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Five Keys Against Purdue

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Only one way to start an in-depth look at the season opener and that's with another smooth hype video from Shane Harrison and the video crew. Welcome to the new age, indeed. 

Now, time to take a closer look at what will be the difference and what you need to be paying attention to as the Bearcats host Purdue in front of 35,000 at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. 

1) Center of Attention. Forget quarterback, more telling to the success of this team will be the fan snapping the ball to him. With the loss of starter Dan Sprague for the season suddenly a group with five returning starters at the heart of the offense have a hole in the middle. Taking over will be 6-foot-2, 287-pound redshirt freshman Deyshawn Bond. He came out of Indianapolis Central playing guard and tackle but will now be counted on to man the middle. 

And talk about being thrown into the fire. When discussing Purdue, who is the top player most everyone will mention? Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. The 6-2, 310-pound behemoth who goes by @bnasty90 on Twitter can ruin the Bearcats day. The Boilermakers top NFL prospect will be as big of a challenge as making all the line calls for the Bond. 

"I am not going to go out there intimidated by anybody," Bond said. "I am going to go out there as hard as I can. I know he's a good guy, but I'm not too bad myself. I am going to let him know my presence is there, too. So we are going to battle the whole game." 

So, join a team of linemen who spent all of last year playing together, make all the protection calls and take on the other team's best player in your first collegiate game. Welcome, Mr. Bond. 

"I love it," he said. "I love competition. I will go out there and do what I got to do. I don't know what he's going to do but I know I am going to get the job done when it counts." 

2) Where's RDAIV? No secret exists the most electric weapon on the Bearcats will be Ralph David Abernathy IV, but he's not an everydown back. Tommy Tuberville and first-time offensive coordinator Eddie Gran spent their offseason concocting ways to work Abernathy the ball in space. How often will he line up in the backfield? How often in the slot? How often on a reverse? Regardless, a major problem of the 2012 offense was an inability to find enough touches for their top weapon.
 
How successful the Bearcats are at finding space for Abernathy will go a long way to deciding how successful they are scoring points. And seeing more absurd plays like this one. 


3) On the Hunt. The Bearcats believe they have the best collection of linebackers in the country between Greg Blair, Nick Temple and Jeff Luc. They will have to prove it against one of the most explosive running backs in the Big Ten. 

RB Akeem Hunt averaged 8.3 yards per carry last season, though in limited action. His role is expected to be expanded this year and expectations are high he will continue to be the big play threat. 

Luc may come with his top linebacker recruit tag, but hasn't played in a college game in about 20 months. How will he respond? Where will his game instincts be at? One slip up in covering an edge or pursuing the correct angle and this guy can take it to the house immediately. 

New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell arrives with a dedication to running the football. Consider last year at Kent State he ran it 584 times and threw it only 358. Expect Hunt to challenge the backers ability to track him to the edges. It will be the most important aspect of slowing down the Boilers. 

Don't believe Hunt can hurt you in a hurry? Ask Ohio State. 


4) As the QBs turn. The quarterback question followed this team every day during fall practice. Who would it be? Munchie Legaux or Brendon Kay? Injuries have hampered both and they should each play. Likely whoever has the hot hand will take the majority of the snaps in the second half. The question will be how the rhythm of the two play with the rest of the team. Tommy Tuberville doesn't believe that will be a problem, but anytime two different signal-callers enter there will be some change. 

"What I am concern about is the timing difference of what we do and how we do it, the center exchange, snap count and all those things," Tuberville said. "But we really haven't had a problem, if that would have been a problem I would have made a decision earlier and said we have to go with one guy, because we're making too many false starts, fumbled snaps and those kind of things. But we really haven't had a problem and these two kids are experienced, they both will have first game jitters but it's not like your putting redshirt freshman or sophomore knowing they haven't played a lot."

5) The Tub. The excitement over Tuberville spilled over into the ticket sales as a white out record crowd is expected for the opener Saturday. How will the crowd hamper Purdue's ability to deal with adjustments under their own first-year head coach in Hazell? 

Most importantly, not only will Tuberville be leading this team on the field for the first time but Gran will be calling his first game as a coordinator. Not knowing how certain players will react to the big stage and taking on calling games for the first time will be an intriguing adjustment. Going against a team dealing with similar issues turned out to be a major advantage for Saturday. Although, it leaves both sides as in the dark about what to expect as you can imagine. Few games will be more decided by in-game adjustments as this one. 

