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Bearcats Bowl IV LIVE blog

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It's a little bit rainy, and there aren't a ton of fans in the stand. Which is understandable and, for UC, a little unfortunate. 

Getting ready to get started pretty soon.

There will be two 10-minute periods for the first half, and in the second half, they'll go with a running clock.

Here's the way it'll be scored:

Defensive score:
1 point third down stop
2 points fourth down stop
2 points safety
2 points force special teams kick
2 points negative yard play
2 points kick field goal in red zone
3 points three and out
6 points turnover
6 points defensive touchdown

Offensive scores
1 point first down
2 points 20-yard play
3 points field goal
6 points touchdown
1 point extra point

It'll be first-team offense vs. second-team defense and first-team defense vs. second-team defense.

Second play of the game, Collaros to D.J. Woods, who goes around the end for a 26-yard gain. Two plays later, a screen to Woods, who goes for 13 yards. The offense isn't having many problems so far, and Darrin Williams goes in for the 11-yard rushing TD. Jake Rogers' extra point is good.

Offense 10, Defense 0


Quentin Hines gets the first carry, and he's immediately dropped for a five-yard loss by Chris Williams. Chazz Anderson tries to hit Tomaz Hilton in the flat, but he's way off. A three and out for the defense.

Offense 11, Defense 8


Without Pead in there today because of injury, Darrin Williams is showing he's not bad either. D.J. Woods has been tough on those screens. Collaros has to scramble and Rob Trigg is credited with the sack (though the defense is playing two-hand touch with the QB). Another nice gain from Collaros to Woods. On third and 1, Williams gets it and gains the first down. Collaros is moving this offense, mostly with short routes and screens. He hasn't missed a pass yet. On third and four, he hits Kenbrell Thompkins for the first down. Then, he just rifles in a 13-yard pass to Thompkins for the touchdown. Yes, Collaros does have an arm.

Offense 24, Defense 12


Not a whole lot of running so far the offense. Content to let Collaros and Anderson to chuck it down the field.

End of first quarter
Offense 25, Defense 12


Collaros scrambles, avoids the sack and finds Darrin Williams for a long gain. OK, some people in the stands are going to call an offensive play for Butch Jones. But doesn't the defense know which play is coming. Collaros in a shotgun snap, a little screen to Quentin Hines for a 1-yard gain. Did the fan pick a screen play? Really? Rueben Haley with the INT, but Collaros would have been sacked by Aaron Roberson, so no turnover. Offense to punt.

Offense 32, Defense 17

A little trickery. Anderson pitches it to Woods on a reverse, who heaves it to an open Hazelton down the right sideline. That's a 60-yard pass to the 4-yard line. Hazelton can't believe he got caught short of the goal line. After a penalty, next thing you know, the Bearcats are at the 25-yard line. A little fullback action, hand off to Colin Lozier gains about two yards. Danny Milligan in for the 41-yard field goal, and it's no good. Looked off to the right.

Offense 32, Defense 27


Collaros airs it out and Orion Woodward makes the outstanding catch in double coverage. That's down to the 8-yard line. That was a 49-yard pass play. One play left with no time on the clock. Collaros rolls right and finds Woods in the back of the end zone for the 1-yard TD. On the extra point, Bruce Horner comes off the edge to block it.

Offense 42, Defense 28 (half)


Some stats: Darrin Williams has 47 yards on eight carries. Collaros is 17 of 19 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Chazz Anderson is 3 of 6 for 19 yards. D.J. Woods has five catches for 69 yards, and Hazelton has four for 83.

Another 20-yard pass from Collaros to Woods. This is becoming routine. And now it's raining and raining hard. It'll be third and 17 for Anderson, and he scrambles for about seven yards. Rogers for the 43-yarder, and it's good.

Offense 49, Defense 42


Not a good pass by Anderson, who throws it directly to redshirt freshman Sean McClellan (formerly of the Dayton Daily News), who returns it 33 yards to the 5-yard line.

Defense 50, Offense 49 (end of the third)

Nice play by Alex Delisi to sack Anderson and force a fourth down. And then Anderson hits a wide open Lynell Payne for the 36-yard TD. Offense retakes the lead and the game ends with 4 minutes to go.

