From the Twitterverse, where I try to keep updated on anything from politics, medical research, happy "spin" messages (lot of those), music and sports, I found an interesting piece of news recently.
Former UC receiver Armon Binns, who will forever be known as the guy with "The Catch" against Pitt on a snowy December day, is receiving his degree.
While that shouldn't be compared to climbing Mt. Everest, as scholarship athletes should get their degrees in my opinion, it is still an accomplishment. Particularly so because Binns has been gone from UC for well over a year.
After being picked up by the Jaguars, he eventually made it to the Bengals as a free agent and their practice squad. At the end of the season, he was activated, but not used.
From all accounts, he's been one of the most improved receivers the Bengals have. God bless Mohamed Sanu, but given more than two years (which was all Binns really played of note) with similar focus that Rutgers had on Sanu, Binns might have been a draft pick instead of an undrafted free agent.
NFL folks typically don't call me, but I've seen more of Binns and more players than most and I think he can play.
Maybe someone should ask Dave Wannstedt....
Anyway, I got Jack Brennan of the Bengals to let me past Checkpoint Charlie at Paul Brown Stadium recently and talked to Armon about his upcoming diploma.
While it wasn't the record number of six from 2009, or even the five that was selected in 1997, the four Bearcats chosen in the NFL draft should've caused broad smiles among UC football fans.
UC hasn't had a No. 1 pick since Bob Bell in 1971 and Greg Cook in 1969 before that, but two second-round picks is very impressive.
If you spent the recent days under a rock or in quarantine, Derek Wolfe was chosen in the second round by the Broncos and Isaiah Pead in round two by the Rams. Both were standout Bearcats. Pead was more noticeable by his explosive runs, but Wolfe was a constant thorn in the side of opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. (Derek Wolfe on the prowl)
To put getting drafted in round two in perspective, your most recent round two picks from UC were Alex Gordon, Artrell Hawkins and Connor Barwin. All three had (or in Barwin's case) or are having extensive NFL careers.
In round three, defensive lineman John Hughes went to the Browns. Hughes was a consistent performer, but may have been the most quiet third-round pick ever around here.
That's quiet, as in workmanlike. While Hughes might not have had the publicity of other UC players, rest assured the opposition knew where he was.
Even being drafted in round three is pretty significant. Your recent UC round three picks were Antwan Peek and Brad Jackson. Again, if you look up their NFL resumes, they had respectable NFL careers. In Jackson's case, he sports a Super Bowl ring.
Finally, in round four, the Super Bowl champion Giants picked tight end Adrien Robinson. Robinson had some incredible plays at UC, but will be getting his bonus money based on his unique build and the great word, "potential".
Robinson's combination of speed, power and wingspan is what pro and college coaches covet. While he actually caught significantly more passes, he reminds me of one-time UC basketball player, turned NFL tight end Rod Monroe. Their physiques are similar.
In Monroe's case, he bounced around a few teams and made it to a Super Bowl with the Falcons.
Of course, Wolfe, Pead, Hughes and Robinson will all have to make it on their own merit, but the odds and probability of success appear to be pretty good.
Beyond the four Bearcats picked, I think JK Schaffer is a sleeper for somebody that bothers to look at UC video and notices No. 37 seemingly around every play. Schaffer has signed with the Jaguars.
And, call me crazy (there's a long line who have), but I think in the right situation Zach Collaros can have pro success. He'll get knocked for some of the same reasons every other so-called "small" quarterback does, but with healthy with a solid line and good receivers, Collaros can heave it.
At UC's Pro Day, he zinged bullets to current Bengals Armon Binns and Vidal Hazelton. He also has great play-making ability. In the NFL, the trend is the cookie-cutter 6-5 dude who stands back and throws, but there's been a long history of success with guys named Brees, Tarkenton, etc. that weren't necessarily giants, but made giant plays.
Naturally, there's no guaranteed accuracy in any of my prognostications, other than my own two eyes and ears that have witnessed Bearcat football and NFL drafts up closer than most for better than 20 years.
