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 email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Big weekend on and off campus, as has been referenced all week. More than anything, a great opportunity for a young baseball team. We've talked multiple times this week about playing at GABP and how great that will be for UC and college baseball to stay at the forefront of the minds of baseball fans in the area -- and exposure will be the primary benefit. Yet, looking at three games against No. 9 Louisville means a chance for an emerging, young team to learn where it stands in the big picture.
UC gritted out two close victories this week with the 6-2 win at Wright State and 9-7 walk-off victory at MSS on Wednesday against Toledo. Louisville will be a completely different animal, though.
The Cardinals are 22-6, coming off a 10-inning loss to No. 6 Kentucky in front of the largest crowd in their home stadium's history. UK scored two runs in the first inning Tuesday to become the first team to notch a run in the first against Louisville all year. Last week the Cardinals played a three-game set with then-No. 15 Notre Dame and swept the series.
The Bearcats are held to a different standard right now. Five of the starting eight are freshmen.
This class still awaits the breakthrough moment. Freshman Ian Happ's walk-off homer Wednesday began the ball moving in the right direction, but earning a win against a rival and top-ranked opponent such as the Cards would mean more than any dramatics. A talented, young team with confidence suddenly becomes a dangerous team. Finding a way to scratch out a win or two this weekend would go a long way toward building the next step in this reboot.
No freshman will more feel the pressure this weekend than Mitch Pattishall. He's started four games in his collegiate career and his fifth will be at GABP against U of L starter Jeff Thompson (5-0, 0.46 ERA), whose rated the No. 87 college prospect in the nation by Baseball America and hasn't allowed an earned run in three starts. Pattishall has pitched 18 inning of college baseball, but couldn't ask for a greater opportunity to make a name for himself.
--- TE Travis Kelce held his pro day Thursday at UC. He didn't workout with everyone else last month due to recovery from an injury. All these numbers are great, and I'll of course taking a deeper look at them, but plays like these two make a much bigger impact on his draft stock.
Here are Kelce's numbers, according to UC, from Thursday (scouts had own individual timing):
Height/Weight: 6-5, 250 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.64/4.69
Vertical leap: 37-inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.33
60-yard shuttle: 12.0
3-cone drill: 7.12
For context, here's where all those numbers would have ranked among TEs who tested at the Combine (Kelce didn't participate there also because of the injury)
40-yard dash: 3rd
Vertical leap: 2nd
20-yard shuttle: 4th
60-yard shuttle: 9th
3-cone drill: T-8th
Now, the all-important 40 time should be noted the two tight ends with faster times also weighed less than Kelce. Chris Gragg from Arkansas led the vertical leap at 37.5 inches, so Kelce was closely behind him in that area.
Tape like the video above more correctly displays the tight end's ability, but these numbers confirm he's at the top of size/speed combo among tight ends in this draft. Multiple times the comparisons to Rob Gronkowski have been made about Travis, mostly because of his prototypical tight end frame. Gronk came out of Arizona at 6-6, 264 with massive hands at 10 3/4. Still, the speed and size combo were in the same ballpark, as was the production. Remember, Gronkowski slipped into the second round that year.
Ending up in the middle of the draft for a tight end has proven to be a fantastic jumping off point over the past few years, highlighted by one of the best tight end classes of all time in 2010. Tight ends just rarely go in the first round, the Bengals Jermaine Gresham in 2010 was the last TE to go in the first round. There have only been three tight ends selected in the first round the last five years (Gresham, Brandon Pettigrew, Dustin Keller) and none were taken higher than No. 21 overall.
With most having Kelce around the fourth or fifth overall tight end, here's a look at where that spot has gone the last five years:
Here's a list of some of the most productive tight ends drafted in the 2nd-4th rounds the last three years. Being among this group is not a bad deal in the least:
--- Speaking of ZC, Tom DeWees caught up with him to talk about playing for the Toronto Argonauts, including the game where he set up the game-winning field goal against the Ty-Cats. If you remember that kicker's name was Swayze Waters. You know I won't miss a chance to mention that name. #CrazyForSwayze
In this type of situation, that's probably the best you could hope for. Anything you put out there would struggle to grab attention or break new ground, you just don't want overwhelming negativity. Cough*Legends and Leaders*Cough.