Offense 57, Defense 47 (final)


Finally for Gilyard

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It was a long wait for WR Mardy Gilyard, but he's finally off the NFL Draft board, going with the first pick in the fourth round to the St. Louis Rams. And you know what? He gets a new franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. That should be fun for him.

I know the Bengals scribes were hoping Cincinnati would take him in the third round, just because he's such a great quote. It could have happened, too. Instead, the Bengals grabbed Texas WR Jordan Shipley.

Here's an example of why the writers were hoping to keep Gilyard in Cincinnati: he was talking to the St. Louis writers on a teleconference just now, and as, AP's Joe Kay reports from St. Louis' AP guy, Gilyard was talking to the writers about catching crabs. I don't know the context of that conversation, but really, that's pretty darn funny.

Seriously, we're going to miss that guy.

Stewart accepts a new role

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At first, Walter Stewart was happy just to be on the field. He was a redshirt freshman playing college football in front of a sold-out Nippert Stadium crowd, his squad kept on winning on national TV and he was performing well enough to impress his coaches and teammates.

 

The new-car smell quickly faded for Stewart, though. It wasn't enough for him to simply be wearing the uniform and playing. He needed to be playing well and making a big-time impact for one of the top teams in the country.

 

Butch Jones said it aptly earlier this week when I asked about Stewart. He needs football, Jones said. Needs it to sustain him and keep him alive. But it's more than that for the defensive end/linebacker. He doesn't just need football. Actually, he needs to excel at football.

 

That's why following last Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, after saying goodbye to his parents, Stewart went back to work in the film room. You see, football isn't just a sport to Stewart. He needs football like he needs his liver.

 

"I've got to be around it," Stewart said.

 

As a result, the improvements speak for themselves. Stewart went from a rookie who barely felt he was ready to play to a guy who finished his freshman season with 59 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks to a person who will be one of the major cogs of the Bearcats defense this season.

 

"I'm really excited about the development he's made from day one to the next day to the following day," Jones said. "He's another individual who needs football in his life. He's very hungry, and he takes coaching. It's important to him. He wants to do well. He lives it every day. 'Coach, what do I need to do to get better? How can I take my game to the next level?' He's a sponge. He wants more. Anytime an individual has that, they're going to develop because of the expectations he's placed upon himself."

 

It's more than just Stewart's expectations, though. The coaching staff also has raised the scope of what he'll be asked to do. Much like Connor Barwin's role from two years ago, UC's coaches are transforming Stewart into a hybrid defender.

 

He'll rush the quarterback some. He'll probably drop back into coverage some. He'll play a combination of the defensive end and linebacker positions. With his athleticism and the resume he's produced so far, the move makes sense. What's interesting is how much the coaching staff must trust Stewart's physical and mental abilities - his on-field gifts and his football smarts - to make a move like this work out well for the Bearcats.

 

"I'm going to be everywhere," Stewart said. "I'm going to be on the line for third downs. Third downs and long, I'll be coming off the edge. Other than that, just be a linebacker. Depending on what offense is on the field, that determines what I'll be doing. It's a lot to take in for me. But that's the game. I have a new role on defense, and I accepted it.

 

"They definitely put a lot of trust in me. I take my responsibilities real seriously. I do what I'm coached to do."

 

Stewart, only a year removed from the uncertainty of playing as a freshman in a stadium full of people, seems poised to make a huge leap in responsibility. He's much different from the guy who was just happy to take the field.

 

"As the season went on, I realized that I belonged here," Stewart said. "Once I got rolling, I started to get more comfortable on the field and understanding what I needed to be doing out there. It was a good experience for me. This season, I feel a lot more prepared. Now, I know what to expect."

Getting close to the end

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With only three practices left to go in spring camp - including Saturday's Bearcat Bowl IV - Butch Jones has seen his UC squad practice nearly a dozen times. He's installed about half of what he wants to use in his offense. He's seen the work rate and the tempo and the players' ability to adjust to a new coaching staff.

 

He's not satisfied. Not even close.

 

"No, I wish we had another spring ball," Jones said after Monday's practice. "As a coach, you're never satisfied with where you're at. It comes down to execution and having a great base for the next phase in your program - our summer strength and conditioning program. Tuesday and Thursday will be critical practices for us."

