As talented as UC's receiving corps is, they lost a lot of experience in Armon Binns and Marcus Barnett. Vidal Hazelton's six catch, one game cameo is over as well, leaving D.J. Woods as this year's wily veteran.
"We have a lot of youth and inexperience," coach Butch Jones admitted.
While the youthful wideouts are full of "upside", the truth is transfer Kenbrell Thompkins has yet to play a Division I down and Anthony McClung's just a sophomore.
He's not just another sophomore on the sidelines though.
"As of today, I'm in the starting line-up," McClung said proudly. "It's
going pretty good, going in and playing every play. I'm used to rotating
with D.J. (Woods)."
So, after 22 catches and a couple scores in his inaugural season, No. 6 is a primary target for quarterback Zach Collaros.
"The pressure's on him," Jones said. "He has to go from being a back-up to being a starter. He's got to understand the role that we need being a starter--playing 12 plays in a row on a big drive and being just as physical on the 12th play as the first one."
While the 22 catches may not "wow" you, it's eight more than senior D.J. Woods had in his first year and 22 more NCAA catches than Thompkins.
"They're both great playmakers," McClung said. "I'm just thankful to be on the field with them at the same time."
This season McClung hopes to add to those totals and find his spots when Thompkins and Woods are covered. Thompkins is more a deep threat and Woods is more "possession", but all of them can run the other's routes.
"We all make the same amount of plays," McClung said. "They spread the ball out pretty much, so there's really no standout receiver. D.J.'s the senior leader, we all look up to him."
McClung is trying to learn the slot position from Woods, along with the ways of the various Big East defensive backs. Some of that learning comes on the field, some in the classroom.
"Everybody changes their defense every year, so you've just got to watch film," McClung said.
He twice found the endzone last season (vs. Rutgers and Pitt) and is hoping to find that coveted area again.. He scored once in the open end of Nippert and once at the closed end, near the students. (courtesy uspresswire.com)
"My first college touchdown was amazing," McClung recalled. "They picked me up. It was real fun. It was way more fun in the student section."
Ironically, McClung's high school teammate, Dyjuan Lewis will be among the other receivers pushing to join the starting crew. However, Lewis is more of the "Armon Binns build", where McClung is similar in size to Woods.
Both McClung and Lewis went to Indianapolis Pike High School, as did offensive lineman Andre Cureton.
As always, this year's UC Bearcat football team is loaded with those that played their prep pigskin here in town (many with games at Nippert Stadium).
With the high school season getting a head start on the college season, I cornered two of UC's top defenders (from two of the area's top football high schools) for a little prep/college Q&A at a recent early practice.
Senior JK Schaffer played for coach Tom Grippa at La Salle High School in the GCL,while junior Brandon Mills played for current UC defensive back coach Kerry Coombs at Colerain, along with the present coach Tom Bolden.
You both look beefier. Do you both have more leanness and nastiness about you?
Schaffer: "I probably weigh a good 10 pounds more than I weighed last year. I'm not too angry. Just got done with a good practice. What do you think Mills?
Mills: "It was a good practice for the defense. We're just good." How do you feel compared to the first day you walked in here out of high school?
Mills: "I've grown up a lot. I think I'm more mature now. Being around the fellows, they just keep me on the right path. They're making me a better person."
Schaffer: "I was a little scrawny. Not too scrawny. The thing I'm so much better at is the whole mental thing. I'm so much more experienced than I was. I've got a good amount of ball under my belt now and I feel like I can just go out there and run around and know exactly what I'm going to do every single play. Couple years ago, I had to think about it. Now, it's just muscle memory and it just feels natural."
You both played big-time high school ball, but it's probably still kind of eye-opening when you come in here. It's not that easy, is it?
Schaffer: "It's really not that easy. I was telling the young guys last night, 'You have to earn your keep here. You've got to prove yourself to the older guys and coaches. You can't be given an opportunity. You have to go out and earn it every day.'"
Mills: "You have to come in here and work from day one to get the spot you deserve. If you work hard, they're going to give it to you and see all the work that you've done." How is coach Coombs compared to what he was (at Colerain)?
Mills: "Man, he's the same! Coach Coombs hasn't changed a bit. I still love the guy. Deep down in my heart, that's my guy."
