twitter.

In all, 66 players saw action in the opener, including 11 offensive linemen.  I found it telling that the Bearcats rarely looked disorganized no matter who was on the field, and didn't commit a penalty until midway through the third quarter.

"It was awfully hot - about 130 degrees on that turf and I don't care how good of shape you're in, it's hard to focus as long as you need to focus," said Tuberville.  "Our assignments were very good; we only had a couple of penalties, and that's hard to do in the first game regardless of the weather.  When you have first-game jitters you tend to make a lot of mistakes, but I was proud of the entire team.

"They paid a price this summer in two-a-days by running and doing all of our (post-practice conditioning) drills.  Joe Walker, our strength coach, and all four of his assistants have done a bang-up job of knowing how hard to push them but when to pull back.  The strength and conditioning coaches had a plan for them starting back in the summer of getting ready for this first game and it worked.  Our guys were awfully proud of that, so they all stood up in the locker room and gave them a standing ovation."

I don't know about you, but I can't wait until next Saturday.

Don't forget to listen to my daily Bearcat Reports with Coach Tuberville, Monday through Friday at 11:55 on ESPN 1530.  And I hope to see you on Thursday night for Coach Tuberville's weekly radio show from 8-to-9 at the Original Montgomery Inn.

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Be Prepared For Anything Under Tuberville

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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 to attend: 

Come Early. 

Be Loud. 

Wear White. 

And Don't Get Up To Use The Restroom If It's Fourth-And-Long.

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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 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."

Final score:  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 be second-guessed.   

"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.

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Max Aims To Be Factor In Bearcats Passing Attack

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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 the time.

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."

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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 this season.

"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 uniform number.

"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."

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JUCO Duo Provides Contrasting Boost To Backfield

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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).

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"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 after rushing for 902 yards and 11 TD on 147 carries (6.1) for East Mississippi C.C.

"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 challenge.

"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."

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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.

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"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."

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Brendon Kay Savors Experience At Manning Academy

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On Monday morning before leaving for American Football Media Days in Newport, RI, I joked on Twitter that I would not be asking any questions about the topic that dominated the recent SEC Media Days.

That was before I learned that UC quarterback Brendon Kay not only attended the Manning Passing Academy, but he and roommate Jeff Driskel (Florida Gators) were suitemates with Manziel and A.J. McCarron.

"I got along well with all of those guys - they're all great guys," Kay told me.  "Some stuff happened while we were down there that got most of the media (attention) about the camp."

While Brendon was not about to share any TMZ-worthy material about Johnny Football, he was happy to discuss his trip to the Manning Academy.

 "I got invited at some point during spring ball," said Kay.  "Coach Tuberville brought it up to me and that week Archie Manning called.  It was definitely exciting.

"Overall, it was an incredible experience to meet all of those NFL guys, the NFL Network guys, and the draft guys.  There were probably 30 of the top quarterbacks down there from all over the country.  I was a sponge when I was down there and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could from Peyton, Eli, and all of the NFL guys that were down there.  It helped me this summer seeing how they did their workouts and what they did with their receivers.  I tried to use the same stuff when I got back to Cincinnati."

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Aside from travel costs, expenses are taken care of for the college quarterbacks and being invited provided a big boost to the 6th-year senior.

"It helps your confidence to go out and throw with those guys and see that I can throw with any of the guys around the country," said Kay.  "It's not that I needed any extra confidence or anything, but it was definitely a confidence booster and showed that my hard work is paying off."

This week, Brendon joined teammates Greg Blair, Austen Bujnoch, and Jordan Stepp in representing the Bearcats at the American Kickoff event in Rhode Island.  Kay's inclusion in the UC contingent provided the latest proof that he's the number one quarterback going into UC's training camp.

But that's not how he's treating it.

"I'm just going to go out and try to get better every day," Brendon told me.  "Competition is a good thing - it pushes me every day.  It never lets me settle and get too comfortable which is good.  It's what I'm used to and allows me to keep pushing myself."

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Camp Tuberville Just Weeks Away

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The Tommy Tuberville era at Cincinnati is about to begin.  The Bearcats check-in for training camp on Sunday, August 4 and hold their first practice the following day.  Fans can meet the players and get autographs at the annual "Meet the Team" event at Kings Island on Sunday, August 18.

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I had the opportunity to interview Coach Tuberville this week about some key topics going into camp:

Rumor has it that you were hanging out with the big stars at the ESPYS last week?

Every year I play in the V Foundation Golf Classic to raise money to fight cancer.  I've been going for many years.  Sometimes I go to the ESPYS along with it, but this year I didn't have time so I just played in the golf tournament to help them raise money and then I flew back.  I played with actor Chris Tucker, and Bruce Jenner played right in front of us.  You get to meet a lot of people at that tournament, but I'm always excited to get back home and get ready for the football season.