UC sure would like its opener to look a lot like last year's against Pittsburgh. 

Welcome back, college football. Welcome back, Nippert Stadium.


MunchieLegauxRun.jpg

Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux will both play quarterback in Saturday's opener against Purdue, but only because Tommy Tuberville knows they can handle the challenge. 

CINCINNATI -- Maybe the situation would be different. Maybe in a different program, maybe with two different quarterbacks, maybe with a different history. 

Maybe elsewhere running two quarterbacks on to the field for a sold out opener against Big Ten opponent Purdue would elicit concern from a coaching staff and his competing signal-callers. Just not here. Not at Cincinnati. Not with seniors Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux. 

Both quarterbacks will play Saturday and the official starter has yet to be announced by head coach Tommy Tuberville. The new coach prefer to have a starter, but as the situation evolved amid bumps and bruises this spring it became apparent pulling off the double duty would be the best option for now. 

That's primarily because of the two he's asked to pull it off. 

"These two kids are experienced, they both will have first game jitters but it's not like your putting a redshirt freshman or sophomore knowing they haven't played a lot," Tuberville said. "Their maturity has really played a role in how we have handled this." 

Kay Belk Bowl MVP (212x440).jpg
For Legaux, few better understand the fragility of playing quarterback in college football. The same kid who suddenly stepped in for Zach Collaros to secure a shared Big East title the final four regular season games of 2011 then endured the humility of being pulled as a teammate salvaged another conference title share last year. 

The change in Legaux today compared with a year ago stretches far beyond his shaved dreadlocks. Last year's experience altered his perspective and even through dark moments invigorated his attitude. 

"It was an eye-opener," Legaux said. "Shows you its a competition, your spot can be taken any day. I was already a humble guy before that but it humbled me more. Be ready. Always stay off your heels, always be prepared, always take advantage of your opportunity and never let up. I learned a lot those last four weeks."

Tuberville vetted Legaux like a presidential candidate upon arriving in Clifton. He probed coaches, staffers, really anyone with information on how the former starter reacted to the Kay benching. As questions sprayed at Legaux from his new coach, unearthed was a player thrilled for the success Kay enjoyed even if distraught the change came at his expense.

Meanwhile, Legaux only needed one question to learn what he needed to know from Tuberville. 

"When I had my sit down with Coach Tub during Spring I just had one question for him about the quarterback position, was it open?" Legaux said. "He was like, 'It's an open competition.' That was all I needed to hear. I didn't care if he was the first one, I was the second one, 1a or 1b had it listed I just wanted to know if it was an open competition, that's what he said and I took it and ran with it." 

Despite what most would consider to be an awkward situations, Legaux and Kay remain friends. Conversation rarely moves to the competition, rather both support the other in every way possible and prepare to live whatever role coach decides. 

Anybody who believes Kay could struggle with an unsure quarterbacks situation, didn't pay attention to the entire 2012 season where nearly every week the second half of the season he stood on call in case Butch Jones decided to give him a shot. 

And anybody who believes Kay can't deal with discomfort playing the game of football hasn't a second of his injury-plagued career where he's constantly practiced through pain of a wide variety of ailments. That will likely be the case Saturday, but no mind. He's played through pain before and will do it again.  

"Oh, it's not one thing it's another," Kay said. "Overall my time here just really makes you appreciate everything and how it can be taken away so quickly. Full-go at camp and then something quick happens and there is really nothing you can do. You just have to go rehab it, take care of it and be ready to go."

Kay referred to sharing time as "not the ideal situation" but should be considered a standard situation at UC. Dating back to beginning of the Brian Kelly era in 2007, two quarterbacks have started at least one game every year. In four of six years, the backup tossed more than 100 passes.  

  • 2007: Dustin Grutza started two games in place of Ben Mauk
  • 2008: Grutza opened season as starter, Tony Pike took over two weeks in
  • 2009: Zach Collaros took over for injured Pike for four games
  • 2010: Chazz Anderson started one game in place of Collaros against Syracuse
  • 2011: Legaux started final four regular season games for injured Collaros
  • 2012: Legaux pulled for Kay, who started final five games

Maturity and experience allow Tuberville to deal his QB card by feel Saturday against Purdue. The primary concern comes in the consistent details of presence under center and inside the huddle. 