Schaffer: "I wasn't a big fan of coach Coombs or Colerain when I was in high school. But, coach Coombs recruited me in his first year at UC. My freshman year, one of my roommates was Evan Davis of Colerain. I got to accept Colerain a little bit after that. I love coach Coombs and love the Colerain guys on my team. I've got a little bit more respect for them now."
Did you ever wear a shirt with a Cardinal on it?
Schaffer: "I'm not allowed to say what I would say. Absolutely not!"
GMC vs. GCL?
Mills: "There's still bad blood over here, but with JK, I'm cool. Everybody else, I don't like."
Schaffer: "We (both) still don't like (Danny) Milligan (St. Xavier grad)." The Big East media said you were fifth. Are they wrong?
Schaffer: "I think the year we went undefeated, they picked us fifth or sixth. The preseason rankings really don't matter. I don't get real upset over it. I like being the underdog anyway and going out and proving people wrong."
Can you use that to your advantage when you're knocking these allegedly higher-ranked teams around?
Mills: "Yeah. We just need to take it and run with it. We need to make them see that they picked the wrong team. I feel we're a lot better and we're going to be stronger this year."
Schaffer: "I feel so much better about this season. Everything's running so much smoother and everyone's bought in and working hard. We've got guys on this team that have played a lot of football. I think that's one of the main things in college football--experience." Is this your last Higher Ground training camp?
Schaffer: "This is my last one."
Will you laugh at Mills when it's over?
Schaffer: "Yeah, I'll be like, 'Have fun next year!'"
Minus Yancy Gates who was at World Games try-outs and Shaq Thomas who's been home this summer, the UC-based Slats team defeated Raeshon Mansoor Law Office in the Deveroes Summer League Championship game 96-80.
As the game turned to a rout, PA announcer (and former Xavier standout) Jamal Walker called for the buzzer with 28.3 seconds left.
I was with the wife and kids, so I wasn't privy to the actual final stats (which you should see posted eventually on www.greatercincinnatisportsworld.com). However, former Bearcat guard Deonta Vaughn was back and had 30 at last check very late in the game.
Slats also led big at halftime 50-38. The lead stayed around 10-15 and the closest Mansoor got was six (thanks to veteran Paul McMillan who seemingly scored half of their points).
The new guys didn't play much outside of Cheikh Mbodj, who started in the pivot for Yancy Gates. Not to sound "Archie Bunker-ish", but Cheikh (pronounced Shek) might be the best foreign find this team's had.
Think of every lumbering, tall and somewhat useless body that's been around and that's what Cheikh is not.
I was pleasantly surprised by his aggressiveness, his nose for the ball and his general attitude and shot-changing ability. He's no offensive whiz, but he does his job and gets points a guy his size should get.
Also helping Slats immensely today was the presence of Xavier's Tu Holloway. You put Vaughn and Holloway in the same backcourt and that's a pretty tough match-up.
The other recruits present today were Octavius Ellis (who is actually a tad taller than Mbodj and redshirt Kelvin Gaines), Jeremiah Davis and Jermaine Sanders. Again, your best bets for playing time out of the new crew are Shaq Thomas and Cheikh Mbodj.
Get used to hearing "Shaq and Cheikh" in the next few years.
With some pop-up showers Saturday, the family and I decided it might be a good day to check out the Deveroes Summer League at Woodward High School. (Of course, I was aware that the Slats/UC team was in the semifinals, so that was an added extra.)
While we were disappointed that Shaq Thomas and Ge'Lawn Guyn weren't around (and Xavier's Tu Holloway was also absent) we were happy to take in big men Octavius Ellis and Cheik Mbodj for the first time.
Ellis' playing time was limited and he looks like the biggest project of the bunch thus far. He appears taller than Yancy Gates and has great reach, but is straight up and down, much like Shaq Thomas. I'd put Thomas at 6-7 and Ellis at 6-9 and neither much above 190 pounds.
Mbodj is another matter. He has some width to him and could easily add some more with the strength coach. He's at least 6-9 and here's the most important thing, he's active.
Without naming names, there's been big men in here before that many had great hopes for that were either passive, inactive, uncoordinated, or all of the above.
Make no mistake, Mbodj won't come out and dominate. However, he was very aggressive around the boards, he got his hand on some shots and he didn't fade into the background of any play.
