At the youth football clinic last weekend, UC football players learned valuable lessons about service all while providing unforgettable unique experiences for the collection of kids participating.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- Junior running back Ralph David Abernathy IV might have had the biggest smile on his face of the almost 500 kids and 80 teammates who participated in the UC football youth clinic at Sheakley Athletics Center on April 6.
Running around, high-fiving kids and getting them pumped up with chants of "Are you ready?" could be heard across the field.
It was Abernathy's second year participating in the event and his favorite part is just interacting and having fun with kids in the community.
"Just getting the chance to come out here and enjoy it," he said. "For us, football's always been fun. But now we get to share our fun with somebody else."
The kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to eighth grade and all from the Greater Cincinnati area, came to learn basic football fundamentals from almost all of the UC football players. Most of the UC coaches also participated.
Antrione Archer, the director of player development and responsible for running the camp, says the youth clinic is a great opportunity for kids to be able to say they were on the field at UC with Bearcats players right after a scrimmage when the players are still in their game gear.
"It's all about getting them while they're young, planting the seed into their hearts," Archer said. "The whole goal is to talk to the community and show these kids a good time that maybe one day in the future they can take the right route and go to college."
The clinic started with stretching lines, just as the players do in their own practice. Then the kids, divided up by age groups, went to different stations to do drills. There was a catch and celebrate drill where the kids got to catch a touchdown in the end zone and do a touchdown dance. Others included a sack the quarterback drill, an interception drill and an equipment race.
Of course, the clinic did not go without some Bearcat spirit either, as Archer led the kids in the Down the Drive chant before and after the drills and the players had them huddle up at the end of every drill, putting their hands in the middle and shouting 1-2-3, Bearcats.
Abernathy led the run and leap drill with the other Bearcat running backs. The kids had to run through pads while holding tight to a ball and leaping onto another pad as if they were scoring a touchdown. Abernathy and the rest of the running backs assured the kids performed their touchdown dance after scoring.
Deionte Buckley, a sophomore running back, also understands what this means.
"It's a great experience for the kids," he said. "They get to watch us a lot, but they never get to see our faces because we keep the helmets on. I think it's a great day for them and a great day for Bearcat Nation."
But it's not just about the kids. The clinic is important for the players, too. It teaches them how to lead and coach, while being able to interact with the community.
"It teaches the players how to serve," Archer said. "They have a platform, whether they like it or not, being a Division I athlete, especially at the University of Cincinnati. But it also humbles them to let them know that this is bigger than any individual person."
Abernathy knows UC football is his platform and he is a role model, especially for young kids. And that's why he did everything he could to maintain a positive attitude while making sure the kids had fun at his station last Saturday afternoon.
"As a college athlete, a lot of people look up to you," he said. "They look to you like you're their hero."
Kilpatrick expects to graduate in December and accounted that as the biggest reason for returning. Yet, in the meantime, he could reach hallowed ground in the Bearcats record books along the way to go down as one of the great UC players of all time.
His legacy will certainly be as a premier scorer. Kilpatrick finished his junior season averaging 17.0 points per game. For his career, he's scored 1,444 points placing him 16th on the all-time scoring list.
Here is the all-time list:
1. Oscar Robertson (1958-60): 2,973
2. Steve Logan (1999-02): 1,985
3. Deonta Vaughn (2007-10): 1,885
4. Danny Fortson (1995-97): 1,881
5. Roger McClendon (1984-88): 1,789
6. Pat Cummings (1975-79): 1,762
7. Ron Bonham (1962-64): 1,666
8. Lou Banks (1988-91): 1,644
9. Jack Twyman (1952-55): 1,598
10. Lloyd Batts (1972-74): 1,585
11. Darnell Burton (1994-97): 1,584
12. Jason Maxiell (2002-05): 1,566
13. Robert Miller (1975-78): 1,498
14. Yancy Gates (2009-12): 1,485
15. Dwight Jones (1980-83): 1,451
16. Sean Kilpatrick (2011-present): 1,444
17. Paul Hogue (1960-62): 1,391
Mick Cronin talked about how SK improved every season since his arrival at UC and the numbers bare that out. Kilpatrick's points per game average jumped at least 2.7 points each year.