"What I am concern about is the timing difference of what we do and how we do it, the center exchange, snap count and all those things," Tuberville said. "But we really haven't had a problem, if that would have been a problem I would have made a decision earlier and said we have to go with one guy." 

That's not the case here. Not at UC. Not this year. Not with these two. 

I want to hear from you! Send  me any comments, questions or suggestions regarding UC football to pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. 

Bearcats Breakfast 8.26.13

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Happy Game Week, everybody. 

This Saturday, noon, Nippert Stadium. UC. Purdue. White Out. Sell out. 

You've waited a long time for this, so let's soak in the fact we are finally talking about football players making football plays in a football game on a football field. 

On that note, how about the 2012 highlight video to amp you up. 


Let's eat ...

--- There will be a sell out at Nippert Stadium as clearly the excitement over the Tommy Tuberville era coupled with a challenging regional opponent connected with the fan base in ways you could only hope for as a department. Whit Babcock discussed Tuberville and the football program in this piece by Bill Koch on Sunday. As always, well done by Bill, but one quote from Whit stood out to me. 

"I didn't have the sense that it would be so well received," Babcock said. "I didn't think people would criticize it, but it made a lot of our fan base happy in a way that it happened quickly and an established coach came in. The morale and uplifting of Cincinnati fans and alumni, that made me really happy, not for my ego, but I thought, you know what, these people have had coaches leave and walk out and people seemed to hold their head a little higher. That was one of my favorite moments.

"Now you have to keep this in perspective. He's going to have to win games and run the program the right way, so the honeymoon is about to be over. I have great faith in him to do it."

Moral of the story: Love you, Tubs. So far, so good. But you have to win just like everyone else.

--- One of the most difficult tasks to overcome for coaches in their first year is building the comfort level with players who have won in previous systems. Typically, you see the biggest jump in the second/third seasons when the new players know what to expect from their new coach. 

With so much transition in the sport, you see it every year. It takes time for these coaches to have their program and understand how these new players will react when the lights come on. 

Tuberville will fight that Saturday. Luckily, across the field, so will new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell. 

Look at last year. Here are all the coaches who took over programs who enjoyed better than .500 seasons the year before and how they fared. 


John L. Smith, Arkansas11 and 24 and 8-6 ½
Gus Malzahn, Arkansas St.10 and 310 and 3None
Tony Levine, Houston13 and 15 and 7-7
Tim Beckman, Illinois7 and 62 and 10-4 1/2
Larry Fedora, UNC 7 and 68 and 41 1/2
Bill O'Brien, Penn St.9 and 48 and 4-0.5
Kyle Flood, Rutgers9 and 49 and 4None
Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss12 and 20 and 12-11
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M7 and 611 and 24
Matt Campbell, Toledo9 and 49 and 4None



Of the 10 coaches who took over new programs next year half of them equaled the win percentage of the previous year or increased it. And really, if not for Penn State being locked out of a bowl game Bill O'Brien would have made it 6 of 10. 

The significant drop offs such as epic fail at Southern Miss and falloff at Houston following departure of Kevin Sumlin draw headlines, but as a whole first year coaches last year showed and ability to post wins on the board. 

Here is a look at the results from the 2011 season under the same circumstances: 


Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut8 and 55 and 7-2 1/2
Will Muschamp, Florida8 and 57 and 6-1
Randy Edsall, Maryland9 and 42 and 10-6 1/2
Al Golden, Miami7 and 66 and 6- 1/2
Brady Hoke, Michigan7 and 611 and 24
Everett Withers (I), UNC8 and 57 and 6-1
Dave Doeren, Northern Ill.11 and 311 and 3None
Luke Fickell (I), OSU12 and 16 and 7-6
Todd Graham, Pitt8 and 56 and 7-2
Rocky Long, San Diego St.9 and 48 and 5-1
David Shaw, Stanford12 and 111 and 2-1
Steve Addazio, Temple8 and 49 and 4½
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa10 and 38 and 5-2
Dan Holgorsen, WVU9 and 410 and 31

Most notably, four of the 15 coaches guided their teams to double-digit victories in the first year with the new team. That's substantial and more than anything proves success immediately is attainable. Even though, 10 coaches trended in the wrong direction only Luke Fickell amid the Ohio State disaster (an impossible situation) and Randy Edsall at Maryland (just bad coaching) were more than two wins in the wrong direction. 

