Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Cincinnati
2007 CFN Cincinnati Preview
2006 CFN Cincinnati Preview
What you need to know:
With or without QB Ben Mauk, who was denied a sixth year of
eligibility by the NCAA, Brian Kelly is set to move forward with a
“Cat Attack” offense that was wildly successful in its debut. While
five hurlers will technically be in the hunt, the competition has
boiled down to senior Dustin Grutza, Notre Dame transfer Demterius
Jones, and redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson. Whomever gets the nod
will operate behind a shaky line replacing a couple of starters, and
bank on the healthy return of star WR Marcus Barnett from a broken
fibula. The running backs will be serviceable, but no one stands out.
Passing: Dustin Grutza
39-55, 432 yds, 4 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Jacob Ramsey
96 carries, 362 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Dominick Goodman
68 catches, 869 yds, 8 TD
Star of the
Sophomore WR Marcus Barnett
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman TE Adrien
Best pro prospect: Senior G Trevor Canfield
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Canfield 2) Barnett 3)
Senior WR Dominick Goodman
Strength of the offense: The receivers, the left side of
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency at quarterback,
the running game
Projected Starter: When last year’s starter Ben
Mauk was denied a sixth year of eligibility, there was a jail
break to become Brian Kelly’s next triggerman. At the head of
the line is senior Dustin Grutza, but there’s plenty of
company lining up behind him. By far the most experienced of the
contenders, he doesn’t do any one thing great and at 6-2 and 203
pounds, only has average arm strength. Since arriving four
years ago, he’s thrown an equal number of touchdowns to
interceptions, 24, and rarely got off the sidelines last year.
However, he does have two years of starting experience and
manages a game well, a couple of key differences versus the rest
of the field.
Projected Top Reserves: Although sophomore
Demetrius Jones has become the trendy choice to lead the
offense, is he ready? Yes, the highly-touted transfer from Notre
Dame has the mobility and 6-4, 204-pound frame to conceivably be
a hand-in-glove fit for Kelly’s version of the spread, but it
didn’t look that way in the spring. Coming off surgery to
repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, Jones still needs
some fine-tuning with his mechanics and a better grasp of the
offense. While he has a bright future in Cincinnati, it might
not materialize until 2009.
Creating the biggest commotion in April was redshirt freshman
Chazz Anderson, who jumped a couple of veterans and into the
discussion at quarterback. An athletic and elusive player at
6-0 and 205 pounds, he impressed throughout spring with his
accuracy and comfort moving the offense in the spread. Anderson
has a legitimate shot at this job if he continues to grow during
Watch Out For… Grutza to be in the huddle when
Eastern Kentucky visits on Aug. 28. Unless Jones or Anderson
lights it up in August, Kelly is going to take the safe road,
putting the ball in the hands of his senior. A week later, the
Bearcats travel to Oklahoma, which is no place to be breaking in
a young quarterback.
Strength: Mobility. Jones and Anderson are
terrific athletes who just happen to play quarterback, and
Grutza can side-step the pass rush and scoot for a first down.
All three possess the athleticism that Kelly looks for at the
Weakness: Lack of a proven hurler. While Jones and
Anderson are unproven as throwers, Grutza has been unimpressive
when he’s had his chances over the years. The senior has plenty
of experience, but that alone won’t add any RPMs to his passes
or help him get the most out of an improving receiving corps.
Outlook: Even though Mauk has more natural ability
than Grutza, no one could have expected last year’s fantastic
production. The point being that few coaches in the country
milk more from the position than Kelly, who’ll get a decent
season from Grutza, while preparing Jones and Anderson for the
Projected Starters: The logjam at running back
that persisted for years is gone now that Greg Moore, Butler
Benton, and Bradley Glatthaar have run out of eligibility. In
their wake remains junior Jacob Ramsey, the frontrunner
to shoulder the load out of the one-back set. He played
extensively as a sophomore, earning 96 carries for 362 yards and
three scores. At 5-11 and 218 pounds, he’s a powerful
north-south runner who won’t be arm-tackled and who has gotten
bigger and stronger in anticipation of an expanded role.