"He's probably the most improved player that I've coached as a head coach," Cronin said.
Here are his career stats in average per game broken down by year:
Points per game
The biggest difference this season would be his increased trips to the free throw line, though it was coupled with his falling 3-point percentage. That said, let's go under the assumption he again averages exactly 17 points per game and doesn't continue his current career trend arc.
At 17 points in each of 35 games, it would place him at 595 points for his senior season.
Add that up, his career total would be 2,039 career points. That would place him all alone at second all-time in UC history in points scored by 54 points. He would be only the second 2,000-point scorer in the history of the school behind the great Oscar Robertson.
Elite company, indeed.
Just for some perspective, SK would need to average 43.7 points per game this year to equal the career total The Big O did in three seasons with the Bearcats. Ridiculous.
His pursuit of the all-time scoring record books will be the most discussed, but not the only record SK will chase down.
Here are a few:
--- Career 3-pointers Made: He'll be in a battle for the record of career 3-point field goals made. He's at 220 right now. Should he make as many as this past season (82), he'd finish with 302 and the third most all time. But he will be close on the heels of Vaughn and Burton. Kilpatrick made 92 3-pointers as a sophomore. Replicating that season would put him neck-and-neck with Vaughn.
The current record book looks like this:
Career 3-pointers made:
1. Deonta Vaughn: 313
2. Darnell Burton: 306
3. Field Williams: 262
--- Career Shots Attempted: Few shoot as much as Kilpatrick and he'll be among the great gunslingers in UC history. He currently has 1,181 career shots. Should he shoot the exact same number as this past season (488), he would end up second behind Oscar Robertson at 1,669.
Career shots attempted:
1. Oscar Robertson: 1,968
2. Deonta Vaughn: 1,539
3. Jack Twyman: 1,477
--- Three consecutive years as leading scorer: Almost certainly SK will leave UC as one of the few to lead the team in scoring for three consecutive seasons. Since Oscar Robertson did it in 1960, only four others have accomplished the feat. Those are Deonta Vaughn, Roger McClendon, Lloyd Batts and Rick Roberson.
--- Preseason Conference Player of the Year: Reseraching preseason players of the year is about as easy as finding a preseason poll worth paying attention to. So, I can't tell you how many preseason players of the year there have been in UC history.
Kilpatrick will be in the conversation as preseason player of the year in the new American Athletic Conference. There is a chance he could end up the Player of the Year in the conference, that would make him the first player since Steve Logan in 2002 to accomplish the task.
UC dominated the award in C-USA: Danny Fortson (2x -- '96 and '97), Kenyon Martin (2000), Logan 2x (2001, '02). In the Metro, the only two UC players to win were Pat Cummings (1979) and Gary Yoder (1977).
Who would be some of his competition for preseason POY?
Russ Smith, Louisville: If he returns to Louisville would earn the award, but appears he'll bolt.
Shabazz Napier, UConn: Hasn't declared yet, but averaged 17.1 points and 4.6 assists last year
Joe Jackson, Memphis: C-USA POY. Averaged 13.8 pts and 4.8 assists, 49.3 percent from deep.
That's about the list and SK will be in the conversation among these. Regardless of all these numbers and facts, Kilpatrick will go down as one of the most accomplished Bearcats of all-time. He solidified that fact Wednesday night.
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When every high school senior signs on the dotted line to play major Division I college basketball, the thoughts immediately flutter to the NBA. Some view it as a required one-year pit stop; others the holdover may be longer, but still see themselves bolting early for a career of riches.
Anyone who denies those thoughts is lying. Sean Kilpatrick felt that way. One of his goals for this season was to become the latest Bearcats player drafted by the NBA.
Prior to the team's postseason banquet Wednesday he announced he'd be returning to Cincinnati for his redshirt senior season.
To some, this would seem an easy decision. After all, the NBA consensus was he would be a second-round pick at best. But look around college basketball, unwise decisions by underclassmen are occurring on a nightly basis. The temptation for a young man to jump toward his dream on a personal timetable and leave the life of struggling college student behind is strong. For the country's fiercest competitors to admit they aren't yet good enough can be debilitating.
That's why so many jump early -- ill-advised, stubborn. It's happened before at UC as well as every other major program in America.