--- Tough week for the talking points in college basketball: Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti, Ed Rush, Jimmy Martelli all officially let go. This week is supposed to be about basketball and the Final 4, instead more about controversy and out of control behavior outside the lines. Should make all UC fans appreciate the clean programs and accountability that's going on at UC right now.
--- Jurassic Park in 3D is released today. Count me in. Still remember nearly gripping the arms off the theater seat as a teenager watching that thing for the first time. To boot, here's an oral history of the movie. Hard to remember now how groundbreaking the creation of those CG dinosaurs was at the time.
Kenyon Martin -- still doing it. He's been a spark for the Knicks, they are 16-6 since he joined. Much because of plays like this one. All that was missing was the Kenyon Shimmy afterward.
Headed down to football practice early this morning for some coffee and conversation about UC football. As we come to the end of spring practice the major storylines have all been exhausted. The Tommy Tuberville new car smell has begun to wear off and it's back to finding the strengths and weaknesses of the team -- as it is with every team, every year.
Any questions you feel have gone unanswered? Unless you have a pressing need we've all somehow overlooked, I'm going to spend time hitting the off-the-beaten-path market. Those are far and away my favorite stories to conquer anyway. Many people when they talk to me about my career ask how great it must be to interview A.J. Green or Tom Brady or Chipper Jones or any of the other famous athletes I've chatted with. No. The best part is finding the players nobody knows and telling their unique story. Anyone can document a rise to greatness, but unearthing a truly remarkable journey against the sports backdrop always are the ones leaving me saying how much I love my job.
I've got a few ideas, so we'll see what we can drum up. Keep an eye out.
We delved into the when, where, why and how the UC open practice is being held Saturday morning at the Sheakley Athletic Complex. UC has heard from a few people about there not being an official spring game at Nippert as there has been in the past. With the GABP double-dip baseball featuring UC-Louisville after Nats-Reds, there is no reason to step on the toes of a great event for the athletic department. Plus, you don't want to compete with the Final 4 for a very late event.
Placing the practice in the morning allows fans who want to do the football practice and baseball doubleheader the opportunity to do so. Plus, this day is so much about the free youth coaches clinic anyway, and allows that to go off immediately after in a time convenient for families.
As far as holding it at Sheakley, have you seen this new facility? It's a fantastic place to take in an event and is finally 100 percent complete. Why not show it off and enjoy the intimate atmosphere?
Always a fan of trying something different and this could be a more memorable experience for those who attend.
UC will host Toledo at 6:30 p.m. tonight, then begin the big three-game set with rival and 10th-ranked Louisville. Games are Friday (6:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at MSS with the GABP game 30 minutes following Reds-Nats.
--- Have been thinking a bit about Ge'Lawn Guyn lately when assessing the 2013-14 Bearcats and I may jump deeper into this topic at a later date but wanted to open up conversation now.
There will be much made of the journey to find a replacement for the production of JaQuon Parker and Cashmere Wright, particularly at PG. Obviously, this year's backup Guyn will enter the discussion along with incoming freshman Troy Caupain.
About the last 10 games of the season we started to see a change in Guyn. He became more aggressive offensively and wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on an open shot. His minutes were limited, obviously, behind Wright, but he made more of them. He's already an excellent on-the-ball defender so adding a touch of offense to his game could go a long way toward making a difference.
This sophomore to junior year transition has produced significant bumps from role player to star in recent years. Most notably recently was Dion Dixon and Parker. Both returned as juniors looking like completely new players and helped lead UC to NCAA tournament wins.
UC needs that out of this sophomore class and Guyn stands among them.
Take a look at his final 10 games:
He scored 71 points in 68 minutes of play during the final stretch. He scored at least one field goal in eight of those 10. Guyn connected on 6 of 14 shots from deep (43 percent). The sample size is small, but the only real representative available to evaluate how a confident Guyn could look playing 20-25 minutes a night.