Jeremiah Davis played a lot in this game, which was good because Slats was short on guards minus Thomas and Guyn. Darnell Wilks and Jermaine Sanders arrived late, so Davis was pretty much "it" in the guard department, outside of some occasional help from Rashad Bishop.
Oh yeah, what about the game?
Well, after playing a little lackluster and a little confused early (mainly due to the lack of guards) Slats got it together in the second half and won 84-75. PA announcer Jamal Walker actually called for the buzzer with :17 remaining.
The Slats opponent was Goodies Barbecue featuring Mark Lyons of Xavier who tore it up with 38 points. Former Xavier Muskie C.J. Anderson and former Dayton Flyer Norm Plummer were also on this squad, so they were no slouch.
After being down by as many as 14, the Slats veterans took over. Rashad Bishop handled the ball more and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The big story was Yancy Gates though, Slats continually threw it inside and the big guy got hot and started abusing the Goodies defense. By game's end he had hit fadeaways, three-pointers and backward dunks. Pretty much anything he wanted.
Gates finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds to lead Slats into the championship game next Sunday (July 30) at 2:30 at Woodward High School. Their opponent will be the Raeshon Mansoor Law Office team led by veteran summer leaguer Paul McMillan who broke the heart of Clovernook Health with a game-winning trey in the final second, 88-87.
Other notable numbers for Slats include four points and eight boards for Cheik Mbodj, nine points for Jeremiah Davis, four points and seven rebounds for Justin Jackson, 12 points for Darnell Wilks, three for Jermaine Sanders and a bucket for Octavius Ellis.
My (somewhat noisy) interview with Yancy Gates afterward is below.
Though the regular gig covering high school sports for Community Press/Enquirer Media and my kids baseball games have kept me on the run, I was able to get to Woodward High School recently for a gander at the new crop of basketball Bearcats.
At least most of them. Guard Ge'Lawn Guyn was out of town on this day and Octavius Ellis and Cheikh Mbodj were not present.
I also tried to snap a few pictures of the guys, which is always dangerous.
Prior to this job, my wife was the family picture taker. My experience was limited to cardboard cameras that get chucked in the garbage after the photos are developed.
24 years in radio gave me the photographics skills of a first-grader. Yet, I try.
On first glance, Shaq Thomas is the Bearcat that catches your eye. At 6-7 and 195 pounds, he can do a lot of things and plays pretty tough for a guy with the build of a lanky, marathon runner. View image (Shaq Thomas after a Deveroes game)
He also stood out because he wore canary yellow shoes that kind of made him look like Flash Gordon moving up and down the floor.
Darnell Wilks was listed at 6-7 as a Bearcat, but appears a tad shorter than Thomas.
"I think he's a little taller," Wilks said. "He can play all over. He can play on the wing better than
I could do when I was there."
In the game I witnessed, Thomas lit up the opposition for 28 points. (Keep in mind though, defense in the Deveroes league is rarely a priority.)
Sean Kilpatrick sat on the Slats (perennial summer league sponsor for UC team) bench for the contest wearing a leisure pair of sneaks reminiscent of something Jeff Spicoli might have sported in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (shout out to Phoebe Cates fans).
His first thoughts on Thomas were that the yellow shoes weren't cutting it. He felt his Sunday picnic look was far superior.
"I say mine," Kilpatrick said with confidence. "I
Aside from blinding footwear, "SK" thinks "ST" is the one new 'Cat that can step in and play right away.
"Shaq can because that's his attitude," Kilpatrick
said. "It's like he
won't back down from anyone."
Kilpatrick is hoping the training staff can stuff some meat and potatoes down the young man from New Jersey. Actually, he may see to it personally as Shaq and Sean are roommates.
"We're going to have to put him through a serious
Another prize recruit from the same neck of the woods as Thomas and Kilpatrick is Jermaine Sanders from Rice High School. Rice is where former Bearcat Kenny Satterfield went to school.
"Jermaine's a shooter," Wilks said. "He could probably go both ways
because of his size."
Sanders is a lefty, which is always a good option to have. His 6-5 listing appears a little generous, but because of his body type (by my calculation it took three Shaq Thomas legs to make one of Jermaine's) he should be fine.