Place Mick Cronin in the camp viewing this as an easy decision for Kilpatrick. Not necessarily because the evidence insisted this decision be his best choice - which it clearly is. No, he viewed this as an easy decision because he knew Kilpatrick would be mature enough to understand reality and make the logical, informed call.
Maturity comes as much a part of the Sean Kilpatrick Package as the split-second release. He sees the bigger picture, listens closely to trusted voices and embraces betting on his own work ethic. In an age of college basketball where mentioning pursuit of a degree is more often used as a punchline than point of emphasis, he stands as a rare breed of character.
"I don't really sit here and worry about the NBA because it's going to always be there," said Kilpatrick, who averaged 17.0 points per game last season. "I am just focused on making myself better as a person. That's being more responsible than I am and taking care of my school stuff and getting that degree. That comes first. Being able to sit here and get my degree and hang that paper up on my mom's wall when she gets her house, that's more important than anything."
Kilpatrick spent most nights wide awake the last two weeks. His says his father would be up to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m., only to pass his son wide awake in the house. Confusion over his decision and the process kept his mind buzzing all hours.
After sitting down for a long conversation with Cronin, the truth of his situation became apparent. Part of what has made this coach not only a great asset to the university, but universally beloved by his current and former players, is his ability to put the facts of the case on the table and let the decision fall in the hands of the player with fully support of his coach every step of the way.
In many ways, that made all the difference for the two-time Second-Team All-Big East guard.
"My final conversation with coach was the most important one," Kilpatrick said. "That was something that really meant the most because for him to say the things he said and for me knowing that he's here for me throughout everything and every decision I do make, knowing he's here for me throughout everything that meant the most."
Cronin couldn't help but smile when telling reporters his top scorer had news for them. The smile comes as much because of the player he is on the court as the person he's become in being able to make a decision that looks beyond the short-term satisfaction so common with today's youth.
"The key word is maturity, which has really been the case with Sean his whole career," Cronin said. "The issue is expectations. The thing we talked about is trying to have enough maturity to look at what's the worst possible scenario? You have to work for a living. He has a daughter, you want to be able to tell your daughter you worked for your degree. How much that means to his parents."
In many ways, this decision wasn't about basketball. It was about life and figuring out what type of son, father, friend and role model he wants to be.
"As driven as SK is, trust me, (the NBA) was his goal this year," Cronin said. "But he's mature enough to realize the benefits of improving, getting his degree, continuing to improve. In life, whether you play in the NBA or not, that's not what this is about. Yes, that's your goal but that can't be the end-all, be-all for your life."
Kilpatrick's life moves on now with an excitement over leading a promising group of young, athletic players during his final season. He can chase down the top scorers in the history of the university. He can enjoy preseason accolades cascading from all angles. He can focus on improving his level of play, as he has every season at UC to move from nearly unrecruited to one of the premier players in the conference. He can soak in the refreshing knowledge he was mature enough to see the benefit in all those endeavors.
For at least one night, though, they can all take a back seat.
"I'm just happy I can really sleep now," Kilpatrick said.
I want to hear from you! Send any questions, comments or thought on SK returning to UC to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
The Bearcats resilient comeback victory against Xavier left coach Brian Cleary as proud as he's been of any win this year as UC showed an ability to find a way to win amid trying circumstances.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- The first words out of head coach Brian Cleary's mouth after the Bearcats came from behind to beat crosstown rival Xavier 7-6 in the first round of the Joe Nuxhall Classic came out bluntly.
"What a stupid sport this is."
Amid the laughs from the surrounding media, he referred, to the idea no one can predict what will happen in the game of baseball. Tuesday night was a perfect example of the craziness that can occur in this sport and why a resilient group which finds a way to win can prove invaluable.
Down 5-0 after the top of the first, the Bearcats wouldn't allow another run and clawed their way back, highlighted by three runs in the fifth and three runs in the eighth.
With players in the dugout wearing rally caps and the crowd of approximately 2,000 doing the Down the Drive chant, freshman Devin Wenzel lined a double over the head of the right fielder in the eighth to put UC ahead 7-5.
"I'd come up with bases loaded quite a few times this year," Wenzel said. "I was just looking for a pitch that I could get the barrel on and see if it could go."