Projected Top Reserves: Ramsey’s partner will be
sophomore John Goebel, a two-time Scout Team Player of
the Year finally getting an opportunity to shine on Saturdays.
He’s a rugged 6-0, 208-pounder who’ll lower his shoulder to pick
up the tough yards and pick off rushers on passing plays. A
no-nonsense workaholic, Goebel has earned a significant role in
an offense lacking depth in the backfield.
Watch Out For… the incoming freshmen. Other than
Ramsey and Goebel, none of the redshirt freshmen distinguished
himself in the spring, creating an opportunity for Isaiah
Pead, Darrin Williams, and George Winn to move
up to No. 3 and earn a few carries a game.
Strength: Power backs. Ramsey and Goebel are both
big and physical runners who can move a pile in short yardage
and soften defenses between the tackles. Ramsey, in particular,
packed on the muscle in the offseason, looking more and more
like a back who’ll require multiple tacklers to bring him down.
Weakness: A lack of a breakaway back. New year,
same problem. Ramsey and Goebel are a little too similar,
leaving the Bearcats without any potential game-breakers who can
stretch a defense or make plays as a third down option.
Outlook: The Cincinnati offense can thrive without
any elite backs on the roster. Witness last season when the
Bearcats averaged 36 points a game, yet didn’t have a 500-yard
rusher. Ramsey and Goebel will share the workload, pounding
away at defenses, but rarely shaking loose for long gainers.
Last year, the Bearcats were scrambling for quality receivers.
This year, they’re on the verge of being loaded. Led by the duo
of senior Dominick Goodman and sophomore Marcus
Barnett, Cincinnati’s top three receivers are back in the
Queen City. Goodman had a team-high 68 catches for 869 yards
and eight touchdowns, using his 6-1, 210-pound frame to out
muscle defenders and make the tough catch in traffic. Still not
a finished product, the former high school quarterback has been
working hard on improving his routes and hands.
In a season full of surprises, Barnett was the biggest, stepping
out complete obscurity to catch 62 balls for 862 yards and 13
touchdowns, earning Freshman All-American honors. A legitimate
long ball threat at 6-2 and 164 pounds, he has the blazing speed
that warrants constant attention from opposing defenses. Now
lined up in the slot, he made a rapid recovery from a broken
leg, playing and scoring in the spring game.
Junior Charley Howard caught everything in sight in the
offseason, earning a spot atop the depth ahead of more
experienced players. He caught just seven passes for 94 yards
and a touchdown, but at 6-3 and 208 pounds, has the imposing
size and strength that this offense requires from its receivers.
Junior Kazeem Alli is set to take over at tight end after
earning letters as a backup the last two seasons. Extremely
strong as a blocker at 6-2 and 245 pounds, he only has eight
career catches, needing to prove that he can be a reliable
target on short and mid-range targets.
Projected Top Reserves: Although junior
Marshwan Gilyard has been upstaged by Howard, he brings a
ton of experience to the second unit, finishing third last year
with 36 catches for 536 yards and three touchdowns. One of the
group’s fastest players at 6-1 and 180 pounds, he needs to
tighten up his consistency and eliminate some of the dropped
The program has high hopes for sophomore Armon Binns, the
first of Kelly’s recruits to get on the field at wide receiver.
He played in seven games as a true freshman, making a single
catch and getting a feel for the speed of the game. Binns has
great size at 6-3 and 201 pounds, flashing plenty of upside once
he gets more acclimated to the offense.