So, in the past two years, 25 teams have inherited new coaches on a team that finished the previous year over .500:

  • 60 percent decreased win total
  • 24 percent finished with double-digit wins
  • 20 percent slid at least 5 games in the wrong direction
  • 20 percent increased win total
  • 16 percent stayed the same
The bottom line of all these numbers are this: Improving with a team already used to winning fights the odds. Yet, many have made the jump without much problem. As in any coaching subset, there will be outliers, but most end up right around the same spot they were the previous year. 

--- In case you didn't see it, ESPN did add an AAC blog after it appeared the dissolution of the Big East blog might leave you without extra fodder. Not expecting anything groundbreaking there, but here's their season preview of the Bearcats. 

--- Pat Forde with Yahoo! on Tommy Tuberville, his golf cart, moving past Texas Tech and being the centerpiece of The American. Great piece. 

--- Love the perspective of Silverberry Mouhon and Brad Harrah from my defensive ends story last week. Hope you give it a read. Great to see good kids earn their moment. 

--- When looking at Purdue, their challenge begins right in the middle with defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. Plenty of pressure on the Bearcats dinged up interior line. 

--- Randomness ...

--- I'm all about going deep sea fishing, but when the fish start attacking back is when I call it quits. 

--- Only one song really fits as we start up the first game week of the season. New jam from Robert Randolph and the Family Band, which you should know if you don't. Everybody get amped up. Have a great day. 



Howard Wilder covered the United States in search of a place to play FBS football and finally found a home in Cincinnati. 

WEST HARRISON, Ind. - For the last three years, Howard Wilder always focused one eye on the football field and one eye on the stands. Whenever he took the field, wherever he took the field, a coach at the next level watched with thoughts of pulling him away. 

Wilder rose as a top defensive back prospect in Washington, D.C., before being pulled across country to College of the Canyons Community College near Los Angeles. After a year there, he transferred across town to Pierce Community College. At every step, with every sensational play, a flock of coaches followed hoping to enlist his services. 

He eventually landed in Cincinnati this July. After years of unpacking boxes only to know they would soon be filled again, Wilder can finally relax. 

"I feel like I am at home," he said. "This is my last step now. Ain't no more moving around after this. It's a big relief. Now I don't have to think about all these schools coming, all for me, me visiting there, all that and making a decision. I can just stay here, work on my technique, work on my craft and get better with the fam. Get better with the Bearcats."

Plus, his arrival instantly made the Bearcats better. Tommy Tuberville searched for help at corner and found it in 5-foot-11, 180-pound Wilder. On a depth chart which changes in confluence with the sun rising, he's worked his way to the starting cornerback spot opposite Deven Drane. 

His scouting report will open lauding his speed, but ask Wilder and he'll quickly summon his swagger. The trash-talking, head-bobbing kid from inside the I-495 belt in D.C., arrives with a belief in himself necessary to man the outside island. 

"I'm a playmaker," he said. "I just like locking up receivers, talking trash and playing the ball, go to get the ball.
It's just playing with swag."

Tuberville soaked up Wilder's swag, despite only two weeks of practice.

"Howard has done good," Tuberville said. "He is going to be a hit and miss there because of experience but he's got speed. He can flip his hips well. He backpedals well. He competes. The thing about corner, the most important thing is knowing sooner or later you are going to get beat. And can you forget about it and go to the next play?" 

The latest play for Wilder involved flipping his verbal commitment to USF and stiff-arming schools such as Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri, Rutgers and Arizona State. 

Coaches can thank last year's JuCo standout Damon Julian for helping deliver him. The two crossed paths as Wilder arrived at Pierce while Julian took off for UC. When it came time to find a home, Wilder watched Julian slide into the end zone for a touchdown against Virginia Tech and saw the possibilities. As the two spoke, Julian sold the product the rest of the way. 

More than playing time, location or atmosphere, Wilder sought stability. The years of wandering in search of a permanent home drained him. 