 

As was Monday's get-together. More than anything, though, Jones called Monday's practice a good exercise in the cerebral portion of football.

 

"It was a great learning day," Jones said. "I thought we got a lot of out of it. It was a big mental day for us coming out of our scrimmage on Saturday. To come out and reinforce all the fundamentals and all the attention to details and review all the situations that have occurred through the spring. Today was a great mental day, but also a good fundamental day."

 

Jones isn't the only one who's been left a bit unsatisfied. So have some of his players.

 

"We still have a long ways to go," sophomore defensive end Walter Stewart said. "We're definitely making strides. The first thing is we have to clean up the mental errors. We're having a lot of breakdowns. We have to clean that up. The effort has gotten way better, because everybody is in better shape. We just have to give more attention to detail."

That's to be expected, though. With a new offense and a new defense to install, mistakes are bound to occur during the coaching staff's first spring camp. Doesn't mean Stewart has to like it, but it's been plenty to take in for the Bearcats.

 

"The terminology this year and the way we played it last year, it sometimes contrasts - just the way the call is presented," Stewart said. "We're trying to put it together and trying to make the right reads while we're playing fast."

 

And they're trying to understand why they're doing so, as well.

 

Said Jones: "It's a process. Each day, it's been an improvement, some days more than others. We still have a long way to go in our depth of the football team. It's us understanding situational football. We always talk about FBI - FootBall Intelligence- and understanding what we're trying to accomplish and understanding our opponent and their technique and their body language. That all goes into playing a game."

 

--UC announced today that senior WR Jamar Howard underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee and will miss the rest of spring camp. He's expected to be ready for the start of fall camp.

 

He played in five games last season, catching three passes for 50 yards.

 

--It's not very often you hear from an athlete who makes an effort to seek you out and tell you that he appreciates something you wrote about him or her. It's actually quite rare.

 

And that's fine. I don't write articles and features so athletes will say how much they like and appreciate my prose and my reporting. In fact, if they read it or not, if they like it or not, it doesn't make much of a difference to me. If they like it, cool. If not, that's OK too. If they're indifferent, well, that's pretty much what I expect.

 

That said, it's always nice when you get a phone call out of the blue telling you how much somebody treasured what you wrote about them.

 

Throughout my years as a sports writer, this has happened only a handful of times. When I was in college at Georgia, I wrote a nice piece about Randy McMichael and his daughter (or was it his mother? Not sure, but I think it was his daughter), and he sought me out the next day to tell me how much he loved the story. When I worked at the Cincinnati Post, I wrote a nice feature about Xavier play-by-play man Joe Sunderman. A week or so later, I got an actual hand-written thank you card from the classy Sunderman.

 

On Saturday, as I drove to pick up my brother from the airport in Dayton, I got a call on my cell from Andre Revels. You might remember I wrote this story on him recently, and he had just read it when somebody at work slid it across his desk. He said as soon as he read it, he knew he needed to call me to thank me.

 

Actually, he didn't need to do that. If he hadn't, I never would have thought twice about it.

 

But he called. And I'm glad he did.

 

No matter how jaded you become or how ambivalent you get about people's opinions of your work, it's always nice to hear that you've done a good job. Even a sport writer's cynical heart can appreciate that.

Barnett back on offense and comfortable

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You remember wide receiver Marcus Barnett during his freshman season. You remember thinking, after watching Barnett catch 62 passes for 862 yards and a program-best 13 receiving touchdowns, that he was going to be a receiving star. The second-team All-Big East status that season only confirmed those suspicions.

 

Barnett was going to be the one to break all the UC receiving records.

 

And then, he wasn't.

 

The past two years have been perplexing for Barnett. He knows his talent is still there. He knows he can return to his old habits of catching passes and scoring touchdowns. But he needs another chance - to prove he can be the player coach Butch Jones wants him to be on the field and to prove he can be the person Jones wants him to be off the field.

 

"It's a work in progress," Jones said. "I'm excited, but as he'll tell you, there's nowhere to hide in our program, from going to class to being on time for treatments and meetings and being out early and working. He's done a good job so far, but we're going to continue to drive him each and every day. He has a lot of ability and we've seen that in the past."