Agree or disagree, you have to admit, it's kind of fun to watch ESPN and hear the likes of Chris Berman and Jon Gruden speak of your school in such glowing terms.
Plus, it's a chance to buy more NFL jerseys with your UC favorites' names on them.
Bearcat Bowl VI was washed out April 14, but UC did get their final workout in at the Sheakley bubble in front of various members of the Bearcat football family, parents, etc.
Rather than sit high underneath one of the pavilions at Nippert, those that braved the elements enjoyed the climate-controlled bubble that has been kept open for Butch Jones this spring. (Originally, the bubble was to come down at the end of February.)
Clearly, the indoor facility has proven its worth time and time again.
Another asset that has proven reliable is No. 4, Maalik Bomar. With the departure of JK Schaffer due to graduation, Bomar will lead UC's linebacking corps.
Since his arrival on campus, Bomar has put over 40 pounds of muscle. Video evidence is forthcoming....
Bearcat Bowl VI is Saturday at Nippert Stadium. In recent years, stars have developed and many Bearcats have shined.
One that interestingly has excelled each spring is former St. Xavier Bomber Danny Milligan. Unfortunately, his spring success hasn't always translated to fall playing time, although he's seen more and more action each year.
"The spring game has been Danny's game," coach Butch Jones admitted. "He's a senior and it's time for him to step up. The big thing with Danny is overall consistency on a day-to-day basis."
While Bill Koch of the Enquirer has already delved into this subject, many have often wondered what it would take for Milligan to experience some level of success at UC after being "Mr. Everything" at St. Xavier.
If you had a really long license plate, I guess the title of this entry could be somewhat clever. (There again, you could ruin the whole vibe if you plastered one of those ridiculous stick figure families on your back windshield.)
What I'm getting at is be it Munchie Legaux, Jordan Luallen, Bennie Coney, Patrick Coyne or Brendon Kay, I think the Bearcat offense can move the ball in a number of ways.
However, I'd be lying to you if I didn't say I was intrigued by Brendon Kay. I'm written on this before and it's not a shot at the other quarterbacks, it's just based on observation and some private discussions.
If you look at what most pundits look at as a prototype quarterback, he is it. He's big. He runs. He throws. In various cameos, Kay has usually been able to move the team.
The downside is he's older and he's had some injuries. (Gosh, isn't that most of us?)
In a true Jon Gruden quarterback test, I wouldn't be surprised if he came out on top. Again, Legaux and Luallen are more than capable players, but I think Kay might get the edge if everyone were to start at square one.
Naturally, what I think means little. Coach Jones, Jon Gruden or ESPN Gameday have never dialed my number for my two cents worth.
What intrigues me though is the case of Tony Pike. He was on the team seemingly forever, seemingly an after thought and nearly given the boot. Then, he got a chance and turned out to put up some really impressive numbers for a guy that toted a clipboard longer than most shop foremen.
Is that now not Brendon Kay?
Time will tell, but here's the young man from Marine City, Michigan who could end up around Nippert a little longer than anticipated.
Having been to my share of Bearcat football spring practices, it still is strange to see a fair amount of spectators watching.
Granted, Nippert Stadium is in the open and any passerby can catch a glance or pull up some cement, but it used to be just a handful that would watch.
When I stopped by Saturday, March 31 I noticed more folks than usual at practice, particularly considering the weather wasn't conducive to spring spectating (football weather yes--but several degrees below what it's been).
When I reached the sideline, I noticed numerous recruits around, along with coaches wives and their families, player parents and others. For what wasn't a highly publicized scrimmage, it wasn't a bad turnout.
After the final whistle, the various position groups broke into numerous circles around the field and a lot of pictures were being taken. At each position group, introductions of players and families were being done and it struck me as something a little different in what usually is a highly regimented environment.
To get the full skinny, I sought out coach Butch Jones, who posed for pictures with numerous families and hosted the affair.