He reminds me a little of Pete Mickeal who was a lefty, undersized forward. In terms of actual heighth, I'd put him closer to a 6-4 Rod Monroe (minus the brute strength).
At this level, Sanders' size won't mean much. He's a player and his stats and background prove it. You don't come out of Rice High School in New York with those numbers by accident.
Shooting passes and driving the lane for UC will be Jeremiah Davis. He didn't overwhelm in the game I saw, but at the end was somehow in double figures despite not playing the entire contest. View image (Left to right: Jeremiah Davis, Shaq Thomas and Jermaine Sanders after a summer league game)
"A pure point guard," Wilks said of the playmaker from Muncie,Indiana/Huntington (WV) Prep. "He could score if he wanted."
Davis looked particularly good driving and dishing. He may look better if he had Sean Kilpatrick to dish to, but "SK" apparently is sitting this league out.
"I don't think I'm going to play in this," Kilpatrick said. "I play in
Rucker Park in New York."
Kilpatrick says he had 22 points in his first game at the famous New York City playground. View image (Yancy Gates at the Deveroes Summer League at Woodward High School)
That leaves Yancy Gates and Wilks as targets for Davis and Ge'Lawn Guyn this summer. Xavier's Tu Holloway is also on the Slats team and has been on the throwing end of some impressive "oops" to the high-flying Wilks.
Because of his impressive performance in the State Farm Slam Dunk Championships at the Final Four this season, Wilks was invited to be a Harlem Globetrotter.
"Yeah, that gave me a lot of publicity," Wilks
Because of his background, Wilks should fit in well with the showmen. His flying experience bodes him well, physically and literally.
"I was a fan," Wilks acknowledged. "I was an Army kid. I saw them on
When asked if he might attempt to match the feats of former Globetrotter Michael "Wild Thing" Wilson (Memphis Tigers), Wilks appeared ready for liftoff.
"Oh man, I think I can throw 12 (feet)!" Wilks proudly claimed.
Should you like to watch Wilks soar and the new Bearcats roar, the Deveroes Summer League runs through the end of July with games typically on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.
(This is something I wrote for my day job as a high school sports reporter for The Community Press papers owned by the Enquirer. Withrow is one of the schools I cover and this appeared in the Eastern Hills Journal.)
Doc Gamble has resigned from Withrow High School as head football
coach and will begin work at the University of Cincinnati Friday, June
17, as an offensive quality control coach.
The position is not an on-field job, but as with most college
positions, change is routine.
"I've got all 10 toes back in the door now," Gamble said. "I know
'X's and O's', but I've always been intrigued by the computer stuff and
the technology. I'm able to learn that here and if I'm ever asked a
question, I might be able to give them a little input."
Gamble previously coached in college at East Carolina and the College
of Mount St. Joseph. He was with the ECU Pirates in 2002 under
then-coach Steve Logan and at MSJ prior to that in 2000-2001. His record
at Withrow was 53-19. He also coached at Fairfield for one year and was
"It's just getting up to speed on everything," Gamble said of his
return to the college ranks. "There's some inside stuff that's fairly
new, so I'll be getting acquainted with that. High school coaches are
sometimes the last to get up on the technology stuff and I'll be able to
get things first-hand now."
Springer/Staff-- Doc Gamble (center) has left Withrow High School to join
the staff at the University of Cincinnati as Offensive Quality Control
coach, an off-field position. With Gamble in Feburary are Willie Mills
(left) who signed with Georgetown College and Brandon Mitchell (right)
who signed with the UC Bearcats.)
Withrow defensive lineman Brandon Mitchell was a UC recruit this past
February and will join the incoming freshman soon in workouts.
Withrow Athletic Director Darren Braddix was on his way to a national
track meet with his Tiger squad June 16 and said he would hold comment
on Gamble's replacement until his return.
Antonio Davis coached Withrow during Gamble's one season away in 2008
and Gamble hopes he gets serious consideration.
"We had a good meeting," Gamble said. "I gave them a list of names.
Hopefully, Antonio Davis can slide back in there. The entire staff is
going to stay intact. When I left before, half the guys went with me to
Fairfield and the other half stayed. This time around everyone's
committed to staying to try and keep that thing going."
