Preview 2007 - Offense
2007 Cincinnati Preview
2007 Cincinnati Defense Preview
2007 Cincinnati Depth Chart
2006 CFN Cincinnati Preview
What you need to know:
Take whatever you knew about last year’s Cincy offense and
delete it. Nothing will be the same, as Brian Kelly and his
staff dismantle Mark Dantonio’s plodding run game in favor of a
fancy spread attack. There’ll be growing pains, to be sure, but
by mid-season, there should also be improvement if a consistent
quarterback, such as Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk, develops and
the line adjusts to a zone blocking scheme. A receiving corps
that’s led by juniors Derrick Stewart, Dominick Goodman and
Connor Barwin has a chance to blow up in the new system.
Passing: Dustin Grutza
137-225, 1,632 yds, 9 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Greg Moore
162 carries, 709 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Dominick Goodman
40 catches, 452 yds, 5 TD
Star of the
Player that has to step up and become a star: Mauk
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore T Jeff Linkenbach
Best pro prospect: Goodman
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Stewart 2) Goodman 3)
G Trevor Canfield
Strength of the offense: The starting receivers, depth at
Weakness of the offense: No proven quarterback
If Brian Kelly’s spread offense is to hit the ground running in
2007, the new coach must pluck the right quarterback out of a
half-dozen candidates with diverse skill sets. On seniority
alone, junior Dustin Grutza rates an early edge, however,
he’ll have to address doubts whether he has the arm strength and
mobility to be an ideal match for a new system that demands
both. He’s played extensively the last two seasons, throwing
nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2006, but that was in a
conservative offense that rarely asked the quarterback to be the
offensive sparkplug. Although Grutza’s a heady, competitive kid
that’s won some battles in the Big East wars, he needs work on
his mechanics and his hold on the top spot will be tenuous until
he proves he can be more than just an offensive caretaker.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing Grutza from
behind will be sophomores Craig Carey and Tony Pike,
both of whom competed for the starting job in 2006, but didn’t
take any snaps. Carey is the best athlete of the quarterbacks,
earning time on special teams last fall, but needs to sharpen
his accuracy as a passer. Pike is a 6-6 pocket passer with a
strong arm, lacking the running ability that Kelly requires in
his signal callers.
Watch Out For…senior Ben Mauk. The wild
card, and possibly the frontrunner by September, is Mauk, a Wake
Forest transfer who was grandfathered in under a recently
rescinded rule allowing degreed players to switch schools
without sitting out a season. A tough competitor with a good
arm, he was the Demon Deacon starter last fall before
dislocating his throwing shoulder.
Strength: Experience. No matter who gets the ball
when Cincinnati hosts SE Missouri State on Aug. 30, the Bearcats
will be one of only a handful of teams boasting a No. 2
quarterback with at least ten games of starting experience. If
Grutza—or Mauk—struggles or gets injured, it’ll be a luxury to
have a backup that’s gotten meaningful minutes before.
Weakness: Lack of a proven passer. Kelly chose
journeyman Nick Davila over a healthy Grutza in January’s
International Bowl in Canada. Mauk is coming off a couple of
major surgeries to his pitching arm. Neither of the chief
contenders has more career touchdown passes than interceptions,
a potentially big problem in this offense.
Outlook: Assuming he’s healthy, Mauk has the best
combination of talent, experience and grit, and should supplant
Grutza at some point in the season. Kelly is the same coach
that won the MAC at Central Michigan last year with freshman Dan
LeFevour so rookies Chazz Anderson and Zach Collaros shouldn’t
be completely counted out.
Projected Starters: Say good-bye to the fullback
and hello to the one-back set in Cincinnati. The Bearcats have
no shortage of experienced runners, including last year’s
starter Greg Moore, a 6-2, 225-pound power back with
decent speed. The senior started eight of Cincy’s final nine
games, finishing with a team-best 709 yards and four scores.
While not a candidate to break off long runs or catch passes out
of the backfield, a concern in this offense, Moore is the type
of back that’ll wear out defenses and cannot be arm tackled.