If you extrapolate those numbers out to points per 40 minutes, that would be an average of 14.6 points. Even if he played 20 minutes per game, that would be 7.3 points a night, factor for improvement, game rhythm and more reliance on his offense and you could easily be in the 10 points a game range for Guyn. As the point guard, though, he needs to improve his passing which only yielded two assists in the final 10 games. Of course, you could say most everyone on the team needs to improve their passing.
Now, if Guyn's level of play doesn't spike this offseason his opportunity will be limited, but the window is wide open for him to seize a chance much as Parker and Dixon did.
--- Pittsburgh received some bad basketball news yesterday with Trey Zielger transferring and Steven Adams going pro, but unfortunately UC won't be there to take advantage as they move to the ACC next season. Still, always gratifying around Clifton to see bad breaks for the Panthers.
--- Elsewhere filed under "another conference's problem," video surfaced yesterday of abusive Rutgers coach Mike Rice and it's reprehensible. Throwing basketballs at players? Awful. Pushing kids around? Terrible. Kicking them? Demeaning. But the use of the gay slur language, to me, tops the list of the most disgusting element of the entire scandal. What would the reaction have been if he used the N-word? Would he have been fired instead of suspended? They should be treated equally. In a world -- and in this case place of higher education -- where everyone is supposed to be equal and intolerance is unacceptable, that bigotry can't be allowed to go on.
--- Story on thelife of a cabbie in Boston. It's, uh, interesting. I was in a cab in Boston one time where the cabbie got out when some kids threw snowballs at his cab. He stopped in the middle of the road, yelled some choice words, then took off running after them. Meanwhile, me and my buddy sat in the back of the car in the middle of a side street in downtown Beantown looking at each other.
--- This videoof deer fighting is about what it would look like if Tommy G and I ever came to blows. (Disclaimer: And why that would never happen)
--- Jose Calderon walked to the wrong locker room with his former team, the Raptors, rather than his current one, the Pistons. You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side, well, sorry Jose, both yards are burnt to a crisp.
New Media and Broadcasting director Tom Gelehrter joins me again for the latest Inside the Bearcats Podcast. We range in topics from the opportunity at hand for baseball at GABP this weekend, address the outlook of the 2013-14 Bearcats basketball team and talk about who impressed us at spring football.
Of course, we devolved off the beaten path this week to plan an Inside the Bearcats podcast road trip edition to Sweden for the Midsummer festival (to which Shane Harrison so beautifully dramatized above), fitting sausage endorsements and discuss the intricacies of the Tommy G shuttle service.
Take a listen below, or follow this link to hear it on iTunes. Of course, remember to subscribe to the pod on your mobile device to listen while you are on the go. Just search Inside The Bearcats Podcast and subscribe.
Such a cool day in the city Monday. Have to love how much it comes alive to celebrate Opening Day. Really never gets old for me. Ever since I started working down at the stadium with the videoboard team four years ago it changed my perspective even more.
We see just about every type of crazy fan on those cameras and I'm particularly thrilled about the Mr. Redlegs winter hat trend, but really I'm a sucker for anything with a mustache.
Love Scott Rolen, but Opening Day without Coldplay=victory.
Also, hope people were at pregame before team intros when Reds organist John Schutte (also a sleeveless star on keys for The Rusty Griswolds) broke out "Cincinnati Love" remix to California Love on the organ with a Talk Box. One of the coolest things ever. Don't worry, it will be back again, but he's raised the bar for cool things an organist has ever done. (Disclaimer: That list probably isn't very long)
All that said, no single event brings everyone in the city together more -- even if a third of the fans Monday won't be back to a game the rest of the year.
This baseball craze will probably continue through the homestand which makes UC's game Saturday against Louisville at GABP following Reds-Nats all that much better. Can't say enough how great of an idea this is for not only UC baseball but for baseball in the city. This will help open the eyes to the city about college baseball, even if they don't stick around to watch the game. Keeping in the conversation UC baseball and the incredible deal they deliver at Marge Schott Stadium is a public relations home run (See what I did there? Home run is a baseball term, you know).
And if you don't have tickets to the Inaugural Reds Collegiate Invitational, you can get them here through the UC site. Also, as a reminder UC baseball plays at Wright State today and home against Toledo on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Good talk, let's eat ...