I'm not sure you can get a black t-shirt with the dates printed on it, but the "Butch Jones Summer 2011 Tour" is underway and coming to a venue near you.
It began June 1 at City Barbecue in Westwood with the Bearcat Caravan and women's basketball coach Jamelle Elliott. The UC Coaches Caravan will continue June 8 at City Barbecue in West Chester, June 15 at City Barbecue in Hyde Park, June 22 at City Barbecue in Eastgate and June 29 at a City Barbecue to be announced.
Wherever it is, I recommend the pulled North Carolina pork, sweet sauce, vinegar slaw, hush puppies and corn pudding. They have many beverages, but it's tough to go wrong with a sweet tea (something Bearcat receiver D.J. Woods can attest to).
Since one of my sons had a baseball game within decent proximity of the June 1 stop,I decided to intercept the evening's headliner in the parking lot. Jones is enjoying the golf shirt weather and the chance to see the public in various informal settings.
"It's great obviously to get out and about and see our
great fans and talk Bearcat football," Jones said. "It won't be long and
it'll be football season."
In some sick way, you know there's a "countdown to Higher Ground" clock somewhere in the bowels of the Lindner Center football office. The staff takes a week off in July, but by the first of August it's all business, all the time.
June is the month the Bearcats hit some outdoor events and take a peek at future talent.
"We'll welcome about 300 prospective student
athletes with our
miscellaneous camps and unofficial visits to campus with
And, UC's new recruits will be in soon.
"Actually, they show up in June," Jones said. "I'm
excited to see what
this freshman class brings to the table. With Jameel Poteat, Akise
Teague coming in,our six defensive linemen, Trenier Orr, I'm excited."
The six incoming defensive linemen are Chad West of Perry, Ohio, Brandon Mitchell of Withrow, Chad Hannah of Tampa, Florida, Carroll Phillips of Miami, Florida and Demetrius Alston and Silverberry Mouhon of Norcross, Georgia.
Orr, is a defensive back from Ocoee, Florida and Poteat and Teague are running backs. Poteat was the No. 15 running back out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Teague was Ohio's Mr. Football for Division V out of Youngstown Ursuline.
Might these new backs play?
"You can never have enough running backs, it's a
durability," Jones said. "Each individual develops differently at their
One way to develop talent is through repetition and Jones has cooked up a scheme to run double workouts during the upcoming preseason to get some extra looks at players.
It hasn't been finalized, but Jones appears sold on it.
"We've been researching it," Jones said. "The big
thing for us is reps.
With the number two quarterback up for grabs and us getting some
freshmen ready at receiver and other spots, maximum reps is the key."
Assisting the Bearcats in this process, will be former UC defensive back Mike Mickens who accompanied Coach Jones to his first City Barbecue event.
"We're excited to have him," Jones said. "He brings so much to the
table. He has instant respect with the defensive backs having played the
position and played in the National Football League. Beyond that,he's a
Bearcat. He understands what it means to where the C-Paw everyday."
The UC opener is a mere three months away on September 3 at Nippert against Austin Peay.
In addition to throwing defensive
lineman around, incoming freshman tackle Justin Murray of Sycamore High School
has a couple of other talents.
The current Aviator senior is an
Ohio state Division I contender in the shot put and the discus, where he
currently leads the Greater Miami Conference. Beyond that, he leads the city in
the shot and is second in the disc.
Last year, he finished sixth at the
state meet in Columbus in the shot put with a throw of over 52'. This season,
he's chucked the 12-pound ball of steel 57'11.5" and hurled the discus
While there are other worthy
throwers in the GMC, it's pretty much Justin and all of the rest.
Clearly, shot put is his best event,
but he'd liked to improve his discus distance for a chance at double honors at
the state meet.
"Last year in the disc I made it to
regional," Murray said. "I didn't do too well. I fouled out on the last two
At 6-5 and 255 pounds, Murray has
more sheer strength than most, but insists it's not all about the bulk.
"You have to have a lot of
technique," Murray said. "People usually think it's a lot about strength, but
it's really not. Strength is only about half of it. At the front of the ring,
it's all about your legs and having the torque. You get your legs down and use
them to push off of."
Because of track, Murray wasn't able to see much of UC's spring football
action. When you're one of the leading scorers on a top-ranked team, the coach
is hesitant to give you a meet off.
