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2009 Cincinnati Preview - Offense
Cincinnati QB Tony Pike
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Cincinnati Bearcat Offense
Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Cincinnati
2007 Cincinnati Preview
2006 Cincinnati Preview
What you need to know:
In stark contrast to the defense, eight starters return to an
offense that might have to carry this program for the first
month or two of the season. The pitch-and-catch combo of Tony
Pike to Mardy Gilyard figures to be one of the most prolific in
the country, pairing a couple of next-level talents, who hooked
up for 11 touchdowns last fall. Unlike a year ago, Pike has
removed the uncertainty at quarterback and brings stability and
a big arm to the position. The Bearcats are also set at the
skill positions, provided some of the younger players, like RB
Isaiah Pead and receivers D.J. Woods and Armon Binns, step up
and provide support. The biggest concern revolves around an
offensive line that was marginal in 2008, and now must replace
both starters to the right of center.
Star of the offense:
Senior WR Mardy Gilyard
Passing: Tony Pike
199-324, 2,407 yds, 19 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Jacob Ramsey
152 carries, 664 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Mardy Gilyard
8 1catches, 1,276 yds, 11 TD
Player that has to step up and become a
star: Junior RT Sam Griffin
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore RB Isaiah Pead
Best pro prospect:
Top three all-star candidates:
1) Gilyard, 2) Senior Tony Pike,
3) Senior LT Jeff Linkenbach
Strength of the offense:
The passing game, depth at running back,
Weakness of the offense:
Run blocking, right side of the offensive line, third-down
This time last year, when Cincinnati was struggling to replace
Ben Mauk, no one was talking seriously about
Tony Pike. They are
now. After Dustin Grutza was injured, the 6-6, 225-pound senior
came virtually out of nowhere to provide stability and earn a
spot on the All-Big East second team. He showed good arm
strength and the ability to make connections on the move, going
199-of-324 for 2,407 yards,19 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
Still, he was a no-show in the Orange Bowl loss to Virginia
Tech, and really needs to elevate his play on a team that might
have to out score opponents this fall.
Projected Top Reserves:
Now that Grutza has graduated and Demetrius Jones has moved to
defense, a clear to the No. 2 job has been plowed for 6-0,
209-pound sophomore Chazz Anderson. Easily the best all-around athlete among the
quarterbacks, he can make plays outside the pocket and lower his
shoulder to pick up extra yards. As a passer, he throws an
accurate ball, but can’t approach Pike’s velocity. He got a
taste of action last fall, playing in three games and finishing
46-of-75 for 520 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks.
Sophomore Zach Collaros
has the edge at No. 3, but will need to work hard to fend off
the talented freshmen in the rear view mirror. Like Anderson,
he’s more of an athlete than a gunslinger, who was also used on
special teams at times in 2008. He has a place on this team, but
with strong-armed Travis
Kelce and Brendon Kay
gaining ground, he’ll have trouble getting on the field under
Watch Out For…
Pike to attract a fair amount of curious NFL scouts to the Queen
City. The raw ability and physical attributes are clearly in
place for him to start scaling some draft boards. He’ll enter
the season as one of the top seven or eight senior quarterbacks,
with a chance to really enhance that position.
Who would’ve known? Buried for most of his career, he made good
on the opportunity to play and wound up being a nice fit for the
offense. With some fine-tuning, he should be able to make the
most of what’s going to be an explosive corps of receivers.
Consistency. As good as Pike was in his debut as a starter, he
needs to step up his game and bring it every weekend, especially
if the rebuilt defense struggles. In the final two games against
Hawaii and Virginia Tech, for instance, he threw just two
touchdowns to six interceptions, looking shaky in the process.
the first time in four years, Cincinnati came out of spring
without any major question marks at quarterback. That’s a good
thing for the entire program. The Bearcats were able to win
games last year when Pike was average, but that won’t be the
case in 2009. He’ll need to take his game to another level and
become the new face of the program.
With last year’s top three rushers back, the Bearcats have no
worries about the backfield. On top of the tightly-packed depth
chart is 6-1, 225-pound junior
John Goebel, a
part-time starter in his return following a redshirt season. A
physical, no-nonsense runner, he’s also the best receiver among
the backs. Just two years removed from being on the other side
of the ball, he ran for 607 yards and seven scores on 133
carries, adding 26 catches for 283 yards.