--- Hope everyone found some time to read my story on DC Art Kaufman and Tommy Tuberville. These guys are the epitome of football-crazy boys from down South. Love the way they talk about the game. My first job in this business was came in 2004 at a small paper in Arkansas where I covered the Gulf South Conference. Southern Arkansas where Tuberville played and Arkansas-Monticello where Kaufman played were in the conference. That is good-ole-boy football where the game is all that matters. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for those hours on hours where Tuberville and Kaufman were talking about football in their early days. Both can tell a story.
Speaking of, few extras from my interview with the DC. Found this interesting and one of the biggest differences between this coaching staff and the last one. Butch Jones and his crew were very, um, vocal in yelling at players during both practice and the game. Just ask anyone within a two-mile radius of the microphone he yelled into during practice.
Kaufman had this to say about his coaching style:
"I'll holler as much as I need to holler," he said. "But I know this, if I'm hollering all the time they tune you out."
Along the same lines, more from Art on how he goes about getting all this new information to take hold with his players:
"As we are putting stuff in, we have a system of how it goes in and the progression. I know this, if he can't tell me what I said then he doesn't know it. I'll give the information and turn around and say, tell me what you heard. Then get up here put it on the board and teach it. They can't do that then I know they don't have it. And we'll go over and over until they get it out."
The vocal style fit Butch's passionate ways, everyone is different. Not better or worse, different. In the end, the record will show which was better.
--- UC will hold their open football practice Saturday at 10 a.m. at Sheakley Athletic Complex. It will be followed by the youth clinic. With the UC-Lou game at GABP later in the day, should be a full one all-around for Bearcats athletics.
--- Travis Kelce will hold his Pro Day on Thursday at UC. Will be curious to see his 40 time. We saw his burst this season, particularly in the Belk Bowl against Duke. If he can post a great number to back up what everyone saw in that game, could secure him at least a second-round pick. At last look, Todd McShay has him sitting around the top of the third round.
--- Phil Steele ranks UC's schedule118th out of 124 in difficulty next season. Tough to know at this point, too many variables, but as I've said before, sweeping a winnable B1G double dip (Purdue, Illinois) could mean quite run to Rutgers, Louisville late in the year if the team clicks.
--- NC State's CJLeslie is going pro and with New Mexico's Alford headed to UCLA, the Bearcats non-con schedule for next year grew slightly more favorable.
--- Eatocracy busts5 BBQ myths. And they are right, Texans aren't the only ones that know how to do BBQ. Of course, if you are looking for an expert on BBQ, you can just talk to your head football coach. He can talk BBQ all day.
--- With the return of baseball yesterday means the return of Joey Votto. So there's this. Have a great day everybody and shoot any questions or comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and head coach Tommy Tuberville go back to their playing days in the obscure colleges of rural Arkansas, but their football coaching chemistry has never changed.
CINCINNATI -- Tommy Tuberville and his current defensive coordinator Art Kaufman both plugged away as low-level assistants throughout their early career, as all coaches do. Those days tend to be as long as the climb to the top rung of the coaching ladder.
Neither Kaufman nor Tuberville were on the same staff during those days in the 1980s and early 90s, but lived in the same circles. You see, both growing up in the South as former players from small, Division III Arkansas schools, coaches not crossing paths would defy the science of that football-crazy region.
When those paths did cross, the intersections didn't last for minutes with a handshake and hello. They drug on for hours, days. They only occasionally veered from football. No need. Not with two coaches so infatuated with the details and intricacies of the game.
"We used to talk football together when we were both assistants," Tuberville said. "Sit down for hours and talk and watch film."
During those sessions of stories and stats, a friendship based in philosophical agreement blossomed.
"We were kind of on the same page," Tuberville said, "kind of speak the same language."
The language matched more than dueling southern drawls. They found a bond over technique. It leads every discussion of teaching and learning the game with both of them. Both rose in ranks as linebackers coaches dedicated to teaching correct form to every step. So, when time came for Tuberville to find a defensive coordinator for his first head-coaching gig at Ole Miss, he wanted someone fluent in his language.
