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2008 Cincinnati Preview - Offense
Cincinnati OT Trevor Canfield
Cincinnati OT Trevor Canfield
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 21, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Cincinnati Bearcat Offense

Cincinnati Bearcats

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Cincinnati Preview | 2008 Cincinnati Offense
-
2008 Cincinnati Defense | 2008 Cincinnati Depth Chart
- 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. 

Returning Leaders
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 offense: Sophomore WR Marcus Barnett
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Dustin Grutza
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman TE Adrien Robinson
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 the line
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency at quarterback, the running game

Quarterbacks

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 the summer.   

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 position.
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 future.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

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.
Rating: 6

Receivers

Projected Starters: 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 passes.

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 flat.

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 reachable targets.             
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.                      
Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: 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 interior linemen.

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 upperclassmen.    

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 lift.
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 high school.      
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 team.
Rating: 7