Now that March Madness is over (other than hoping Louisville finds a way to stop the Big Blue Crew of one-and-doners) I took some time to hit the Sheakley Athletic Center for a little spring football.
I was able to see Dennis Janson, one of the classiest guys around in the media who always has great stories and I was able to update fellow Springsteen fan Dan Hoard on the recent shows I saw.
Plus, I'm a little odd. I just like hanging around football practice.
This week, I tried out the new Iphone's video feature to check in with the current No. 1 quarterback Munchie Legaux. Some of the information you may know, some you may not. What I do know is that he has a mature presence about him and he certainly looks ready to be in charge.
I'll let Munchie fill you in on the rest....
OK, upon further review, the audio doesn't appear great, so maybe I'll stick to my small HD cam. However, Munchie's still worth listening to so hang with it if you can. I'll inform my IT staff of any difficulties and file a full report in the morning ;)
It's been 10
long years, and I couldn't be more proud.
And, in full disclosure, I wasn't there to see it this time. (My two
oldest perused Broadway in Nashville in my absence.)
Yeah, I missed UC's tournament games to see Bruce Springsteen and the E
Conflicted by two of my major interests in life, I chose the E Street
Shuffle. In all fairness though, when I bought the tickets to go to
Atlanta and Greensboro, there were no assurances UC would be in the
tournament and if I could have predicted such I would
be on CBS or ESPN.
I also had to coach my sixth-grader on that Saturday, so it just wasn't
in the cards for me to go to Music City.
Fortunately, Music City was in the cards for the Bearcats as Mick Cronin
and company hooked the 'Horns and tomahawked the 'Noles.
I enjoyed the Friday afternoon off watching UC torment Texas. Sunday, Mr.
Springsteen was kind enough to end his final encore at Philips Arena in
Atlanta quick enough for me to go to an establishment next door and
watch the second half (among some rowdy Seminole
In the end, my red UC hat was being noticed, as were my C-Paw shirts I
packed. I was being congratulated for a game that I had nothing to do
with, but it felt good for fans in the Southland to "recognize the C"
I even ate some barbecue in Greensboro, across from ACC headquarters,
where I was tempted to find some spray paint to add a "UC" to the FSU
Chief Osceola logo. Fueled by a couple of sweet teas, I even thought
about storming in and asking them how they figured
Syracuse and Pitt fit in with their league, but my wife instructed me
to mind my manners.
All I can say, is Dion Dixon's steal and lay-up that put the Bearcats up two in the final minutes is as memorable a play now as the "Fletch to Kenyon to Melvin"
dunk against Duke, or the DerMarr Johnson bucket in the improbable win
over DePaul years ago.
10 years ago, I was in San Diego as UC made it's last Sweet 16. They
beat BYU and then Kent State to earn the right to play Stanford and
Casey Jacobson in Anaheim. Somewhere in between, one of our JUCO
forwards (Antwan Jones) went AWOL in San Diego, and I don't think anyone's
heard from him since.
That was a different time. This is a new time.
Ditto for the game against Ohio State. In the first year under head
coach Mick Cronin, the Buckeyes were gracious enough to give us a game
when they had Greg Oden and a squad full of NBA players. Not
surprisingly, with the likes of "Hurricane" Ron Allen
and future Houston Texan Connor Barwin guarding Oden, UC was thumped.
(On the upside, Barwin made Sports Illustrated with a picture of him
guarding the oldest-looking college student since Granville Waiters.) (Thanks to Associated Press/Rivals/Yahoo)
Before that, Ohio State had successfully ducked UC since losing to them
in back-to-back years for the NCAA championship.
Somewhere between now and Friday, March 16, a caravan of red and black will make its way on 71 South and then over to 65 South toward Music City as UC squares off with the Texas Longhorns at 12:15 (11:15 if you adjusted your clocks in Nashville).
It's "Brunch with the Bearcats" and it should be fun to watch a rested and ready crew hook up with the 'Horns. Ironically, it's St. Patrick's Day weekend as it was last time the Bearcats were in the NCAA tournament in Nashville (2001).