"It weighed on me a lot," he said. "Every time I turned around it was a new team, new coach coming at me. I like where I took my choice and I like where I am right now." 

Wilder still finds himself figuring out this new home. He's not a fan of Skyline and in search of a great steak joint. Pretty much everywhere he seeks comfort in new surroundings. Everywhere except between the lines. Those always feel comfortable for him. They represent the closest thing to home he's known. 

"You got to be comfortable as a DB," Wilder said. "You are already in your backpedal all the time and you got a receiver running full speed. Just be comfortable and be patient." 

Finally, he can do both. 

I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or idea about the 2013 Bearcats football team to pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. 

BlairUConn.jpg
After taking in the second scrimmage of the Bearcats training camp and barreling toward an opener now less than two weeks away, here are five observations of where UC stands for Purdue on Aug. 31. 

1) Greg Blair looks every bit one of the top defensive players in The American. Blair, a first-team All-Big East selection last year, lost weight this offseason. After every spring practice there would be Blair running afterward until his shirt sweated into a darker shade of black. It shows. He's moving faster and consistently broached the backfield Saturday. On one play he bolted from the middle to sniff out an RDA screen before the RB could even reach the line. He looked explosive. 

Defensive Player of the Year in the conference is not out of the question. 

2) The Bearcats need a receiver to play big. UC lacks the dominant, tall wide receiver to serve as a long target on the outside. That onus for now looks to fall on to Alex Chisum (6-3) and Chris Moore (6-1). They both recorded touchdowns Saturday with Chisum catching a 25-yard back-shoulder pass from Munchie Legaux. The reception came on tight coverage from Deven Drane. Chisum faded into a sophomore slump last year but looks invigorated as a junior. If you need to know about Chris Moore, just read this story I wrote on him last week. He caught the offense's first TD of the scrimmage Saturday beating his man deep. This team needs someone to stretch the field with RDA and Anthony McClung running underneath. Without a 6-6 speedster to track down bombs, these two appear ready to lead the way. 

3) Hosey Williams could be a threat at RB. He's only 5-9, but weighs in at 200 pounds and runs like a bowling ball, powerful and low to the ground. As the team looks for depth behind RDA, Williams could hold his own. He did a nice job picking up a blitz from Blair on Saturday before breaking the game's lone long run. He sliced through the middle of the line and broke free for a 25-yard score. He also did a nice job bouncing a run outside after being stopped up in the middle. The running backs didn't show much Saturday, but Williams looked the best. 

4) The QB battle is closer than originally thought. Those were the words of Tommy Tuberville. He's kept the QB derby open, but under the knowledge that Kay had been ahead of Munchie since midway through spring. Now, with the shoulder soreness he experienced which limited his snaps on Saturday Tuberville opened the idea that this could be pushing him to a position where they must go forward with Munchie. 

"It's going to be a lot closer than what people think," Tuberville said. "We will see what happens with Brendon, see when he can come back. But if he can't come back soon we will make Munchie our starting quarterback because we have got to start gameplanning here in a few days." 

5) Gunner Kiel to Mekale McKay looks nice for 2014. When the third-string team ran plays Saturday, transfers Kiel and McKay showed a nice connection with each other, including a touchdown pass in a red zone attempt. Kiel shows nice touch on his passes and with the 6-6 frame on the former Arkansas WR, he's the perfect target to take advantage. So much can happen between now and opening day next year, but that could be a combo to watch for the future. 

I want to hear from you! Shoot me your comments, questions and suggestions regarding UC football as they approach the opener against Purdue at pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. 



Sophomore Chris Moore showed ripples of greatness last season and his relationship with Brendon Kay could be the reason those become a tidal wave in 2013. 

WEST HARRISON, Ind. - Down the hall of the seventh floor football offices at the Lindner Center the window behind the desk of Tommy Tuberville peers over the stands and onto the field at Nippert Stadium. 

During long days of summer kicking his boots up on the desk or making phone calls, he would spin around and glance to the home of Cincinnati football. More times than not, he'd twist his neck and see quarterback Brendon Kay and sophomore wideout Chris Moore, throwing and running routes. 

ChrisMoore.JPG
They weren't often alone, but they were always part of the group.  

