This is the full-length version of my interview with Munchie Legaux that i used in a short video about the opening of practice last Friday.
As has been well documented, Munchie got a haircut in the offseason. He's also back competing for the quarterback position with Brendon Kay, Bennie Coney and Trenton Norvell for now (Jordan Luallen and Patrick Coyne have moved to fullback).
You can't deny what Brendon Kay did with his opportunity, but Legaux was 6-2 as a starter and likely still has some plays left in him.
When you check the temperature first thing in the morning and it's 18 degrees, you kind of have an inkling that spring has not yet set in.
When spring football practice begins at 9 a.m. and it's 27 degrees at UC, you find yourself very thankful for the Sheakley Athletics Center. Despite some early March sun, the Bearcats are often able to get more done inside when it's below 40 outside.
Sure, football is played in the elements, but the upside for the southern schools has always been weather more conducive to getting a lot of work in. Now, if there's rain, sleet, snow or just general all-around shivering weather, UC is able to go inside and be productive.
Everyone's happy. Including the media who celebrates such luxury in pictures:
Over the course of time, the perception of UC football has changed dramatically.
Several years ago, if I mentioned I was coming to UC football spring practice, I might have been asked, "Why?", or "I didn't know they had spring practice."
This March 1, a full media contingent was on hand. There were possibly more total media in the Sheakley Athletic Center (a/k/a "The Bubble") for the opening of practice than there have been at some spring games/Bearcat Bowls in the past.
A high profile coach and a few bowl wins will do that.
Today, I get to show you some of the fancy formal training the Gannett folks have put us through. We now shoot videos, voice them and edit them on our phones. This little number was put together in my car in the Corry Garage.
Here's a brief look at today's practice. I will have some more interview-type videos, etc. and I'm no match for young Video Shane and company, but this is mildly tolerable for a guy that used to bang out quite a bit of his work on an IBM Selectric.
With a full day of high school coverage on my day gig, I was unable to make Coach Tommy Tuberville's 3 p.m. press conference for National Signing Day Feb. 6.
However, a crafty veteran always finds another way. I knew the 1200 Club would be entertained later in the evening at the Kingsgate Marriott, so after my day of high school press conferences, videos and getting a kid to his pitching lesson, I made my way to the Bearcat gathering.
It was a great event, with Coach Tuberville introducing his staff and many loyal Bearcats (such as UC's all-time leading tackler Karl Woods) on hand to meet the football crew.
Later there was a rundown of each recruit for those attending dinner in the ballroom. As always, the Kingsgate staff was at the top of their game.
While I was just there for a couple interviews, I was able to meet Tyson Helton (special teams/tight ends) who just came here from UAB. My son is a trainer for the Blazers, so it was nice to meet someone who had worked for him.
OK, personal gibberish aside, this staff includes two guys that I remember from Coach Tim Murphy's Bearcat staff from the early 90s. I got to know Coach Murphy then and covered the team when they honestly were overmatched and underfunded. Things have changed drastically.
Eddie Gran and John Lovett are now back. Gran is the new offensive coordinator and Lovett is coaching defensive backs.
I spoke to both, but I'll give you the "Gran Plan" first. For those I saw at the event that remembered me from my involvement with the football program, I appreciate your kindness. .
Having just recorded his 200th win as a college head coach, UC's Mick Cronin has worn a collection of outfits while pacing the sidelines.
He doesn't have a trademark sweater or pullover like a couple of famous "Bobs" have sported. Instead, he goes with the flow of the game. With many games having different "themes", I decided to do some hard-hitting journalism and ask La Salle High School's finest what he most enjoys on the "Catwalk".
(Surely this will lead to an Oscar gig with Joan Rivers and her daughter.)
Sorry for the delay on this, but this is a video I did with former UC defensive back Haruki Nakamura at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. It was between the third and fourth quarters as Nakamura was returning to the safety of his enclosed booth after braving the chilly temperatures in the 30s on the field (such a warrior).
Nakamura lives just north of Charlotte in Mooresville and moved there prior to signing with the Carolina Panthers. He came on the field with some Panther personnel and signed a few autographs for some Bearcat fans that spotted him.
I did a "Where Are They Now" story on Bearcat Lair. In the meantime, the video covers a lot of the material. The funniest part is when he mentions meeting UC AD "Babb Whitcock". Easy slip, but funny nonetheless. Be it "Babb" or Whit, the guy does a pretty good job as Nakamura confirms.
If you watched the telecast of UC's game at Pitt Dec. 31, you know that "The General" Bob Knight was highly complimentary of 7-foot-1 David Nyarsuk's second-half play off the bench.
Nyarsuk had several key rebounds to help the Bearcats chew the clock down along with some key bank shots and a dunk. In the box score, it might not have looked like much.
In terms of timing, it was clutch.
For that and some information on the first sport Nyarsuk ever played, I stopped by Mick Cronin's laboratory Thursday afternoon to speak with the tallest Bearcat ever. (Nyarsuk trivia: Believe it or not, David was the second-biggest player on Mountain State's roster last year. Teammate Paul Sturgess came off the bench at 7-foot-8.)
In one of the more unpredictable bowls that I can recall (and I've seen them all since 1997) UC beat Duke 48-34 at the Belk Bowl in a game where everyone was pulling for Duke outside of those that made the trip down in red and black.
That includes locals that were sponsors and freelance workers. Nothing wrong with that, most of the folks are from North Carolina so they understandably would pull for their neighbors from Durham.
I'm not going to rehash the game, as I assume most of you watched it. I think we're all in agreement that after a 16-3 deficit in the first quarter, things were looking bleak at the Belk.
However, the mark of a champion is to pull together, band together, work together and unite to prevail. Understaffed and with some odds against them, Team 125 gave their fans one of the more memorable games in Bearcat football history.
They may have saved the best for last.
John Williams recovers a fumble when it appears Duke will score to take the lead.
Brendon Kay then hits Travis Kelce for a long touchdown that brings the house down.
If that wasn't enough, Maalik Bomar racks up Duke quarterback Sean Renfree to jar the ball loose for Nick Temple to pick up a score the knockout blow.
I could go on, but perhaps Mr. Kelce could say it best:
(Addendum: clearly my video ran out. I will post a celebration video shortly that's more comprehensive.)
Before today's big announcement on athletic renovations, I stepped into the Sheakley Athletics Center to catch the end of today's practice.
Yesterday, I was able to witness quarterback Brendon Kay listening to a phone call granting him an extra year of eligibility. Now the Bearcats will return a starting quarterback and a key starting linebacker.
Recently, Greg Blair got the same news. Originally thought of as a "one and done" player, his appeal from Compliance was also successful, giving the Bearcats a pretty good one-two punch for next season.
In the meantime, Belk Bowl preparation continues and Blair fills us in on the latest from "The Bubble":