2008 CFN Cincinnati
2007 CFN Cincinnati Preview
2006 CFN Cincinnati Preview
coming off its first 10-win season since 1951 and finished with a
rare spot in the final Top 25, but don’t count on the program
getting fat, dumb, and happy anytime soon.
The job of keeping the Bearcats from becoming content belongs to
Brian Kelly, the second-year head coach who believes this program is
destined for bigger and better things in the Big East, and has the
potential to break out and become a national player, much like
Louisville was able to do in the Bobby Petrino days.
Head coach: Brian Kelly
2nd year: 11-3
18th year overall: 148-54-2
Off. 20, Def. 21, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Best UC Players
2. CB Mike Mickens, Sr.
3. WR Marcus Barnett, Soph.
4. CB DeAngelo Smith, Sr.
5. G Trevor Canfield, Sr.
6. P Kevin Huber, Sr.
7. WR Dominick Goodman, Sr.
8. LB Corey Smith, Sr.
9. DE Lamonte Nelms, Sr.
10. LB Ryan Manalac, Sr.
2008 Record: 0-0
Sept. 6 at Oklahoma
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 Miami Univ.
Sept. 27 at Akron
Oct. 3 at Marshall
Oct. 11 Rutgers
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 at Connecticut
Oct. 30 South Florida
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 at West Virginia
Nov. 14 at Louisville
Nov. 22 Pitt
Nov. 29 Syracuse
Dec. 6 at Hawaii
SE Missouri St
Oregon State W 34-3
at Miami Univ.
at S Diego St
Rutgers W 28-23
Louisville L 28-24
Pitt L 24-17
So Florida W 38-33
Virginia L 28-23
Dec. 22 Southern Miss W 31-21
Kelly arrived last year
armed with a positive attitude and an offense that was the antithesis of
Mark Dantonio’s conservative approach. The “Cat Attack” immediately
cranked out 472 points, but the triggerman from that offense, QB Ben
Mauk, is still in a major battle with the NCAA to get another year of
eligibility, leaving a gaping hole behind center … for now. Obviously
everything changes if Mauk is back, but the team has to prepare for life
Adequately replacing Mauk out of a group that includes, redshirt
freshman Chazz Anderson, senior Dustin Grutza and Notre Dame transfer
Demetrius Jones will dictate whether or not
detour in UC’s path to Big East contention. But overall, there’s not too
much to worry about; Kelly is a tremendous developer of quarterback
talent, and while there are several other areas in need of beefing up
after last year’s breakthrough season, there’s nothing this coaching
staff can’t handle. Cincinnati is quickly doing for Cincinnati’s offense
what he did for Central Michigan.
While the offense has question marks just about everywhere, the defense
will once again be rock solid. Back from a group that led the nation in
takeaways are DT Terrill Byrd, CB Mike Mickens, and CB DeAngelo Smith,
each a member of last year’s All-Big East team. The Bearcats have the
athletes to bring pressure from every level, and a set of defensive
backs with ball skills as good as the wide receivers. Especially in the
early going, Cincinnati will need this group of defenders to carry the
team while the offense adjusts to a number of new starters.
Although Kelly clearly has Cincinnati headed in a northerly direction,
he’ll have a hard time matching last year’s success unless one of the
holdovers can do a fair impression of Mauk. Then again, little was
expected last year from Mauk, who delivered 31 touchdown passes and more
than 3,500 yards of total offense. Cincinnati will put up big numbers
and be dangerous once again. Now watch as everyone fails to take the
team seriously again.
What to watch for on offense: Was it the system or the
quarterback which was responsible for Mauk, a journeyman before 2007,
delivering one of the best seasons in school history. Each of the three
contenders at quarterback has a steep hurdle to clear before approaching
Mauk’s 31 touchdown passes and sterling passer efficiency rating. Grutza
has underwhelmed in past opportunities. Jones is coming off shoulder
surgery. Anderson is a freshman, but impressed enough this spring to be
the likely starter if he comes up with a big fall. Cincy fans better
hope it’s the system because the program is a little light on proven
talent heading into the season.