Projected Top Reserves: While senior Bradley
Glatthaar is a similar north-south runner as Moore,
classmate Butler Benton gives the backfield a little jolt
of speed and an option as a third-down receiver. At 6-1 and 210
pounds, he has goods hands and the closest thing to breakaway
speed on the roster, both of which had not been lost on the new
Glatthaar is a bruising 225-pound back who led the Bearcats in
rushing as a sophomore before tailing off to just 285 yards and
three yards a carry in 2006. Kelly will ask all of his runners
to pass protect which shouldn’t be an issue for these three big
Watch Out For… a running game by committee.
Moore’s job is in serious jeopardy, and there’s not enough
separation in talent among the top three backs to believe one
will get the overwhelming majority of the carries. They’re all
big, interchangeable seniors that do their best work running
between the tackles.
Strength: Depth. Kelly isn’t going to focus on
the ground game at Cincinnati, but it’s still a luxury to have
three veteran backs that have all started games in their college
careers. In short yardage, the Bearcats will be very tough to
stop, particularly if former 275-pound former fullback Doug
Jones is inserted as a lead blocker.
Weakness: A lack of a breakaway back. As a
complement to Cincinnati’s trio of bruising backs, it sure would
be nice to have a player on the roster with a little wiggle that
can take a handoff or a screen pass and go the distance. If the
Bearcats are going to have any big plays in 2007, it’ll have to
come from the passing attack.
Outlook: There’s no special back on the roster so
the running game will be steady with Moore, Benton and Glatthaar,
but unspectacular. Provided they can take some heat off the
quarterbacks and overachieve in pass protection, they’re job
will be done.
After the obvious need for a quality quarterback, Kelly’s spread
offense must have a bunch of receivers, preferably tall ones
that can make catches in traffic and pick up additional yards
after contact. Although four of last year’s top six receivers
are back for another year, that hasn’t kept the staff from
worrying if there are enough reliable pass-catchers on the
roster. All the receivers are going to thrive in a more
passer-friendly offense, but none more than junior Dominick
Goodman who had 40 receptions and five touchdown catches
last year, capped by an MVP effort in the International Bowl.
He’s 6-1 and 200 pounds, able to get behind a secondary and
still learning after playing quarterback throughout high
At just 5-11 and 175 pounds, junior Derrick Stewart
doesn’t fit the blueprint at receiver, but he’s a game-breaker
who can take short slants and turn them into big gainers.
Better suited in the slot, he averaged more than 20 yards on his
33 catches in 2006 and has the jets to be useful in a variety of
Senior Earnest Jackson is Cincinnati’s career receiving
leader with 68 catches for 901 yards and four touchdowns, but
was a non-factor a year ago and needs to play to his full
potential this fall. While not a burner at 6-3 and 215 pounds,
he’s got the size to out muscle or out leap most of the Big
East’s defensive backs and could be used at tight end if there’s
Although tight end Brent Celek will certainly be missed,
Cincinnati believes it has his replacement in junior Connor
Barwin who flashed plenty of upside last season. In spot
duty, he caught 13 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns,
displaying the nice hands, good speed and tight route running
that already has the Bearcats suggesting he’ll be an
all-conference performer before he’s done. He tore ligaments in
his ankle playing pick-up basketball in the spring, but is
expected back in the summer.
Projected Top Reserves: The Bearcats are happy
with their second-unit receivers, but just need more of them.
Whether or not he climbs into the starting lineup, sophomore
Jared Martin is going to be a major player in this season’s
rotation. He played sparingly as a freshman, but is one of
Cincy’s best deep threats and really helped his cause in last
December’s practices leading up to the bowl game.
Antwuan Giddens is a rangy, 6-3 senior who needs to
finally capitalize on his size and leaping ability when the
offense shifts into four and five-wide receiver sets. He’s
lettered the last two years, but had just a single catch in five
games in 2006.
Tight end Kazeem Alli played in all 13 games as a
redshirt freshman and shows plenty of potential as a
pass-catcher. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, he has the speed to split
the seam and develop into a playmaker at the position. A knee
injury, however, kept him out of spring and could wind up nixing
his sophomore season.
The spoiler at tight end is former fullback Doug Jones
who has switched positions out of career necessity. A load at
6-4 and 273 pounds, he’s surprisingly nimble and sure-handed
which will make it impossible to keep him away from the field.