"They worked a lot in the summer together," he said. "They all did, but those two I would see them out there in the summer through my office window throwing all the time."

Occasionally the two would mutually agree to take a day off of the player-organized sessions. Kay's arm and Moore's legs aren't robotic, those days were few and far between. They had to be. In the game of evolving into a much-needed deep threat at wide receiver for the Bearcats, off days can't be afforded. 

"We are all hungry," Moore said. "I feel like we want to go undefeated first of all and want to win the conference outright. Every day we had to work. I don't think there was a day I had to get him going. We had that hunger."

The hunger mixes with an established trust. Moore and Kay rose up last season after spending the majority of days working together with the second string during practice. As Kay emerged as the starting quarterback against Temple so did Moore surface in the rotation at wide receiver. 

It took minimal time for the two to show off their signature play. Moore made a living in at Tampa Jefferson high school running deep and hauling in bombs from his quarterback on the way to the school's first state title. The big arm and deep accuracy became a perfect match. 

In the third quarter against the Owls, Moore gained a step on the defense and Kay placed the bomb perfectly in his hands for a 65-yard touchdown. In the Belk Bowl, the two repeated the act to gain the lead in the fourth quarter of the Belk Bowl. 

"Same thing, just on the other side," Moore said. "The one for Temple that is my favorite play. All I had to do was run, I just ran past the dude and that was an easy six points." 

He made the most of limited opportunity, he only caught four passes on the year and two of those came from Kay, both going to the house. The trend rolled over to the first of 2013 when he opened up the first scrimmage catching a 75-yard bomb from his workout partner. 

"We've done it since last year in the summer," he said. "When you have that connection you just keep doing it." 

Moore finds himself in the mix with another 10 receivers for a spot in Tuberville's receiver rotation. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds coaches need Moore to perfect using his body to shield smaller defensive backs. He learned from the best spending portions of the offseason watching Larry Fitzgerald college highlight tapes. 

Fitting that mold would plug a hole in this offense. 

"Chris is going to be a guy we are going to depend on," wide receiver coach Blake Rolan said. "He's got to be our playmaker. He's got really strong hands, he's fast, he can run all day." 

The redshirt sophomore broke his collarbone in his state title game in high school and the other collarbone at Higher Ground his freshman year to force a redshirt. Both came extending for catches. Injures won't change his mantra of sacrificing body for brilliance. 

"If the ball is up in the air I've got to go get it," he said. "I think I make the catches that are harder to make. Deep balls and a catch difficult to make I can make those."

He'll need to make more than two this year, but if the peak at his connection with Kay last year and summer dedication are any indication, Moore plays are coming. Even if the lights go out. 

"I have caught in the dark with him before," Moore said. "That's just trusting him. I trust he is going to put the ball in a spot where I can get it and he trusts that I can get open and catch the ball if he puts it there."

I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or suggestions about Tommy Tuberville and the 2013 Bearcats prospects at pauldehnerjr@gmail.com. 

Bearcats Breakfast 8.12.13

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The Bearcats announced Monday morning they will play the 2014 season at Paul Brown Stadium while Nippert Stadium undergoes renovations. Some logistical details still need to be worked out, but the two sides agreed to a deal to make it happen. 

No, the Bearcats didn't have many other options, but this serves as the latest example of the relationship improving between these two sides. That's not just as observation regarding this deal. There have now been a series of events where the two have done things to help out there other. 

The Bengals allowed the Bearcats to come practice down at the stadium in the spring while Marvin Lewis and Tommy Tuberville have developed a relationship. On the flip side, the Bearcats bubble has become the bad weather home of the Bengals. 

These two sides haven't always been able to work out deals or act as the best of friends, but being able to come up with a deal that works for all involved in this situation is a great sign and one that will benefit all the UC fans. The bright side of games at PBS were the easy in, easy out, comfortable experience provided by the facility. For one year, it makes for the perfect home and eases the renovation transition. 

Let's eat ...

--- The first play of the first scrimmage of the season opened up with what I believe will be a staple of this year's team. I have been talking about Brendon Kay's deep ball capabilities all offseason and he tossed a 75-yard bomb to Chris Moore to get the 2013 action going. 

Who will be the most consistent deep threat is yet to be seen, but Kay's shown a remarkable ability to drop deep passes perfectly.