Here's hoping some of you are a little more wiser in your "Wearing of the Green" Day behavior than you were the last time (you know who you are).
Nashville's got a variety of things to do downtown. Beyond the Country Music Hall of Fame, there's plenty of other music in various surroundings. If you're like as they say "both kinds of music" (country and western) I'd recommend Tootsie's Wild Orchid Lounge or Robert's Western Wear (where the legendary BR-549 once made a live album).
Should you get hungry, Jack's BBQ on Broadway is pretty decent stuff. Beyond that, I'm sure you'll have fun if you just follow the UC cheers that should perpetuate Nashville just as they did on Beale and Bourbon Streets in events past.
As for the game, I like the way Cashmere Wright has stepped it up this year, so let's hear from him. Sadly, my regular job duties have me occupied Friday, so I'll have to watch from afar for one of the rare times in the last 20 years.
Oh well, life's full of curveballs. Here's the Wright stuff....
That UC and Louisville played in the Big East championship game should not go unnoticed.
Back when Virginia Tech, Boston College and the Miami Hurricanes left the Big East, the conference was all but declared dead for the football losses and inviting the "non-easterners" was frowned upon by those not wanting to invite the best of Conference USA into the executive washroom.
The reality is that it strengthened an already strong basketball conference .
The continued rivalry of UC and Louisville is as good as ever as indicated by their presence in the grand finale at Madison Square Garden. Furthermore, Marquette was viewed as top 25 threat all season long as they've continued their tradition, South Florida sports the league coach of the year and DePaul won't be any more down than any of the current Big East "also rans".
If you watched this year's tournament, the Big East games are as exciting as ever. Other than the obvious allure of easy money, it's still a mystery to me why Syracuse would leave the Garden and their New York fans for the Greensboro Coliseum and the ACC. Ditto for non-factor Pitt this year.
As for West Virginia, I doubt the "Let's go Mountaineers!" cheer will be as loud in Stillwater, Oklahoma or Lawrence, Kansas.
To all departing schools I say, "Be careful what you wish for."
In football, UC and Louisville have more than held their own with both making BCS bowl games and representing the league as proudly as the departed. South Florida has also made it as high as No. 2 in the top 25 and the Bulls have beaten national powers (ask Brian Kelly).
Now, the guys that get paid to spout off think the league is down or isn't deserving of multiple NCAA bids or shouldn't get a BCS game.
My guess is that some self-appointed expert made those same under-researched comments years ago. Again, the loudest person isn't always the right one. Those that have used their two ears and two eyes more than their one mouth are usually on target.
The new entries to the Big East will eventually prove themselves. Memphis was good under John Calipari and has a good coach in Josh Pastner. They have great talent and Pastner was schooled under Lute Olson. I think you'll find the "Silver Fox" won on occasion.
Temple has been good and will be again. You don't come out of the basketball-rich Philly area without attracting talent. Houston has been an NCAA player before.
The underlying key to success for all of these schools is a bigger league and the fact that they represent bigger markets. Memphis, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, and the Florida area are full of talent for the home and OTHER teams in the league. Everyone benefits.
The same logic exists in football. Houston got national attention with their offense and SMU has June Jones who also plays an offense popular with young players. Last time I checked, there was considerable interest in Texas for football. With the Big East involved, UC and others can now cultivate talent from those same fields.
In Orlando, UCF lives in the same player-rich area as USF. The Bulls in Tampa have grown because they've kept players that didn't go to Gainesville, Tallahassee or Miami at home. If you look at most Division I rosters, (including UC's) you'll see a boatload of players from the Sunshine State.
Memphis has been down, but they have a new coach and if they can keep players from escaping to neighboring states, they can compete. It wasn't all that long ago, that UC labored to beat Memphis.
It's easy to sit on a throne somewhere and declare a league dead because of longstanding biases. It's much harder to do be open-minded and do the homework.