Sophomore Ben Guidugli narrowed the divide on Alli at
tight end, solidifying his spot on the two-deep. While only 6-0
and 239 pounds, he’s the better pass-catcher of the two with the
potential to do more than just catch eight-yard passes in the
Watch Out For… redshirt freshman Adrien
Robinson. Somehow, someway, the Bearcats have to get
Robinson on the field. The first step was moving him from the
crowded wide receiver unit to tight end, a position of need. At
6-4 and 250 pounds, Robinson has unexpected speed, a combination
that could have him scaling the depth chart in August.
Strength: The wide receivers. Sure, they sometimes
lack consistency, but this group has grown up exponentially over
the course of one year. Goodman and Barnett are all-league
contenders and the second team continues to get stronger.
Weakness: The tight ends. Graduations and position
changes have the Bearcats very thin at the position. It’s a
particular concern if Dustin Grutza is the quarterback because
his lack of arm strength could make the tight ends preferred and
Outlook: Kelly & Co. made the receivers a position
of priority when they arrived from Central Michigan and it
shows. Now that Barnett is almost back to 100%, the Bearcats
boast an improving blend of speed and size that’ll haunt the Big
East, provided the new quarterback cooperates.
The Bearcats will build this year’s front wall around three
starters, one who almost didn’t make it. Senior G Trevor
Canfield, an All-Big East second teamer, was suspended
before the spring, but has made it back to the team and will be
a fixture on the left side. At a more svelte 6-5 and 295
pounds, he’s a physical run blocker, who’ll need to improve his
athleticism and pass protecting to make a run at the NFL.
Over at right guard will be 6-4, 269-pound sophomore Jason
Kelce, who struggled playing center last season. Freed from
the burden of making snaps and calls on the line, the coaching
staff hopes its former walk-on linebacker can ramp up his
development as an offensive lineman.
Taking over for Kelce at center on a full-time basis is Chris
Jurek, who actually earned nine starts at the position last
season. Adding weight has been an on-going problem for the
junior, who goes just 6-2 and 260 pounds, making him vulnerable
to getting tossed around by some of the Big East’s more physical
From left to right, the tackles are going to be senior Khalil
El-Amin and junior Jeff Linkenbach, respectively. The
6-4, 312-pound El-Amin will be learning a new side of the line
after starting all of last season at right tackle. One of the
unit’s better athletes, he lost weight in the offseason in an
attempt to improve his stamina and become a step quicker.
Linkenbach is entering his third season as a regular in the
rotation, a 6-6, 297-pounder with considerable upside potential
as a pass blocker. He has the size and the experience to become
a fixture on the right side over the next two seasons, but needs
to put it all together this fall.
Projected Top Reserves: If any backup is going to
win a job in the summer it’ll be sophomore C.J. Cobb,
who’s mounting a serious challenge for Kelce’s job at right
guard. At 6-3 and 326 pounds, he enjoys a dramatic size and
strength advantage, performing in the spring as if he’s ready
for a promotion.
The next generation of Cincinnati tackles will include redshirt
freshmen Craig Parmenter and Alex Hoffman. At 6-5,
272 and 6-5, 268, respectively, both are big athletes with the
room to add weight over the next couple of seasons. Parmenter
and Hoffman were recruited by Kelly’s staff to specifically be
pillars of pass protection in the spread offense, so the
learning curve should be flatter than it was for some of the
Watch Out For… Cobb. The sophomore is easily the
best player on the second unit and someone who’s going to make a
hard charge for a starting assignment in the summer. Cobb has
the size and physicality to help a running game in need of a
Strength: The left side. Canfield and El-Amin are
the two most accomplished and dependable of the Bearcat
blockers, meaning the majority of this year’s plays will be
executed to the left of Jurek.
Weakness: The second unit. It’s not the only
problem on this unit, but it is the biggest. Cobb will evolve
into an asset, but the other four reserves could all be
freshmen, none of whom were can’t-miss prospects coming out of
Outlook: With a full season adapting to a zone
blocking scheme and trimming some fat, the Bearcats will be
better equipped to work within the offense this season. That
said, it’s a pedestrian group that won’t dominate Big East
opponents and has pressing concerns at center and on the second