"I was actually at a track meet on the Saturday of the spring game," Murray
said. "I was up in Mansfield, about three hours away, so I couldn't get to
He will be joining the Bearcats soon. The state track meet is June 3-4. If
everything works out, Murray will switch his high school green and gold to UC
red and black two weeks later.
"I report the 18th of June," Murray said. "I think I'll be
doing everything with the football team and I'm going to be taking two
classes as well. I'm looking forward to it."
While he wouldn't rule out a chance to throw shot and discus in college, his
focus will be on football and adding the strength and pounds necessary to
create holes in the Big East.
"I need to get bigger," Murray said. "Once I do that, I'll be alright."
In the meantime, Murray continues to
leave some serious divots at local high school throwing pits with his mighty
After Saturday's final practice (April 23) I caught up with with quarterback Zach Collaros and head coach Butch Jones for a spring wrap-up. In Q&A form, here's the spring ball sign-off:
How does it feel to wrap up spring ball?
BJ: "Tell you what, these last four practices have been absolutely invaluable. You're able to revisit some of your problem areas that occurred throughout spring and in the spring game in particular. You also identify who some of your key back-ups are coming into practice and special teams are critical. To get all of these live reps today and get it on film and teach on it, again, it's invaluable."
ZC: "It feels kind of weird. It's kind of bittersweet. After all, spring ball starts becoming a drag. I feel like we did a good job pushing through. I wish I had another one (spring) but this is my last one, so I have to make the most of the rest of my time here."
What now from here?
BJ: "We hit the ground running for spring recruiting on Tuesday, and obviously we'll be out and about meeting all of our great fans and gaining supporters to come watch us play both at this great venue in Nippert and also at Paul Brown (Stadium).
ZC: "One more (Camp) Higher Ground. When we get to Higher Ground it's going to be critical to get better every day." Did you like the set-up of the spring, with the early Bearcat Bowl?
BJ: "I love the format. Pretty much, the spring game, a lot has been said about it, but it was pretty much the same as it's been in the past, give or take some of the one-on-one's which our kids love. It lets a coach see when the lights go on how they compete. I really like the format. The only disappointing thing was maybe the weather. Today (Saturday April 23) was a great day and we accomplished a lot."
ZC: "I liked it. The (spring) game is really for the fans. I'm not saying it's a wasted practice, but we're not doing as much. We're not showing as much because it's on TV and we have fans here. I think getting back out here four more times gave us a chance to really hone in before we're off for the summer." How do you see the back-up quarterback situation shaping up? (Note: in the last spring practices senior Chazz Anderson lined up as a wide receiver.)
BJ: "Well, we're just experimenting. Chazz is going through that phase in his life right now where he's graduated, he already has his degree. He wants to help the team and he's a competitor. We'll sit down and we'll see how this goes." (On the other quarterbacks) "The thing I'm excited about is our quarterbacks have been 'live' this spring. There's so many things when you want them to be able to escape the pocket and make plays and have a pocket presence about them when everything's coming at them and they know they're going to take a hit. The exciting thing too is that it's been a physical spring and the only major injury was Shaq (Washington--freshman wide receiver) and we get him back in about a month. I'm excited about the way we ended spring and we'll move on to the next phase this summer."
ZC: "I think they've all done a great job. Munchie (Legaux) has really done a great job throwing and running. What he really needs to focus on is managing the offense--not just the play calls, just making sure it's running smooth. I think Jordan (Louallen) has done a great job as well. He'll continue to get better in the throwing game. I think he likes running the ball more than I do. I kind of like to scramble and throw. He's more of a downhill runner. The longer you play this position and the more reps you get, it's not bad to punt the ball sometimes. There's times you have to throw the ball away and let your defense play. He'll learn that with time."
(For Butch only) Anyone catch your eye that you didn't expect?
"Some guys on the offensive line. It's going to be a race between Sean Hooey, Andre Cureton and Austen Bujnoch. The reps that Cameron Beard gained were invaluable because he's got to help us and give us some reps. On defense, our young corners and linebackers are going to have to play this year. In no way, shape or form would they be game ready if they didn't graduate high school early and been here for spring practice."
(For Zach only) Do you miss baseball at all?