Projected Top Reserves:
Now that he’s risen to No. 2 in the pecking order, 5-11,
Isaiah Pead is poised for his much-anticipated breakthrough
season. One of the gems of the 2008 recruiting class, he has
that extra gear that makes him such a threat to pop off the long
ball. A former high school track star, he’s also a threat as a
receiver out of the backfield. After scratching the surface with
203 yards on 30 carries, he’ll earn a bigger share of the
touches if he can add some weight and improve as a pass blocker.
Providing further depth will be last year’s leading rusher, 6-0,
216-pound senior Jacob
Ramsey, who went for 664 yards and two touchdowns on 152
carries. A rugged north-south runner, he’ll do most of his
damage in between the tackles and close to the line of
scrimmage. While not as versatile as Goebel or dynamic as Pead,
he’s a steady veteran and a luxury coming off the bench.
Watch Out For…
plenty of sharing. Since everyone does something a little
different, the staff will mix and match the top three running
backs, depending on the down and distance. It wouldn’t be a
shock if the Bearcats wind up with three 400-yard backs.
Diversity. Goebel is the do-everything back. Pead is the home
run threat. Ramsey is the best option in short yardage.
Together, they give the offense a diverse and deep backfield
that’ll always keep defenses guessing.
lack of a breakaway back. Okay, maybe Pead is about to address
this long overdue need, but doesn’t he have to prove it for more
than 30 carries? Goebel and Ramsey are grinders, neither of whom
produced more than a 37-yard run a year ago.
the passing game makes more headlines, the
backfield has quietly produced three capable running backs, each
offering something a little unique to the offense. By himself,
no single runner is going to intimidate opposing defenses.
Together, however, they form an interesting and productive trio,
who’ll help give the offense some balance. If Pead is ready for
a promotion, he can quickly become one of the league’s most
Two of last year’s top three pass-catchers may be gone, but
Cincinnati has few concerns about its receiving corps. That’s
bound to happen when you’ve got a dynamite playmaker, like 6-1,
190-pound senior Mardy Gilyard. One of the nation’s most explosive all-purpose
weapons, he took his game to a new level in 2008, catching 81
balls for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns. One of the team’s
fastest players, he gets to second gear in a hurry, streaking
past defensive backs and bolting through seams in the defense.
Joining Gilyard on the outside is 6-4, 200-pound junior
Armon Binns, a big and physical receiver, with the long arms to
create an imposing catch radius. He’s waited patiently for this
opportunity, learning behind the veterans and catching a couple
of passes in his first two seasons. His ability to leap high
above defensive backs will be exploited on a regular basis,
especially near the end zone.
In the slot, the Bearcats are expected to give the job to 6-0,
170-pound sophomore D.J.
Woods, who lettered as a true freshman and caught 14 passes
for 168 yards. Fundamentally sound beyond his years, he already
runs tight routes, rarely drops passes, and has the speed to
take a quick out and turn it into a long gainer. After learning
on the job as a rookie, he’s ready to turn the corner in 2009.
Back at tight end will be 6-2, 260-pound senior
Kazeem Alli, a three-time letterwinner. The best blocker among the
pass-catchers, he’s an outstanding pile-driver, but needs to
become more consistent and reliable as a pass receiver. He’s
hauled in 20 career passes, including a career-high 12 for 124
yards and three touchdowns last season.
Reserves: The heir apparent to Gilyard at “X” receiver
is 6-3, 205-pound sophomore
O.J. Woodard. He
lettered on special teams in his first season, and will be
brought along slowly this fall. His size-speed combo is as
impressive as any of the wide receivers, creating considerable
expectations once he hones the little things needed to be an
Although 6-3, 205-pound junior
Charley Howard is
unlikely to unseat one of the starters, he’s one of those
veterans who’s nice to have as an insurance policy. A former
walk-on, he knows the system intimately, and has appeared in 26
games over the last two seasons, catching 10 balls for 109 yards
and a touchdown.
While Alli is the most powerful tight end, 6-2, 241-pound junior
Ben Guidugli might be
the most dangerous receiver at the position. Plenty strong at
the point of attack, he has very soft hands, starting 14 games a
year ago and catching 18 passes for 229 yards and a score.
Whether or not he starts, he'll get plenty of reps this fall.
