March 3, 2012
Pro Day Highlights
CINCINNATI - The University of Cincinnati football team returned to the practice field Saturday, working out for around two hours inside the bubble at the Sheakley Athletic Center.
It was the Bearcats second of 15 allotted spring practices, scheduled to wrap up with Bearcat Bowl VI on April 14, 2012 inside Nippert Stadium.
Saturday's workout was heavy on offensive and defensive install, as the team practiced in helmets. The practice also featured a dose of special teams installation and several team periods to close out the day.
Recently, ESPN.com rated the Bearcats special teams unit as the best in the BIG EAST Conference in 2011. UC finished 10-3, winning the BIG EAST Championship and knocked off SEC foe Vanderbilt in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Punter Pat O'Donnell (Lakeworth, Fla./Palm Beach Central) was a First Team All-BIG EAST selection in 2011, leading the conference in net punting average. His 43.81 yards per punt tally ranked among the Top-20 in the nation. He will be a junior and one of the top returning punters in the country in 2012.
Kicker Tony Miliano (North Bend, Ohio/Elder) was 17-of-25 on field goals and 47-of-50 on extra points in his first year kicking for the Bearcats. He had a long kick of 48 yards and had a four field goal game in the swirling winds of Heinz Field against Pittsburgh.
O'Donnell handled the kickoff duties a year ago, averaging a shade over 64 yards per kick. Redshirt freshman A.J. Fleak (Sunbury, Ohio/Big Walnut) has shown a strong leg since his arrival and will push for playing time.
With the graduation of long snapper Tom DeTemple
, the Bearcats job is vacent entering the spring season. The two main competitors are Kirk Willis
(Granville, Ohio/Granville), who redshirted a year ago, and linebacker Kevin Hyland
(Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder), who also sat out in 2011.
In the return game, Ralph David Abernathy IV (Atlanta, Ga./Westminster School) created one of the most memorable moments in 2011 with his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Vanderbilt in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The true freshman finished the season ranked second in the BIG EAST and No. 14 in the country with his 26.41 per return average.
Senior Danny Milligan (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) emerged as the primary punt returner in the second half of the season. Milligan returned six punts for an average of seven yards per return. As a team, UC was second in the BIG EAST averaging 6.89 yards per return.
UC returns to the field Tuesday with the first full pad practice on the agenda. The Bearcats practice through March 10 before taking off two weeks for finals and spring break.