Eddie Gran had this to say about Kay taking ownership of the team: 

"He's done a great job. He takes it personal and everything he does is about this team. I think the good part is that all the quarterbacks have done that. They are all leading in their own way. It's been neat to see and they are all competing. That's really good especially at that position. If you don't have that you don't have a chance."
 

--- Speaking of competition at QB, continue to keep an eye on Bennie Coney, who threw four touchdowns working with the third team. 


--- Dan Hoard talks about new JuCo running backs Rod Moore and Hosey Williams. Their presence goes to explain why you can expect a deeper rotation of backs as the season begins which I talked about in this post last week. 

--- Randomness ...

--- Are you a Homeland watcher? Here's the trailer for the new season

--- Detroit Lions new kicker learned a lot of his English from Wu-Tang. True. I think we all learned new words from Wu-Tang. 

--- Which only leads us to a little Wu-Tang Monday. Have a great one. 


The days of one back lugging 35 carries for 200 yards are gone with along with standard definition TVs and Big East football. In the new age of college football utilizing depth to endure 13 games of the grind falls closer to necessity than a want for coaches. That's especially true for new coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. 

RDApractice.jpg
Nobody on staff understands the concept better than Gran, a running backs coach by trade over his 26 years. When assessing a Bearcats team possessing backs with styles as different as the numbers on their back. 

The diminutive, explosive Ralph David Abernathy IV comes offset by the powerful frame of Tion Green. Junior College transfer Hosey Williams brings a burst along with great hands out of the backfield. Fellow JuCo Hosey Williams comes as the compact bowling ball at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds. Darkhorse Anthony King (222 pounds) brings size as the biggest of the five RBs taking reps. 

As plans are devised to utilize RDA without forcing him to withstand a beating 13 times a year, what type of rotation wheels out against Purdue will be decided over the next three weeks at Higher Ground. 

In the past Gran's best seasons came while utilizing a rotation of running backs. Last season at Florida State he had three RBs with between 91 and 111 carries. Much of that came because of Chris Thompson tearing his ACL midseason.  

FSU RB 2012CarriesYardsTD
Chris Thompson916875
Devonta Freeman1116608
James Wilder11063511
Lonnie Pryor473768

The rotations worked with FSU posting a Top 25 rushing offense and Top 20 overall offense. Back in 2004, working with Tuberville during Auburn's perfect season, the rotation proved even more effective with the combination of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, who both went in the Top 5 of the NFL Draft. 

Auburn RB 2004CarriesYardsTD
Cadillac Williams239116512
Ronnie Brown1539138

Expect at least two running backs to have at least 100 carries this season, with one of them being RDAIV, but Gran remains flexible to whatever works best for the offense as the season progresses. 

"If a guy does have his rhythm and we are going, we go," Gran said. "I make sure if he's got the hot hand, go, but at the same time if something is not happening, I will get somebody else in there. ... I don't mind playing two, though, I don't mind playing three. If they are all going to be productive I have no problem with that. It's a long season."

How many and who of the five competing end up earning those carries began three days ago. Pressure for the junior college transfers will be on how fast they pick up the system. For everyone else, Gran will be watching closely and piecing together the puzzle of how their skill set can fit into effective personnel groups. 

"What you got to find out when we are tackling, whose breaking tackles? Whose getting the YAC yards and see from there where they fit in and what they do," Gran said. 

Entering Day 3 of Camp Tubs as the team still practices on campus before moving to Higher Ground on Friday. The team has been moving between the Sheakley Athletics Complex and the newly turfed Nippert Stadium and will do so again today. 

Let's eat ... 

--- The football team was upstaged Tuesday by the performance of an alumnus. Josh Harrison hit a walk-off home run for the Pirates, going opposite field against the Marlins at PNC Park. 



Those are the moments why you put in the extra work, the long hours and spend every waking minute working on your game. You can't replicate that feeling, the moment anywhere else in sports. 

Harrison's career experienced highs and lows but he's rising along with the Jolly Roger right now. He's been playing mostly for Triple-A Indianapolis and some for the big-league club, but this was his signature moment. He's slugging better than he has any year in his career (.500) and hitting for better than his career average (.265 while a small sample size of 37 PA). 