 

Yes, we have.

 

He caught two touchdown passes and gained 210 receiving yards vs. West Virginia in 2007. He recorded a team-best 80-yard score against San Diego State. He caught 11 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns at Syracuse. Plus, he threw for a 76-yard score vs. South Florida.

 

Between Barnett, Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman, that trio was going to be one of the best receiving corps in Bearcats history. Then, Barnett disappeared. It was clear former coach Brian Kelly and Barnett were on different wavelengths, and he didn't have much impact his sophomore season, catching 30 passes for 277 yards and just one score.

 

Then, Kelly and his staff decided to try something different last year. They decided to move Barnett to cornerback.

 

"I didn't look at it that it wasn't a good thing, because a new opportunity is always a good thing," Barnett said. "I always looked at it as half-full. It was an opportunity to display my talents on the other side of the ball, which so few people get to do at this level. I looked at it as a blessing in disguise.

 

"I respected coach for doing that. He had trust in me on both sides of the ball. Being a utility guy, you're going to have to move all around the offense and, in my case, move to defense. I looked at that as a good thing."

 

Originally, the coaches moved him to the secondary last spring to help replace the lost trio of Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith and Brandon Underwood. But before fall practice began, he was switched back to offense. Then, with Dominique Battle injured, Barnett started the Fresno State game at cornerback and performed well, recording a couple tackles and breaking up a pass while participating in 75 plays on defense.

 

His dalliance on defense didn't last long, though, and he moved back to receiver, finishing the season with 10 catches for 95 yards.

 

"The last two years were pretty confusing, going from offense to defense," Barnett said. "It's a learning experience, a humbling experience. It was confusing and tough and a mental challenge. Some people could have packed it up and left, but I'm here to continue to do what the team needs to do."

 

His new mission: make a huge impact on offense - just like he managed his freshman season. The stability of one man, one position should help.

 

"No question," Jones said. "Repping it over and over and over again and staying on him, that will enable him to concentrate on one position. That will help him. I expect him to be a great contributor. He's played a lot of football here. He's a senior, and we expect him to be a great leader and set a great example as a senior would. I have great expectations for him. Every day he knows my expectations, because I tell him every day."

 

Barnett has responded.

 

"Mindset-wise, I'm at the point where every day counts, every rep counts, every catch counts," he said. "Everything is counted toward me and my aspirations of going to the next level. I have to do everything possible within my means so I can help the team out this year and hopefully take the next step toward the next level."

Cobb making changes

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I had planned to publish a notebook lede on C.J. Cobb and the job he's done so far in spring practice, but then I got this today.

 

Football's CJ Cobb Undergoes Successful Ankle Surgery

 

CINCINNATI - University of Cincinnati senior offensive lineman CJ Cobb underwent successful surgery to repair a broken right ankle at University of Cincinnati Hospital Monday.

 

Dr. Angelo Colosimo, the Bearcats' team orthopedic surgeon, performed the operation.

 

Cobb was injured during spring practice on Saturday, April 10, 2010. He will miss the rest of the spring, but is expected to be ready when UC opens fall camp in August.

 

Here's the story I would have published (and I guess I still am):

 

Last year during practice, C.J. Cobb's running style could best be described as plodding. During end-of-practice sprints or as he hustled to get off the practice field following a repetition, the 315-pound Cobb was less swift than just about anybody else on the Bearcats squad.

 

Last week, though, I noticed a different Cobb. True, nobody is going to mistake him for a burner quite yet, but it was also evident that Cobb has been hard at work transforming his body and dropping weight.

 

It's the mindset of an offensive lineman who's entering his senior season, short on gameday experience but long on desire to make sure he gets plenty of playing time this season.

 

"Last year was a weight issue," Cobb said. "But I have a new mindset. This is my last year. This is the only chance I have to step up and give my teammates all I have. This year, I want to be a leader. If that means me hustling more to get off the field quicker, that's what I'll do. I'm going to hustle to get off my block, I'm going to hustle to get to the ball carrier to help him get up. I'm going to do all of it, because I want to give everything I've got to my team."