What to watch for on defense: More blitzes from the linebackers
and safeties. What happens when your strength is at cornerback and your
weakness is a lack of proven pass rushers? You take more chances in
order to get in the face of the quarterback. Cincinnati already likes
playing an aggressive brand of defense that flies all over the field and
causes turnovers. This season, it might become a necessity if adequate
replacements for ends Anthony Hoke and Angelo Craig can’t be found. As
long as Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith are the corners, the Bearcats
will be able to leave them on an island and turn a linebacker or safety
loose on a blitz.
The team will be far better if… the offense gets more production
from the running backs. The ground game disappeared late last year, a
big concern considering the uncertainty behind center. The best friend
of the new quarterback will be a back or two who can keep defenses
honest, while providing an element of balance to the Cincy attack. Both
the pressure and the opportunity rest with junior Jacob Ramsey, the
veteran in a backfield that lost three seniors to graduation. He
showed flashes in 2007, rushing for 362 yards
and three scores on 96 carries, and is coming off a solid offseason.
There's an almost certain loss at Oklahoma in early September, but
that's it as far as the first part of the non-conference schedule
getting Eastern Kentucky, Miami University, at Akron and at Marshall
before league play kicks in. The Bearcats will be good enough to go
bowling, but getting to go to Hawaii in early December will still be a
nice perk. The Big East schedule is more than manageable outside of a
six-day early November test against West Virginia and Louisville, but
there's an off-week before the key dates. South Florida and Rutgers have
to come to Cincy.
Best offensive player:
WR Marcus Barnett. Along with Mauk, the biggest beneficiary from the
arrival of Kelly, Barnett exploded as a freshman for 62 catches for 862
yards and 13 touchdowns. A bona fide homerun hitter on the outside, he
got better in his debut season before breaking his leg in the
PapaJohns.com Bowl. His ability to stretch a defense helps loosen things
up underneath for TE Kazeem Alli and receivers Charley Howard and
Best defensive player: DT Terrill Byrd. Byrd gets the nod for
his ability to blow up opposing running games, although CB Mike Mickens
could easily be here as well. Byrd has been named First Team All-Big
East in back-to-back years, using his leverage and quickness off the
snap to dominate centers and command double teams. One of those linemen
who makes everyone around him better, he’s the biggest reason Cincinnati
was No. 19 nationally in run defense.
Key player to a successful season: Whomever wins the quarterback
job (if Mauk is still ineligible). Whether it’s Jones, Grutza, or
Anderson, it’s imperative that the Bearcats develop a quarterback who
can run Kelly’s system and get the ball in the hands of the playmakers.
Physically and emotionally, Mauk was a monumental part of last year’s
10-win season. Adequately replacing him will be the key to success in
The season will be a success if ... the Bearcats win nine games
and find their quarterback of the future. This year is all about
building on Kelly’s debut and bringing Cincinnati closer to being a
perennial contender for a Big East championship. If it’s Grutza, a
senior, who helps keep the momentum going, that’s fine. If it’s Jones or
Anderson, however, who have a few years of eligibility left, that’s even
better in the grand scheme of things.
Oct. 30 vs. South Florida. The Bearcats have had the Bulls by the horns
the last two seasons, winning a wild one in Tampa last season, 38-33.
This will be one of those Big East elimination games that thins out the
crowd of teams aspiring to dethrone West Virginia. Plus, it’s a
nationally televised Thursday night affair, giving Cincinnati a wider
audience than normal to showcase its recent renovations since Kelly
2007 Fun Stats:
- First quarter scoring: Cincinnati 140 – Opponents 53
- Average yards per punt: Cincinnati 46.1 – Opponents 38.6
- Sacks: Cincinnati 42 for 305 yards – Opponents 23 for 158 yards