Cleary almost seemed surprised his team came back to win on Tuesday. At the same time, he's proud of them for battling through adversity.
"I'm most proud of this win maybe of any we've had just because of the way that they hung in there and found a way," he said.
He knows what this group of young guys is capable of doing and is optimistic they can put it all together.
"This team that we've got, as these guys get more physical, we're going to be really good," he said. "We're going to be more talented than some people."
He thinks they're due to erupt offensively soon, which would mean turning the corner for a pitching staff that hasn't given up more than eight runs in any of the last 20 games.
"We just got so many guys that are still trying to figure it out in the batter's box," Cleary said. "I told these guys before the game, have a feeling that any time now, we're going to start really scoring runs."
Scoring seven runs and coming back from a five-run deficit might be a sign of just that.
Not only did the win boost the team's confidence, but it also was a win against a rival. Because the Bearcats have a young team, they might not be familiar yet with this rivalry and just how big it is to beat Xavier. Cleary made sure they knew how important it is to everyone in the UC community.
"We talked before the game about how important this is to this university and to our players and our former players," Cleary said. "This is a big deal."
It's always a big deal to beat Xavier, no matter what sport. And the way they won: well, it's just stupid.
On dealing with the frustrations of redshirting and if he had any thoughts that he made the wrong decision:
"I knew it was the right place, I prayed about it every day. I talked to my mom, my family, I prayed about it at the time. I knew it was the right place it was just a matter of when it was going to happen. With the new coaching changes I knew I had a chance now. They didn't know anything about me, so, it was an opportunity. We all got equal reps, we all got equal everything. It's up to me now."
On what those conversations with his mother were like:
"'Son, you got to stay in it, son, it's going to be tough.' She always tell me it's going to be tough I just got to be patient. She's the reason I come out here every day the way I come. Just be patient, your time will come. You don't have to rush anything."
On what happened when his Plant City HS team played Florida power Plant High, led by UGA QB Aaron Murray:
"They tore us up."
On how comfortable he feels now at UC:
"I'm acclimated to eveything now. This is my new home for the next four years. I'm adjusted now. I don't even like going home no more, man. I've been able to run away from all my past, everything that happened. I have been able to get out and just go far and not have to worry about running home to moms when everything goes bad. I just wanted to get out and explore things, try new things."
On working with QB coach Darin Hinshaw:
"I feel like I've been playing well, one thing I can say about Coach Hinshaw is he's a great teacher. It's not about all yelling and all that. You mess up, he walks up to you and says, you are good, man. This is what you did. This is what you can do to get better. That is one thing that helps me out with the film study with him and all that stuff. That's one thing that has made me more comfortable out here."
On not being able to be full contact as a QB:
"I kind of wish we were live just so we could prove to the defense that any time you guys reach with your fingers that we are not sacked because we got a lot of movement going on. I just want to prove to them sometimes that we can get out when we need to."
QB COACH/PASSING GAME COORDINATOR DARIN HINSHAW:
On Coney's development and maturation:
"With him, he's making really good decisions. He can make a lot better ones though. I want him to be perfect but he's also a redshirt freshman. When you talk about redshirt freshman you talk about them growing up. You got to grow up and he's in that process where he's grown up a lot in the last four weeks. I've seen a kid get a little bit more mature. A bad play happens and you can't get into sulking the head, body language and all that. He's getting to where now he's understanding, OK, I made a mistake, let's go to the next play. So, I'm excited about that."
On Coney's greatest strength as a QB:
"Him being able to move in the pocket and throw accurate balls -- that's the game. There are so many guys that can drop and go throw the ball accurately and do things with nothing around them. When all the sudden things are happening around them, to be able to step in and throw with somebody right in your face, he's completed numerous balls when there are guys right in his face and he's completed it. A huge quality to be able to move in the pocket and be able to find the playmakers. Guys that can't do that, everything has to be perfect all the time and you are sitting here just sick to your stomach. That's a great quality he has."
On dangers of plotting him out on a course for 2014:
"I've been with teams where we've had to win with the fourth guy. Guys get hurt, you've seen guys get in situations where my job is to prepare whoever is playing out in that game, whether second, third, fourth guy that we are going to be able to move the offense and never miss a beat."
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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.