CFN Preview 2013 - Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati WR Anthony McClung
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Cincinnati Bearcats
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By Richard Cirminiello
Cincinnati remains one of college football's best-kept secrets, but hardly by choice.
Head coach: Tommy Tuberville
18th year overall: 131-77
Off. 24, Def. 23, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Cincinnati Players
1. LB Greg Blair, Sr.
2. LT Eric Lefeld, Jr.
3. LG Austen Bujnoch, Sr.
4. LB Jeff Luc, Jr.
5. WR Anthony McClung, Sr.
6. CB Deven Drane, Sr.
7. QB Brendon Kay, Sr.
8. RB Ralph David Abernathy IV, Jr.
9. S Arryn Chenault, Sr.
10. LB Nick Temple, Jr.
9/7 at Illinois
9/14 Northwestern St
9/21 at Miami Univ.
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at USF
10/30 at Memphis
11/2 OPEN DATE
11/16 at Rutgers
11/23 at Houston
11/30 OPEN DATE
The Bearcats have won at least a share of four of the last five Big East titles, a fact known by about nine people outside of the Queen City. And not much more inside of it. Their last three leaders now coach at Michigan State, Notre Dame and Tennessee, while their current one, Tommy Tuberville, has held jobs at Ole Miss, Auburn and Texas Tech. Yet, Cincinnati has made about as much of a splash as a leaf on a pond, especially in the area of realignment.
As the realignment merry-go-round gradually stops spinning, Cincy has been left on the outside looking in. No invite from one of the five remaining power conferences. A life sentence—for now—in the rebranded Big East, which is now known as the American Athletic Conference. Gone after this season will be the lure of an automatic BCS bowl game and all of the cache that went with it. The Bearcats, like Connecticut and South Florida, have been demoted.
The fact that Cincinnati is a passenger on a slowly submerging ship makes it all the more improbable that it was able to replace Butch Jones last December with Tuberville, a coach with such a deep resume. It was an improbable move from Tubby, to say the least, but the Bearcats make no apologies for their good fortune. They feel they've landed a man who can help prevent the school from veering off its recent course.
Maintaining last year's 10-win level, which included three losses by no more than a touchdown, will require the new men in charge to tinker and tweak with both sides of the ball once the personnel is learned. The offense needs to decide on a quarterback between Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux, and then give that guy some weapons with which to work. The D has holes on the first and last lines of defense. The linebackers, though, could be the nastiest in the AAC now that all-star Greg Blair received a sixth year of eligibility and former Florida State mega-recruit Jeff Luc is eligible to play.
Since 2006, Cincinnati has gone 65-26, despite using four different head coaches to get there. Yet, the Bearcats still get about as much respect as a three-yard plunge. Tuberville is unfazed by the challenges ahead pertaining to perception or the more substantive on-field stuff. He just wants to keep Cincy on a winning path, wherever that might take the school.
What to watch for on offense: The O-line will mask the offense's warts. The Bearcats are trying to replace last year's leading rusher and top two pass-catchers. The battle at quarterback between Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux remains undecided. Still, there's a sense of calm surrounding the Cincinnati offense, because all five starting linemen are back for another year. Led by the left side of T Eric Lefeld and G Austen Bujnoch, the 2012 team led the Big East in rushing, and was third in sacks allowed. The current unit will be every bit as effective, which will directly impact a questionable collection of skill players.
What to watch for on defense: The impact of the newcomers. For the second straight year, Cincinnati lost some key defensive pieces to graduation. In order to replenish the depth chart, the program is seeking out the help of transfers, both from junior-colleges and other FBS programs. Former Florida State LB Jeff Luc and Marshall DT Marques Aiken are expected to crack the starting lineup immediately. Luc was the defense's version of QB Gunner Kiel, an elite recruit from the 2010 class considered by many to be the country's top high school linebacker at that time.
The team will be far better if… it learns how to win the tight games. Just how close was Cincinnati to delivering its second perfect regular season since 2009? It squandered a second-half lead against Toledo, fell in overtime to eventual league champ Louisville and managed a lone field goal versus Rutgers. The Bearcats were at their best when they built a cushion and then put their foot on the gas pedal. Nip-and-games, though, were what eventually sent this program to the Belk Bowl instead of a marquee BCS event.
The Schedule: The Big East is going to be easier, but will that matter for a Bearcat team that has to deal with just enough tough dates to screw up a trip to the BCS? If it can beat Purdue and Illinois to kick off the season, it'll be a 4-0 start with Northwestern State and a trip to Miami University to follow before a light stretch of conference games playing Temple and UConn before going to Memphis and hosting SMU. And then the fun kicks in gong to Rutgers and Houston in back-to-back weeks before closing out with a Big East championship-like game against Louisville.
Best offensive player: Junior LT Eric Lefeld. On an offense built from the inside out, its premier player is fittingly a lineman. Lefeld is a returning All-Big East First Team performer, an impressive climb for the one-time unheralded two-star recruit. The 6-6, 287-pound former defensive end and hoops star plays with the footwork and athleticism inherent to all really good pocket protectors, kicking out and sealing off the perimeter. Plus, Lefeld is still evolving, good news for the quarterbacks, and good news for whichever NFL team drafts him in 2014 or 2015.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Greg Blair. To say that Blair was a surprise at Cincinnati last year would be a dramatic understatement. The Pittsburgh native and Lackawanna (Penn.) Community College transfer entered last year with just a few snaps of FBS experience, yet finished it with a Big East-high 138 tackles, nine stops for loss, 2.5 sacks, two picks and six pass breakups. The 6-2, 252-pound Blair excels at diagnosing and anticipating the flow of plays, and will deploy the other guy's airbags upon impact.
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Brendon Kay. First, Kay needs to hold off the challenge of Munchie Legaux. Then, he needs to build on his strong finish to the 2012 season. The sixth-year Bearcat has a nice blend of qualities, including the ability to make plays with his feet. However, it's his veteran leadership that really stands to elevate the Cincinnati program. If Kay can perform like a more seasoned version of his fifth-year self, the offense will have a chance to match last season's output.
The season will be a success if ... the Bearcats win at least nine games. Although the team might have more issues than it did at this time last year, the schedule is also a little softer. Cincinnati will face just one team that's ranked in the preseason, Louisville, and a lot of lightweight opponents, such as Northwestern State, Temple and Memphis. Even the Big Ten opponents, Purdue and Illinois, will be there for the taking in September. The Bearcats are still thinking of competing for a league title, and making a run at a BCS bowl game one last time.
Key game: Dec. 5 vs. Louisville. With the Cardinals heading to the ACC, there are no guarantees that the Battle for the Keg of Nails will be renewed. This could be the final chapter, and it could be memorable. Both rivals have aspirations of winning the American Athletic Conference, and playing in a high-profile bowl game. There's also a chance that Cincinnati could be playing spoiler, attempting to keep Louisville from an unbeaten season. One way or another, a lot will be at stake at Nippert Stadium on the first Thursday in December.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Touchdowns scored: Cincinnati 53 – Opponents 26
- Yards per rush: Cincinnati 5.3 – Opponents 3.8
- Sacks: Cincinnati 31 - Opponents 15
Cincinnati Preview |
2013 Cincinnati Defense |
Cincinnati Depth Chart