You've been coaching for a long time, but when you're in your first year at a program is training camp more challenging?

It's more challenging because we're still finding out about our players and they're finding out about us.  But I'm excited about our off-season.  They've just gone through a very tough summer workout program and I think we're in very good physical shape.  They've gotten stronger and you're always excited to get them back on the field to see where we've come since spring practice in terms of their physical and mental abilities.

Is the quarterback job Brendon Kay's to lose at training camp?

Yes, because he had a very good spring and I thought that Munchie (Legaux) hit the wall in about the 10th or 11th practice.  The guy that really played well and made a lot of headway was Bennie Coney.  Bennie has a lot of talent - he can run, he can throw, and do all of those things.  So we're going to have some options.  I tell you, it's going to be a battle.  I've told Brendon that we're going to start him out with the first group, but anything can happen.  We'll have a couple of scrimmages and a lot of practices and remember, your quarterback not only runs the offense - he's the leader of your entire team.  Brendon is probably a little bit ahead, but that can change very quickly in two-a-days.

I ran into a member of your staff this week who told me that a few of the junior college additions are going to make an immediate impact this year.  Can you tell us about a few of those guys?

We have on campus running backs Rod Moore and Hosea Williams who will battle it out with Tion Green and Ralph Abernathy.  Going into the season, you have got to have two or three running backs that you can count on, so I think there is going to be a lot of competition there.  Jerrell Jordan is a junior college defensive end that came in in January and broke his foot - the fifth metatarsal - and had a screw put in it so he didn't get a lot of practice time.  He's in much better shape, and Terrell Hartsfield is another junior college defensive end that has been on campus for about two months and I think he is really going to help us.  Those guys are going to be great additions to our football team mentally and physically.  Then we have Howard Wilder, a junior college cornerback, that I really think is going to help this team get better.  In those areas we need some help, and I think they're going to provide it for us going into the opening game.

Is cornerback your biggest concern?

We have a lot of concerns.  Every football team has concerns about experience and depth, but I would say right now that it's the cornerback position just because of depth.  I think we have some guys that can play, but you have to have six to eight guys on your team, and we're going to have to count on a couple of high school players to come in and give us some help, along with junior college players like Howard Wilder.  So corner has been a concern since we got here.  I think we've helped ourselves in recruiting, but now we have to get them in shape and get them ready to play mentally.

People have read and heard about your Australian rugby player Lindsay Crook.  Is he likely to redshirt in year one to learn American football?

I think that's a big question mark.  I know he's a good athlete and he can really run.  He had a setback - we had to scope his knee about a month ago because he had some loose cartilage in there that was giving him some pain.  So we decided to go ahead and clean that up.  He was down for about three weeks - he's just now started running again.  But I think he'll be able to help us some.  I'm not sure what position or it might just be on special teams, but you've got to remember that he's not your average high school player.  He'll be 21 years old this year.  He's got a lot to learn about what we do and how we do it, but I think that he can pick it up.  We'll have to see how far he can come in the next few weeks.  I'm not going to play him just to play him, but I think he has the ability to help the team this season.

What's been the most pleasant surprise about the UC program since you arrived?

The enthusiasm of the players and the confidence that they have.  The thing about the UC football program over the last six or seven years - it's probably been one of the biggest surprises nationwide.  For a long time, UC was one of the doormats of college football, but with the emergence of winning like UC has won over the past few years - every team has some ups and downs - but they've had some consistency.  They've been to two BCS Bowl games, and most schools across the country haven't been to one.  I think the confidence that these players have in what they can do and how they can do it gives us an edge.  I'm not here to change a whole lot; I just want to keep the ship going in the right direction. 

You'll begin your tenure here in The American - the new American Athletic Conference.  As a head coach, would you rather be in a league where you potentially could dominate or a league like the Big 12 with traditional powers like Oklahoma and Texas?

I think there's a fine line there.  Everybody wants to win games and I think that's a big question mark for where you want to be.  But for us to have an opportunity to win national championships, something is eventually going to have to happen for us to get into the (power five conferences).  But I like the conference we're in.  I like the teams that we're playing and I think we can compete and be one of the stronger teams in the league year in and year out.  That's how we're going to treat it.  We're going to recruit harder every year, and we're going to try to beat whoever is on our schedule.  We really don't have control over that right now, so we're just going to have to wait and see what happens.

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And I haven't posted a photo of the handsome lad in quite some time.  Here is Sam getting ready for a feast on a recent family vacation to Maine.    

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Freshman Caupain Looks To Make Point

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As a senior at Cosby HS near Richmond, VA last year, Troy Caupain averaged 27 points and 15 rebounds.  But when he joins the Bearcats this fall, Caupain will be looking to pile up assists since he is expected to play point guard at the college level.  