He's done that by becoming, dare I say, svelte. He played last season at 315 pounds, and because he wasn't sure what kind of offensive style the new coaching staff would implement this season, he entered the spring at 323. He was told he needed to lose weight to stay relevant in the spread offense, and at a practice last week, he said he was down to 302 pounds.

 

"Probably 299 after practice," Cobb said with a smile.

 

He's also playing a new position and seems destined finally to earn a starting spot. While he's flip-flopped between tackle and guard, the coaching staff has decided that he's most definitely a tackle. He's needed to lose some of the weight because he'll be counted on to move his feet more quickly and display more athleticism while blocking opposing defensive ends.

 

Two years ago, Cobb seemed ready to take the step toward earning a starting spot, but midway through fall camp, he tore his ACL and lost his opportunity.

 

"Everything happens for a reason," Cobb said. "When I got hurt two years ago and I tore my ACL, that's when I was beginning to feel good. I was told by the coaches that I had cracked the starting lineup going into camp, but then I got hurt. I got relegated to a backup position. Guys stepped up and stepped in there and kind of took over. I was kind of put on the backburner. Obviously, I can't argue with their success, because they did a great job. I've just waited for my chance, and now that I'm getting it, I'm going to make the best of it."

 

--One of coach Butch Jones' biggest projects this year is developing some depth on a young defense after losing a number of starters to graduation.

 

"The big thing is depth and learning how to play for an extended period of time and learning how to play when you're tired," Jones said. "When you don't have depth, you have to learn how to play when you're tired."

 

While Jones says UC still doesn't have much depth at this point - "That's what we're trying to develop each and every day," he said - the Bearcats have some young players who received significant time last year and performed well. Guys like Walter Stewart, John Hughes and J.K. Schaffer spring to mind.

 

"They do have experience," Jones said. "They have to continue to build off that experience and help the younger players trying to build depth and to compete. They have to help along those same lines."

 

--I asked senior wide receiver Marcus Barnett his thoughts on the performance this spring of the Bearcats offense. So far, he's not exactly satisfied.

 

"Everybody's doing OK," Barnett said. "To the outsiders, we might look good. But inside, we know we're not where we need to be yet. But we're going to get there. Everybody is working every day to get better."

Demetrius Jones apparently won't be back

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That's what Butch Jones said today after practice, and I'm guessing the college football career of Demetrius Jones (a former four-star recruit) is now over. This is what Butch Jones told me today when I asked him Demetrius Jones' status.

 

"We have certain standards and expectations within our football program," Butch Jones said. "It stems from going to class and doing the right things. That's first and foremost the way our program is going to be run."

 

So, it was off the field issues, then?

"It's a multitude of things," Butch Jones said. "We have certain standards and expectations, and he has not been with us for a while."

 

Later, the Enquirer reported that Butch Jones, who would have been a redshirt senior, said that Demetrius Jones has decided to leave the program.

 

It's been a strange journey for Demetrius Jones, who was Notre Dame's starting quarter three seasons ago before coach Charlie Weis pulled him in favor of Jimmy Clausen. Jones then transferred to UC (after a short stop-over at Northern Illinois) where he underwent surgery before becoming a non-entity in 2008 as the Bearcats fifth-string quarterback. Last year, Brian Kelly moved him to linebacker, and he fared decently there, starting four of 10 games played, making 36 tackles (five for a loss), one interception and one forced fumble.

 

--In other Bearcats news, Jones said that sophomore wide receiver Danny Milligan broke his hand during practice today. And apparently Tommy G's beard is here to stay for a while. I asked place-kicker Jake Rogers what he thought of Tommy's facial hair. "It's furry," Rogers replied before moving on.

 

Barwin gearing up for second season

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The voluntary workouts around the NFL have begun, and when Connor Barwin returns to Houston to begin the second season of his career with the Texans, he'll be thrilled about one new aspect of his life.

 

"I'm just excited," he said, "to not be a rookie any more."

 

Not that being a rookie was bad for Barwin. Although he didn't earn much playing time early in the season, he slowly caught on and ended up leading all rookie defensive linemen (including the three who were picked in the first round) with 4 ½ sacks and finished third overall among first-year players.