"You got to know what to do and how to do it," Kaufman said. "Making plays is technique, that's what it's all about. Defensively, if you are not a technician then the other team has to screw it up for you to make a play."
The trusted symmetry between Tuberville and Kaufman sat at the centerpiece of the revitalization of Rebels football that eventually led the head coach to Auburn and Texas Tech. Yet, entering last season in Lubbock, Texas, Tuberville boasted a disastrous defense that finished 2011 ranked 114 out of 120 FBS teams in yards allowed.
Tuberville needed someone able to return to the roots of great defense and what he preaches. So, 14 years after last coaching together, he reached to the roots of his own head-coaching career.
"He said, we got an opening, you want to get this thing going?" Kaufman said. "He had a couple of guys that I knew on the staff. I went out there and we talked. He said, 'Hey, here's what I need.' I said, 'Hey, that's what I'm looking for. Let's roll.'"
Roll they did. Wheeling out a Rosetta Stone of defensive football in the South, Kaufman transformed the defense through technique and simplicity into a top 40 unit in total yardage allowed, moving up 76 spots in the national rankings.
Molding a group enduring their fourth coordinator in four years, Kaufman relied on a system trimmed as far down to bare bones as necessary to assure each player understood their job fully. Remove complexity if necessary and let players react.
"Art is one of those that will never give up on technique," Tuberville said. "He'll never get in a game and panic. If we are not playing very well, we'll go back to base defense and play that. That's what I like about a coach."
The base will be a 4-3 with a principle focused on avoiding busted plays. A confident, consistent and persistent defense represent the characteristics of what would be Kaufman's ideal group.
"No. 1, (my ideal defense) knows what they are doing and smart," he said. "They chase the ball and they are physical when they get there. They don't bust, I've been around them when mistakes were made. We're not going to have any issues with that; whatever we got to do to make it simple enough. Two, we are going to chase the ball and be physical."
Kaufman hopes they'll execute all the philosophies he and Tuberville droned on and on about for hours decades ago. As much as the faces, lives and locations change between these two, the football doesn't. It's what bonds them. It's why they are together in Cincinnati.
"The thing that I'm adamant about and so is he, the little things, technique," Tuberville said. "You can line them up and run them through gaps all you want but if you don't play technique you can't beat some teams that are probably better than you. Football is a sport where you got to put 11 guys out there and they got to play well together. Only way to do that is to play your position and continue to stress that."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me an email with comments, questions or suggestions to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
When the black and red game jerseys were slipped over top of the shoulder pads of the Bearcats players at Paul Brown Stadium, an explosion of ooohhhs filled the locker room.
This may have been a spring afternoon about six months from the first real football game of the season. This may have technically been listed as practice No. 11 on the schedule. However, make no mistake, this Saturday scrimmage at PBS felt as close to gameday as possible without 35,000 fans awaiting outside the tunnel.
"I had a couple jitters coming out here before the scrimmage," defensive end Silverberry Mouhon said.
Want to learn who responds to bright lights? Want to witness who rises to the occasion in a charged environment? Saturday's change of venue allowed a glimpse inside the gameday reactions of Tommy Tuberville's new team.
"We practice every single day we have the same atmosphere," cornerback Deven Drane said. "I know I got real hyped when we came out to the Bengals stadium and saw people like Marvin Lewis was out there. I know a lot of people had a lot of fire."
Both sides let the emotions out during an hour and a half of football under ideal 61-degree conditions in downtown. Mouhon stomped around the backfield with his arms flailing following a tackle in the backfield. Two goal-line touchdowns by RB Anthony King prompted celebrations with all the excitement a fourth-quarter score against Louisville. With a fresh staff evaluating every position battle with a new set of eyes and zero preconceived notions, a day like this made for one of the most important moment to date of the Tuberville era. Or at least it felt that way to the players.
"As far as the speed and consistency to be able to run your plays consistently it was the same as a game atmosphere," Mouhon said. "Just missing the fans yelling and screaming, but other than that, it was the same thing everywhere."