Not in this weather (overcast and rainy most of April). When it's sunny outside, I do miss it. I do miss being out there. I just like being active. With a week off next week, I'm not going to know what to do. I'm going to have to come in and continue to get better in football."
At this point, I'd put my number at 17. That's 17 spring football games
since the early 90s when I first was assigned to be on UC's radio team.
Even since my departure from that particular job, I've been a regular viewer of
spring practice and spring games.
That's why I feel I have as much knowledge as anyone when I nominate UC
redshirt junior Danny Milligan as a charter member of UC's "Spring
Football Hall of Fame".
After making the scene in his early years in the Bearcat Bowl, the 5-9, 174
pound former St. Xavier standout has done it again.
In Bearcat Bowl V, not only did Milligan crush the game's longest field goal
(52 yards in a controlled setting) he also caught a pair of touchdown
passes. Once again, the ex-Bomber seems to know how to "land the
plane" in spring competition.
Now, it's just a matter of finding the opportunity to play in the regular
season at Nippert (a stadium where he's had many success stories).
If you don't pull for this "Wes Welker"-like local to succeed at UC,
you're really not human.
just needs to keep fighting," Jones said of Milligan's chances to see real
playing time. "We talk every day and his thing is just coming to work with a
mentality every day. If he does that, he can help this football team."
his Brian Kelly days, Milligan has been a "travel team" guy because of his
versatility. Because he can punt, kick and receive, Milligan's always a nice "ace
in the hole".
has been, the ace has pretty much been kept in the deck by both Kelly and coach
my time," Milligan said. "Just one or two good years and you can do something special.
I still luckily have two more years."
lack of regular game playing time, Milligan seems to thrive in spring games. He's
made noticeable plays in each that he's played, which usually results in those
familiar with his high school career to wonder why he's not been in the mix.
it in high school and for three years that I've played here, I've been able to
do it here," Milligan said. "If I can get that trust from coach Jones, I'd be
happy to do it."
Based on a
quick glance of the receiving, Milligan was productive as any.Factor in the kicking and Elder's Tony
Miliano having an off day and it's tough to figure how Milligan wouldn't be in
Did he enjoy
the 52-yard boot or the touchdowns more?
that puts up points," Milligan said. "It depends on the situation. 52 is a long
for me since I've been here at UC.It's
always nice to catch a couple touchdowns from Jordan Luallen and Munchie
line for Milligan is that he's local.His
family is able to cheer for him here as well as those that followed his stellar
high school career.
to play in front of the family," Milligan said. "It's all about family. If I
can put a smile on those parents' faces, it makes me happy."
Also with a
happy face after Bearcat Bowl V was Georgia Tech transfer quarterback Jordan
Luallen. After Zach Collaros, it's a toss-up as to which quarterback got the
most reps, sophomore Munchie Legaux or Luallen.
production standpoint, both did good things.From an impression standpoint, it would be tough to ignore how Luallen
caused a decent Bearcat defense a few fits with his scrambling and scripted runs.
Jordan took some major, major steps," coach Jones said. "I thought he managed
the offense. With the ball in his hands, he can make things happen. He needs to
continue to progress in the throw game. I'm very encouraged by his performance."
also encouraged.Like most transfers, it
had been a long time since he was able to play in front of any fans.
alright, it's an acclamation process," Luallen said. "I understand the offense
a lot better. I've spent a lot of time in the film room to prepare myself."
Luallen is a
bigger quarterback than either Collaros or Chazz Anderson and it's tough to
avoid the comparison to a previous Butch Jones quarterback.
one of the things I was attracted by," Luallen said. "I'd obviously seen the
production that (Dan) LeFevour put up at Central Michigan. I was really
interested because that's a big part of my game.The way they've implemented that with me,
running those quarterback powers, I really like that."
Jones declaring the back-up quarterback job open, it's safe to say Luallen made
a favorable impression on the coaching staff with his elusiveness.
"I'd like to
believe so," Luallen said. "There's still a long way to go and I have a lot to
improve on. I did some good things."
out with Luallen, Legaux and Milligan on offense, and Derek Wolfe, Walter
Stewart and juco transfer Malcolm Murray on defense, was their ability to rise
up and make plays in "showtime".
out who can handle distractions when the lights go on and there are people in
the stands," Jones said. "I thought it was a productive night overall."