2014 Cincy Preview: What You Need To Know
Cincinnati WR Chris Moore
Cincinnati WR Chris Moore
Posted Jul 12, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Cincinnati (Getty Images)

2014 Cincinnati Preview

What You Need To Know

- 2014 Cincinnati Preview 

What you need to know about the offense: If Gunner Kiel plays to his enormous high school hype of two years ago, this could be Cincinnati’s best offense since Brian Kelly was coaching the team. Kiel, the former five-star gem at Notre Dame, is the missing piece of an attack littered with depth and talent at the skill positions. While he’s the frontrunner, lurking in the shadows is veteran Munchie Legaux, who’s still recovering from last year’s knee injury. Both quarterbacks are itching at the chance to join forces with the cadre of playmakers at running back and wide receiver. Returning from last season are the top three rushers and five of the six best pass-catchers. The Bearcats boast an eclectic mix of playmakers, with the ability to stretch defenses in different directions. Up front, the left side of the line will again be spearheaded by next-level OT Eric Lefeld. To the right of center, however, Cincy will be facing some uncertainty, as unproven Cory Keebler attempts to lock down the tackle job.

What you need to know about the defense: Players and coaches change on a regular basis. But the Cincinnati defense has been a constant, year-in and year out. The Bearcats didn’t have a player drafted by the NFL in May, yet they still ranked 14th nationally in scoring defense and ninth in total D in 2013. This is perennially a blue-collar bunch that maximizes the talent on hand. So, the fact that five productive starters are gone hasn’t made anyone in the Queen City flinch. Instead, Cincy plans to regroup around a collection of quality defensive ends, linebackers and safeties. Where the unit needs to retool a bit is straight up the middle and at cornerback, where Deven Drane leaves a sizable hole. Co-defensive coordinators Hank Hughes and Robert Prunty are banking on big things from seasoned corners Adrian Witty and Howard Wilder, but the defensive tackles are a mixed bag of mediocrity right now.

Players You Need To Know
1. OT Eric Lefeld, Sr.
Three O-line starters are back for the Bearcats, with none more important than Lefeld. The former defensive end and basketball player is a rising star as a pass protector, getting named to the all-conference first team in each of the last two seasons. While Lefeld has packed on the muscle to his 6-6, 309-pound frame, he continues to have some of the best footwork and agility in the American. He still has room for growth as an all-around blocker, encouraging news for whoever plays quarterback in 2014 and drafts him in 2015.

2. DE Silverberry Mouhon, Jr.
Mouhon served notice in 2013 that Cincinnati won’t be his final football stop, unless he’s drafted by the Bengals a year or two from now. He blossomed into one of the American’s premier pass rushers with 41 tackles, 12.5 stops for loss, a team-high 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. And he’s just getting started. The 6-4, 248-pound All-AAC Second Team selection has gotten bigger and stronger during the offseason. Yet, he’s maintained the explosive first step that helps make him such a handful for offensive tackles.

3. LB Nick Temple, Sr.
Largely overlooked in the preseason, Temple went on to play better than any other Cincinnati linebacker in 2013. He’s certainly not the biggest member of the front seven at 5-10 and 218 pounds. But Temple plays with maximum energy and instincts, putting himself in a position to be a defensive difference-maker. The long-time starter flourished when given more freedom to roam the field last year, making 80 tackles, a team-best 13.5 stops for loss and 5.5 sacks.

4. WR Chris Moore, Jr.
Moore’s first significant action on offense resulted in a table-setting season with the Bearcats. He advertised his versatility as a deep threat and an underneath receiver by making 45 grabs for 645 yards and a team-best nine touchdowns. Moore has excellent speed to go along with the long arms and the 6-1, 190-pound frame to pluck balls out of the air. The unfinished product will become even more dangerous once he tightens up his route-running and eliminates all drops.

5. WR Shaq Washington, Sr.
Washington was the Bearcats’ most productive receiver a year ago, catching 78 balls for 783 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a touchdown pass and ran the ball five times for 67 yards and a score. It was an improbable breakout season for a player who had a limited resume prior to 2013. The 5-9, 174-pound Washington is a versatile and shifty weapon out of the slot, creating matchup nightmares when he’s covered by a linebacker.

6. S Zach Edwards, Soph.
From two-star to the starting lineup, Edwards was a revelation in his debut out of Middletown (OH) High School. He started the final 11 games at safety, improving as the season unfolded. Active throughout the year, he finished with 73 tackles, two picks and a team-best nine passes defended. The 5-11, 186-pound Edwards has solid cover skills for such a young player. And the coaching staff expects him to continue his evolution in the secondary this fall.

7. QB Gunner Kiel, Soph.
To say that Kiel has been indecisive since being named Indiana Mr. Football a little over two years ago would be a gross understatement. The top-rated quarterback of the 2012 recruiting class initially verbally committed to Indiana and LSU, eventually signed with the Irish and then transferred after just a year in South Bend. Sure, Kiel has yet to accomplish anything at this level. However, he possesses all of the raw ability to bloom into a franchise quarterback for Tommy Tuberville and Cincinnati over the next three seasons. Kiel was on target in the spring game, getting a jump on rehabbing Munchie Legaux and JUCO transfer Jarred Evans.

8. LB Jeff Luc, Sr.
Four years ago, Luc was one of the most ballyhooed recruits in the country, a five-star pickup for Florida State. Today, he’s trying to rebound from a middling debut as a Bearcat. Luc arrived in Cincinnati with much fanfare, yet he was only a part-time starter. He wound up seventh on the team with 43 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss and a couple of forced fumbles. Still, there’s time for the 6-1, 251-pound thumper to approach expectations. He’s moved inside this season, and looked comfortable in the spring at a new position.

9. RB Hosey Williams, Sr.
In his first season out ASA (N.Y.) Junior College, Williams wound up being a gem for the Bearcats. He missed a game, and started none, yet wound up leading the team with 655 yards and four touchdowns on 115 carries. The fact that Williams is only 5-9 and 199 pounds is misleading. He runs with leverage and determination up the gut, lowering his shoulder to punish defenders. With Ralph David Abernathy moving to slot receiver, Williams will only share carries with gifted sophomore Tion Green. More touches for Williams could equal 1,000 yards and attention from pro scouts.

10. DE Brad Harrah, Sr.
While it’s taken a few years, Harrah has finally started to approach his potential up front. After largely being anonymous in his first two seasons, he emerged into a consistent disruptor in 2013. Despite starting only six games, Harrah managed to collect 25 tackles, four sacks and 10 stops behind the line, third most on the Bearcats. The 6-5, 258-pounder has long arms and the motor to make something happen even when it appears he’s out of position to make a stop. He could erupt when lining up on the opposite side of Silverberry Mouhon.

- 2014 Cincinnati Preview