As for those who rose to the gameday atmosphere, Mouhon and Drane led the way on a day where the defense left their stamp on PBS. Drane hauled in an acrobatic interception in the end zone along with four more pass break-ups. He looked every bit the shutdown corner Tuberville needs him to be next year.
Mouhon, fighting for playing time at a defensive end position wide open to replace Dan Giordano and Brandon Mills, pulled down a twisting interception of Munchie Legaux as well as one and a half sacks.
The running game didn't produce much for UC, but the potent weapon of Brendon Kay's deep ball showed its face again. Kay connected on a 44-yard bomb to WR Chris Moore for a touchdown. The sixth-year senior showed more consistency with the deep ball than any QB through the end of last season and thus far through spring practice.
Despite the highlight to Moore, the day was also filled with a bevy of dropped passes and missed assignments for the offense. Tuberville didn't sound discouraged in the aftermath. In fact, after a first scrimmage where the offense played better than the defense, Saturday's switcheroo felt like normalcy.
"It was obvious that our defense was ahead of our offense today," Tuberville said. "You better be ahead on defense in the spring, I'll tell you that. If your defense is not ahead of your offense than you are going to have problems in the Fall."
The coach can attest to that and after this injection of energy Saturday, he owns a better feel for how this team will react come Fall.
I want to hear from you! Send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
With the bubble top lifted off the Sheakley Athletic Complex on Friday and sun drenching the turf, a fresh feel came over the latest session of spring practice.
That feel will dramatically change again Saturday when UC takes to Paul Brown Stadium for a full-uniform, full-contact scrimmage. And nobody will taste the difference more than the quarterbacks.
"Big day for the quarterbacks (Saturday)," Tommy Tuberville said. "We are going to do a lot of different things on defense and get in their face and try to make them make mistakes. We'll see how they handle it. I've been impressed with the quarterbacks. Mentally they have handled it pretty well."
In the first scrimmage, Brendon Kay went 7 of 11 for 115 yards and two touchdowns without a pick. Munchie Legaux was 8 of 15 for 150 yards with one TD and an interception. They've both been asked to handle quite a lot during this run of spring practices. On top of soaking in a new offense along with the rest of the team, demands have been placed upon them to know the job of every position on every play.
With the two weeks of practice time away due to spring break and cold weather, Tuberville and his staff installed 20 percent more of the offense and defense.
That means 20 percent more audibles, hot routes and protections slides to call off at the line. All this under duress unseen thus far in the Tuberville practice era. He wants to learn what his QBs are made of and he wants to know learn as soon as possible. No rush exists to officially name a starter in the battle between Kay and Legaux, but the two must both be pushed to begin peeling the layers.
"It's as much of a gameplan as we've had entering the scrimmage," Kay said. "We can see what we are able to do and see what this offense is made of. He's challenging the quarterbacks, but on offense everyone has to be on the same page."
Tuberville didn't discount the possibility a starting quarterback could be named at the end of camp, but didn't seem concerned about the designation, either.
"We just have to wait and see," Tuberville said. "There might be a distinguishable difference at the end of spring between Munchie and Kay. We just have to wait and see. Really not concerned about it they are all taking the same number of reps."
Certainly, there would be advantages and disadvantages to knowing the starting quarterback before fall practice. Tuberville says in the past he's done it both ways, where the starter was known or a battle brewed through camp. Regardless, with so many practices before Aug. 31 against Purdue, any starting position comes with an asterisk: *Subject to change.
For Kay, who didn't find out if he was playing days, hours or even minutes before games last year, being prepared for all scenarios comes with the territory. He doesn't know another way.
"I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity," Kay said. "It's there."
The next step comes Saturday.
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Basically, UC will play at The Big House on Sept. 9, 2017 and the basketball teams will play a home-and-home series sometime between the '15 and '18 seasons.
What does all this mean? Well, there are a number of interesting trends to result as a fallout to this significant deal.
1) While most people will discuss the football impact, I believe a greater development to come out of this is the home-and-home basketball series to go along with it. For years, Mick Cronin has chased down relevant home-and-home series with powers or like teams. Too often as the program rebuilt he was met with a thanks, but no thanks by major programs.