 

But if you know Barwin, you know how extraverted the guy can be, how big his personality can shine. That's not a great personality trait for a rookie to showcase in the NFL. That's why he's excited to move on from his rookie season. At least he can voice his opinion every once in a while.

 

"The first year for me, I kind of stepped back and watched and tried to learn how things are done," he said. "In your second year, you can be yourself more and do more things how you want to do it. You have a small voice, but it's still a voice in the locker room or in your position meeting. As a rookie, you can't say anything. You can't do anything. You just watch and learn. I'm excited to take that next step."

 

The rookie season for Barwin was also tough because he expected so much more out of himself. His stats, he said, were fine. His performances were adequate. But it didn't go quite as well as he expected or as he wanted. That was a tough blow for him.

 

But the Texans clearly were pleased with Barwin's performance, and they plan to make even better use of him this season.

 

"We were extremely impressed," Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush told the team's official Web site.  "The kid didn't have a whole lot of defensive experience, but he had a lot of talent. He's a guy that can run. He's got somewhat of a knack for the pass rush; he's a little bit slippery. I think he was able to excel because he understood exactly what he was and exactly what his positives and his negatives were."

 

The plan this season is to enhance the positives and improve the negatives.

 

"It was a lot like the transition from high school to college," Barwin said. "You get out there and you're playing with guys who are bigger and faster, but in your head, you know you can play. You kind of play tentative at first, but then you just adjust. The second half of the season, I was playing a lot more comfortable and you're playing a lot better. That's what happened.

 

"It was by far the most I've ever been challenged. Being a second-round draft pick, you're expected to do good things. I had a coach who was one of the most challenging coaches in my career. It's hard, and I told this to Craig Carey: if you're going to make it next year, you're going to have to be mentally tough. The mental aspect of something like that, you really can't prepare yourself for it. That's a lot different than college football."

A new direction for Revels

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At the beginning of every spring, former Bearcats football players line up in the weight room and proceed through the assembly line. They're weighed. They're measured. They're watched as they pump out bench press after bench press. They're timed as they sprint the 40-yard dash.

 

Even if they have virtually no shot at landing a spot in the NFL, most of the former senior class takes a chance and try to impress the pro scouts during UC's annual pro day.

 

There was one notable exception this year. Andre Revels, who led the team in tackles with 109 last season, was not in attendance. Perhaps this shouldn't have been a huge surprise, because, if you know Revels, you know he's cerebral and mature beyond his years. The reason he wasn't at pro day was simple - he's done with football. Plain and simple.

 

"Football has been more like a vehicle to be able to get my college education," Revels said as we watched a recent Bearcats spring practice. "That was the main reason I came to the University of Cincinnati - to stay close to my family and to get my bachelor's degree. It wasn't really a dream of mine to play in the NFL. Also, with the knee injuries it brings up that there are more important things in life than football. That will come around when I have kids and I have a family and I want to run around and play with them and not to have walk around with a cane. Even if I had a couple million dollars in the bank, you can't buy health."

 

Instead, Revels is now trying to promote it. He's working for Northwestern Mutual, selling life insurance, annuities and long-term care. This also shouldn't come as a surprise. Revels is a smooth talker, a guy who wants to take care of you and your family. He's soft-spoken and intelligent. It's hard not to like him immediately, and that should make him effective in his vocation. You look at him, and you know Revels is going to be a success.

 

"Especially with people my age, I'm trying to open their eyes to the things that my eyes have just been opened to," Revels said. "That way, they can better prepared for the future. You don't want your family to be stuck holding the bag at the end of the day. You want to take care of the people who took care of you."

When he says this, he's thinking of his mother, Andrea Revels. Since Revels didn't grow up with a father, his mother is the most important person in his life. Growing up, he watched her sacrifice while working two jobs to give Revels everything he needed to be successful.

 

She is one of the driving forces in his life, and because of her example, he wants to make that his life's work.

 

"I want to be able to give my family - when that time comes around - the best opportunity to succeed and to be there for my kids," Revels said. "My father wasn't there for me, but I'm going to be a father for my kids."

 

This wasn't a decision he took lightly. He had thought about his plans as the 2009 season - and his career - wound to a finish. He got to appreciate his final games in uniform, because he knew he was moving on to a better, healthier life.