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"We were able to see Troy enough to realize that this guy is a point guard," said UC head coach Mick Cronin.  "He's 6'3" and he's still only 17; he won't turn 18 until six or seven games into the season.  But he's a natural point guard.  It's the one position - kind of like quarterback in football - where there are probably some things that you're just born with.  He's comfortable with the ball in his hands and he sees the entire court."

Caupain says that Coach Cronin wasn't the first person to see point guard potential in his future. 

"My uncle realized it was time to be a guard because I wasn't going to be 6'8" or taller," said Caupain.  "So he worked with me to build up my ball handling, my basketball IQ, and my court awareness.  I took it to mean that I was going to be a point guard and ever since then, I dedicated myself toward doing that every time that I went to the gym."

"I remember recruiting Kenny Satterfield and a lot of the services said that he wasn't a point guard because he was 6'2" and he scored a lot of points in high school," said Cronin.  "But when you watch a guy play, you can see what he's comfortable with and it really wasn't a hard thing with Troy.  When the ball is in his hands he's very comfortable and he doesn't really feel pressure.  When some guys get pressured, they put their head down, they get nervous, and they speed up.  When Troy sees pressure it doesn't rattle him.  He just makes a simple pass and is calm with the ball." 

Caupain was named the Player of the Year in Richmond last year and finished his career as his school's all-time leader in scoring average and rebounds.  That led to comparisons to a former DePaul star that spent 17 years in the NBA.

"People tell me that I remind them of Rod Strickland back when he played for the Wizards," said Caupain.  "He was a floor general on the court - he could get a bucket when his team needed it, but he looked to involve his teammates.  I like to smile, be a leader, and get my teammates involved in the game.

"When I was young, (Strickland's) son played on my little cousin's AAU team, so I used to see him all the time and we used to go to his house and play basketball and stuff."

Caupain's ability to find open teammates figures to put him in the mix to replace Cashmere Wright as Cincinnati's starting point guard.

Does Troy expect to win the job?

"That's not my call," Caupain told me.  "But I'm working hard to try to earn that spot - yes."

"I'm excited about him because he's going to make other guys better," said Cronin.  "That's the key.  He's going to get other guys a lot of easy baskets."  

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Nippert Plans Show Commitment To Compete

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Have you ever taken a look at the home basketball schedule in 1999-2000, the year that the Bearcats set a single-season record for average attendance (13,176) by selling out all 14 home games?

Here were UC's opponents:  Youngstown State, Mississippi Valley State, Wisc-Milwaukee, UNLV, Charlotte, Marquette, Ohio, Memphis, USF, DePaul, Temple, Southern Miss, Louisville, and St. Louis.

Of those teams, only No. 15 Temple was in the Top-25.

Every game was sold out because the Bearcats had enjoyed a long run of success and were the number one team in the country for most of that season.  The stands were packed to see the home team - not the opposition.

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I mention that because I constantly read and hear how Cincinnati's membership in the new American Athletic Conference could be damaging to home attendance in football and basketball because fans have grown accustomed to watching high-profile opponents in the Big East.  But I honestly believe that if Cincinnati is one of the dominant programs in The American in football and basketball, that attendance will eventually go up, not down.

Cincinnati sports fans support teams that compete for championships - whether it's the Bearcats, Bengals, Reds, or Musketeers. 

One of the reasons why I am excited about Tuesday's announcement that the Nippert Stadium Renovation and Expansion Project will begin in December (scheduled for completion in 2015) is that it is tangible proof that the UC administration is not deterred by recent developments in conference realignment and is continuing to invest in building an athletic department that competes for championships.

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Project Website:

Announcement Link:

"Revenue generated from this project will benefit student-athletes in each of our 19 sports," said Athletic Director Whit Babcock.  "This facility will also add another piece of signature architecture right in the heart of our beautiful campus."

It's hard not to be impressed by how Babcock - with the support of President Santa Ono and the UC Board of Trustees - made this happen.  After announcing a proposed plan to renovate Nippert Stadium in mid-December, Babcock quietly went about lining up financial support, including 18 commitments for Founders Suites at $1 million dollars each, hundreds of club seats, and millions of dollars in private donations.  While there is still fundraising to do, enough money has been raised to formally launch the project and no University general funds will be used.

In addition to boosting the amenities at Nippert Stadium and creating a much-needed revenue stream, the renovation project is another bold statement that Cincinnati should be at the top of anyone's list.  While I've stopped trying to guess what's going to happen next, I think that UC is doing everything in its power to polish its resume - from winning games, to graduating student-athletes, and investing in facilities.

The UC football team can go to a BCS bowl game this year by winning the first championship in The American.  The UC basketball team added a great recruiting class and is aiming to go to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year.

The home team is going to be fun to watch.

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