As part of the development of UC's rebuild the prospect of a major opponent coming to Fifth Third didn't contain the payoff they desired. Coming into the arena and winning was much more difficult than the national folks would give a on opponent credit for, so they would rather pass and either play in a large neutral court game host the Dukes, North Carolinas or Kansas types of the world.
This home-and-home signifies UC turning the corner in perception and beginning to win over the major programs to match up for games that will excite the fan base and establish significant non-conference matchups. As Cronin has often said when critics challenged his schedule, he'd love to schedule a home-and-home against Duke (or insert major program here) but the Blue Devils don't want to come here. Didn't make sense for them.
Playing series against Cincinnati is beginning to make sense for those seeking national respect now. That's a sign the Bearcats have officially garnered theirs.
2) That check will be for $1.2 million. Make that out to University of Cincinnati. They'll be sure to deposit it immediately.
3) The Bearcats have found a match with the B1G. Over the next six years UC will play six B1G opponents. Over the previous six years, they played none. That last UC games against the Big 10 came in 2006 when they traveled to Ohio State, in 2005 they traveled to Penn State, losing both games.
Here's the schedule going forward:
2013: Purdue, @Illinois
2014: @Ohio St.
2018: @Ohio State
The B1G provides a unique setup to allow fans a short drive while at the same time keeping quality opponents on the non-conference schedule. I heard from a number of people on Twitter yesterday talking about how they love traveling to these games and will certainly be making the trek to Ann Arbor in 2017.
"The 1.2 million guarantee to play at Michigan is nice, it certainly helps our budget," Whit Babcock said to Lance McAlister last night on 700WLW. "What I really like is it's a four-hour drive or so, something our fans can travel to, that has some appeal. We certainly don't do it just for money."
Those comments from Whit echo similarly for all the B1G games on the slate and it's clear the program has latched on to the concept of this conference being a great one to be associated with for games.
4) Drawing the home-and-home for football didn't materialize. Getting Michigan to come to the city to play never came into the discussion, according to Whit.
This administration isn't a huge fan of one-game road trips, but throwing the basketball package in there along with the money made it a deal worth doing. Don't expect this to open up a run of one-game road payouts, the Michigan name, proximity and basketball connection made this a unique situation.
5) Thanks to Twitter follower @dcweisbrot for the idea that the UC-Michigan games will serve as a perfect opportunity to bring back the 1992 unis as throwbacks. Remember, the last time these two teams played in hoops was the 1992 Final Four game.
Those '92 jerseys and shorts were pretty spectacular and along with the 2001 Jordan line jerseys rank atop my list of throwbacks I'd love to see happen. No better chance than this, which could come at the 25th anniversary of that Final Four matchup.
Moving on, let's eat ...
--- Some discussion of next year's basketball schedule has come up since the end of the season. Although, UC will be in the Currently Unnamed Conference, they will still have Louisville (1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament), Memphis (6 seed), Temple (9 seed) and UConn (ineligible) on the slate next year. The top will still be no joke.
It makes for a delicate dance, but expect the non-conference schedule to be beefed up to compensate for the weaker bottom half of the league anchoring the strength of schedule numbers.
For now, we know San Diego State (7 seed) and NC State (8 seed) will both be coming to Fifth Third Arena with a trip to New Mexico (3 seed) and The Pit also on the itinerary. There are others in the works yet to be finalized, but it will be far from a cakewalk. For now, with a likely rotating schedule, you're looking AT LEAST 9 games against NCAA tournament teams on the schedule with probably 3-5 more on the list by the time all is said and done.
This is his dream job, he references that repeatedly, he finally built it up into what he wants it to be and is able to be around his family every day. The UC administration is dedicated to keeping him here and is willing to make sure his loyalty is rewarded.
I was lucky enough to catch a great stand-up act at GoBananas this past weekend when Nick Vatterott just killed it. That's part of what I like about GoBananas, some of the headliners aren't as well known, but you can catch a really incredible under-the-radar comedian there most of the time.
--- In honor of the Michigan deal, here's some Bob Seger (he's from Ann Arbor, I know because the Internet said so). Have a great day everybody and shoot me any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.