Watch Out For… significant playing time for one or
both of the Cats’ highly-touted incoming freshmen. O.J.
Woodard and Tomaz Hilton were recruited by Kelly
specifically to which in this offense which they’ll do very
early in their careers. The leading receiver on Kelly’s 2006
Central Michigan team? Freshman Bryan Anderson.
Strength: The front-line receivers. Stewart,
Goodman and Barwin have all-Big East potential now that the
passing game will open up and Jackson is a steady veteran with
three letters already in the trophy case. It’s a diverse group
of speed and size with enough of the latter to make Kelly smile.
Weakness: The backup wide receivers. Mark
Dantonio didn’t make recruiting receivers a priority when he was
in Cincinnati which the Bearcats will feel in 2007. The depth
at tight end is fine, but at receiver, there’s little margin for
error or injuries this fall.
Outlook: The new staff could have inherited a far
worse situation here, but instead have a solid core of receivers
and tight ends that’s going to produce a statistical star or
two. Now all they have to do is go out and consistently make
plays in a system that’s designed to max out all of their
For two years, Cincinnati has given up way too many sacks, a
sobering fact that needs to be as the spread offense is slowly
implemented. The building blocks for improvement are there with
the return of three starting linemen, however, it could be a
while before the right combination and chemistry is found.
Senior Digger Bujnoch, junior Trevor Canfield and
sophomore Jeff Linkenbach will all be in the lineup, but
where each will be is still a pretty fluid process.
For now, Bujnoch is staying at left tackle after the staff
flirted with the idea of moving him to center. At 6-5 and 290
pounds, he’s versatile, quick on his feet and one of the line’s
Linkenbach was one of last year’s big surprises, winning the
opening at tackle in the summer and never relinquishing it. A
brick wall at 6-6 and 290 pounds, he shaped up in the off-season
in anticipation of becoming a more athletic lineman in his
Fresh off an all-Big East sophomore season, Canfield is the rock
of this unit. A devastating run blocker at 6-5 and 300 pounds,
he needs to polish up his pass protection in order to become a
Now that the plug on the Bujnoch-to-center experiment was
pulled, sophomore Chris Jurek and senior Chris Flores
will continue their battle for the start in the summer. Both
are dangerously undersized at around 6-2 and 270 pounds, but
Flores rates a slight edge by virtue of his three starts in
Senior Jeremy Bolton has only three career starts on the
resume, but is hardly inexperienced with 23 games and three
letters to his credit. One of the strongest members of the
Bearcats, he’ll move from tackle to left guard in 2007, where
he’s facing a nasty challenge from senior Ken Rodriguez.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Mario Duenas
is a smaller, quicker and nastier version of Bolton who’s going
to challenge for the nod at guard all summer and fall. A dozen
games of experience in 2006 and two years at City College of San
Francisco has him prepared to contribute at either guard or
center. The coaching staff is hoping that tackle depth will
come from C.J. Cobb, a powerful redshirt freshman who has
the body to contribute right now, but needs more game experience
to improve his overall game.
Khalil El-Amin, who was on his way to starting in
2006 before injuring his knee, is one of the line’s best
all-around athletes. The 6-5, 318-pound junior has the quick
feet and long arms to handle the league’s better rush ends once
he gets back in shape.
Watch Out For… whether the Bearcats play like
hunters in a farmers’ world. This group, which was recruited
and coached to block in a power running scheme, must now shift
gears and adapt to much more pass-blocking. The new zone
blocking scheme requires a level of athleticism and agility
which is not this unit’s calling card.
Strength: Run blocking. The Bearcat line is a
collection of big, strong, stereotypical linemen that are
particularly good at the point of attack. It’s at its best when
Cincinnati is in short yardage and the physical unit can drive
an opposing defense off the line of scrimmage.
Weakness: Pass blocking. Unless Kelly opts to
implement the spread gradually, this could be a nagging theme
all year long. El-Amin aside, this is not a particularly
athletic front wall which will make it susceptible to some of
the Big East’s faster edge rushers.
Outlook: The offensive line has enough returning
talent to hold up against average defenses, but against those
that can bring the heat, such as Louisville, Rutgers and USF,
it’s going to get exposed.