 

"I was playing off one leg and doing things I shouldn't have to do to play football," Revels said. "But you make the sacrifices for the team. You don't really think about it because you're so into the team and the game and the tremendous run we had. You don't really worry about it. Now that I can look back on it, I think it was the best decision. I could have sat out, saved the knee, went to the NFL and made money. But that's selfish. I have no regrets about what I've done.

 

"Obviously, me and the team, we had a lot of success and a lot of people felt like the NFL was an obvious decision. One of my friends laughs and says I'm the only person in the recession who's not trying to play in the NFL. It's kind of true, but there are a lot of other ways to make money outside of football. The most important thing is the future and thinking about my family."

Basketball look-ahead, part II

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With the season complete and with some much-needed momentum heading into the offseason, I've put together a two-part list of who will return to UC next season and what needs to happen in order for the Bearcats to complete their comeback by earning a berth to the NCAA tournament. I'll break it down player by player and I'll look into the future to see where this team will stand next year. Here was part I; here is part II.

 

Here we go:

 

Juniors

 

Yancy Gates: He's one of the more maddening players on the team, isn't he? Sometimes, he looks absolutely unstoppable, grabbing rebounds and scoring points at will. At times, he looks like a 6-foot-9, 240-pound monster who can become one of the most-dominant players in the Big East. And then there are the times where he disappears. You saw Steve Toyloy on the court, and you thought to yourself, "Man, Gates has been out of the game for a while, huh?"

 

It's like Mick Cronin said a few weeks ago. Gates, even after two years of college basketball, is still a project. He still struggles with his work ethic in practice, and you have to admit that it's strange that Gates doesn't seem to take umbrage when he's benched during games. He's a happy-go-lucky guy, and that comes through when he plays basketball. Which is partially why he's maddening. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, which is fine. But probably not what people expect out of him.

 

Dion Dixon: Last year, I was really impressed with Dixon. He was UC's top player off the bench, scoring 7.3 points per game, and he worked harder than anybody else on the court. He hit some big shots, and he looked like he could be a real contributor. This year, though, was a disaster for him. He couldn't shoot (he was 21.5 percent from the 3-point line), and he simply looked like he had regressed - which is probably why he didn't play as much. I'll be interested to see how he bounces back next season. I still think he could be a regular starter at some point. But I'm less sure of that now.

 

Sophomores

 

Lance Stephenson: Although he didn't live up to his enormous hype - and really, there was a very small chance he was going to do so - he had a solid freshman season. He led the team with 12.3 points per game, and in the last few games of the year, he showed the ability to take over long stretches of the game. It took him most of the year to figure out how to balance his ability to pass the ball and make his teammates better with scoring and leading his team to victory. As Deonta Vaughn's career wound down, Stephenson began to make strides there. If he forgoes the NBA draft and returns to the team, like he says he will, he'll be perhaps the best player in the conference.

 

Cashmere Wright: After tearing his ACL before last season, he waited a long time to see the court, and Bearcats fans were equally as excited to see him in action. The results were mixed. He was still, after all, a freshman, and he made plenty of freshman mistakes. Plus, I'm not sure I've seen another player with the ability to get to the rim so often and then miss so many layups. But he got better as the year went on, and it'll be interesting to see how much he improves in the offseason. Still, he wasn't the most impressive rookie point guard we saw this year. That goes to ...

 

Jaquon Parker: That would be Parker, who wasn't nearly as highly-touted as Wright. And yeah, he went through stretches where he didn't play at all, but toward the end of the year, Parker's toughness, his know-how, and his shooting ability were very impressive. Based on preseason expectations and how he performed during the season, Parker was more exciting than any other freshmen on the roster. I think he could be really good for the Bearcats.

 

Freshmen

 

Word leaking from practices this season was that Sean Kilpatrick - who redshirted - was a beast and, at times, would dominate the proceedings. So, the expectations for him next year will be high. The incoming freshmen recruits are highly-regarded as well. Kelvin Gaines, a 6-foot-10 center, should help in the paint with his shot-blocking ability, and Justin Jackson, a 6-8 forward, will help with defense and rebounding. Also, Anthony McBride, a 6-2 guard who's Gates' brother, will try to find playing time.