He looks harder and harder to send back to Indy the more time he gets with the Pirates, who have the best record in baseball. 

--- On the football side, Tommy G and Video Shane are hard at work already offering unique looks at practice. Check out this helmet cam video of practice through the eyes of RDAIV

Next, I want to see a helmet cam on Video Shane as he cuts one of his masterpiece videos he's known for. That will be true behind-the-scenes magic. 

--- We also hear from LB Jeff Luc, who continues to be frighteningly strong

--- USA Today has been counting down it's top college football teams and has UC ranked No. 34. Here's the comprehensive preview, inclduing the all-important list of Division I coaches with the same letter in their first and last names. 

--- The Kenbrell Thompkins story continues to play out in Patriots camp as Brady searches for targets. 

--- Ralph Russo with the AP talks about how this will be a year of cherishing one last run at the BCS before the playoff change. 

Randomness ...

--- Yeah, I'm on board with the new Muppets movie. Is that going to be a problem? 

--- When the Mannings wear bronzer, I watch. These two are the gift that keeps on giving. 



Congratulations. Football has finally arrived. We can stop speculating on speculation and report on the media reporting on the media reporting on the media reporting on the NCAA. What a fantastic day. Let's talk UC football. 

So, today marks the first camp practice of the Tommy Tuberville era and with an influx of new players and last year's holdovers, battles begin everywhere today. While most everyone will be fighting for playing time, these are three of the most important battles to watch as UC barrels toward Aug. 31 against Purdue. 

How should you keep up with those battles? Well, of course, keep it locked to GoBearcats.com for updates from myself, Dan Hoard and video from Tommy G and the crew about all the happenings in Clifton and Higher Ground. 

Battle 1: Wide Receiver
Possible Starters: Anthony McClung (Sr.), Chris Moore (Soph.), Alex Chisum (Jr.)
In the mix: Pretty much everyone else, Jeremy Graves (Soph.), Max Morrison (Soph.), Shakim Alonso (RS Fr.), Johnny Holton (JC transfer), among many others.
Analysis: The position generally is stacked but Tommy Tuberville loves to rotate deep at every position. A cast will be auditioning every day for the right to play outside starter Anthony McClung in the slot. He's only definitive starter at this point and will be counted on to help carry the offense. But he needs help. Bearcats fans caught a glimpse of what Chisum could do in 2011 but he endured a sophomore slump last season. If he can take the next step he adds a dangerous element because of his size and body control. Coaches love the blazing speed of Johnny Holton. Chris Moore impressed in the spring and enjoyed pockets of success last. The list goes on and coaches will be evaluating every snap. Anybody listed as a WR in camp has a shot to line up outside on the first play against Purdue.  

Battle 2: Cornerback
Possible starters: Deven Drane (Sr.), Trenier Orr (Jr.)
In the mix: Howard Wilder (JC transfer), Leviticus Payne (Soph.), among a host of young players. 
Analysis: Drane will be the starting corner and the senior already has received love from NFL scouts, a big year gives him next level potential. Beyond him, an open contest should be fun to observe. Orr always was a Butch Jones favorite and showed well in the spring. Tuberville eyes depth at the position and plucked the junior college ranks to provide it, Howard Wilder, a transfer from Pierce College will attempt to show his game translates to FBS. Sophomore Leviticus Payne played sparingly as a freshman but reported increased comfort and confidence during spring ball. In all, six other freshmen are listed as either CBs or DBs. It will be a wild chase to see who can show enough to enter the rotation. 

3) Running Back
Possible Starter: Ralph David Abernathy IV
In the mix: Tion Green (Soph.), Hosey Williams (JC transfer), Rodriguez Moore (JC transfer), Deionte Buckley (Soph.), Anthony King (Sr.)
Analysis: The plan to utilize Abernathy IV will go a long way to deciding the efficiency of this offense. Expect multiple facets but don't expect 20 carries in the I-formation. Green, Moore, Buckley and Williams will share carries and see who proves most effective. Often hitting is limited in training camp but Tuberville won't shy away because he must find out who to play thunder to RDAIV lightning. He's been a big believer in rotating the backs since his days at Auburn most notably rotating Kenny Irons, Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. Backs take a pounding, especially in his pro style system, and he'd love to find two to match with RDA.