Watch Out For…
incoming JUCO transfer
Jamar Howard. Pursued by a number of schools in the Big Ten,
he was an important offseason acquisition for the Bearcats. A
6-4, 210-pound thoroughbred, he’s going to push for the job
opposite Gilyard the moment he arrives on campus.
Measurables. While the tight ends are steady and reliable, the
wide receivers are downright combustible. With Gilyard as the
cover boy, Cincy has a nice collection of athletes catching
passes, with the size and speed to create all kinds of match ups
Sure-things after Gilyard. A year ago, the Bearcats had multiple
receivers capable of preventing No. 1 from getting
double-teamed. This fall? Not so much. There’s upside, to be
sure, but a fair amount of inconsistency can also be expected
from untested players, like Binns, Woods, and Woodard.
Cincinnati moved two-year starting wide receiver
Marcus Barnett to
cornerback, so it must know something that everyone else
doesn’t. Everything will be built around the incendiary Gilyard,
but he’s going to need plenty of help for the passing game to
really click. Binns and Woods have the considerable upside to
click, and Howard will wind up being a Big East newcomer of the
Yeah, two starters have departed, including all-star Trevor
Canfield, but Cincinnati employed such a deep rotation, it
should be able to recover just fine. The pillar at left tackle
will be 6-6, 311-pound senior
Jeff Linkenbach, who was named the team’s outstanding offensive
lineman a year ago. Recruited by Mark Dantonio to be a
pile-driver, he’s reshaped his body and now has the footwork and
quickness needed to be one of the Big East’s premier
Next to Linkenbach at left guard will be 6-3, 295-pound junior
Jason Kelce, a former
walk-on linebacker, who started 13 games on the offensive line
last season. Although he’s continuously added weight throughout
his career, he remains one of the line’s most explosive players,
getting off the snap in a hurry and quickly getting out to the
Back for a third season at center is 6-2, 290-pound senior
Chris Jurek, a steadying presence in the middle of the line.
Although he’s had trouble keeping weight on and can get
manhandled by bigger interior linemen, his technique, strong
base, and experience have a way of keeping him competitive.
The right side of Jurek is far less stable. The favorite at
tackle is 6-5, 255-pound junior
Sam Griffin, who
hasn’t played many meaningful minutes and has struggled to add
girth to a long and lean frame. The latter has been his biggest
obstacle to success as a Bearcat. Otherwise, he’s a terrific
athlete and has the mobility and agility of a tight end, which
will benefit him in pass protection. This is a pivotal year for
a player, who arrived with such lofty expectations.
The leader at right guard is 6-7, 280-pound sophomore
Alex Hoffman, recruited by Kelly’s staff to be one of the pillars of
pass protection in the spread offense. He played in a dozen
games as a freshman, starting a pair and laying down a
foundation for the future. He’ll benefit from the addition of
more weight and by becoming more of a knee-bender in order to
improve his already questionable leverage.
Projected Top Reserves:
Lurking just behind Hoffman at right guard is 6-4, 315-pound
junior C.J. Cobb, who
sat out all of 2008 with an injury. A letterwinner in his first
season and a ferocious blocker, he brings
much-needed size and physicality to the Bearcat front
wall. No matter what happens in the summer, he’ll have a vital
spot in the rotation now that he’s healthy.
It’ll be worth keeping a close eye on 6-2, 265-pound sophomore
Kelce’s caddy at left guard. A former defensive lineman and high
school wrestler, he uses his hands extremely well and plays
faster than most interior blockers. If he can add some weight
without sacrificing too much burst, he has a shot to win a job
Watch Out For…
true freshman Sean Hooey.
While no threat at left tackle, he’s the clear-cut heir apparent
to Linkenbach at the position. Already installed as a
second-teamer, the 6-8, 260-pounder will need to use this year
to prepare as if his number could be called at any moment. If he
continues to bulk up and improve at the fundamentals, he’ll have
a very considerable ceiling.
left side. From Jurek out to Linkenbach, the Bearcats are
bolstered by tough, veteran blockers, who don’t make many
mistakes. All three were starters in 2008’s championship season,
which is why most plays will be run to their side this fall.
right side. The graduations of Canfield and Khalil El-Amin have
left Cincinnati with a pair of question marks on the right side
of the line. Sure, both Hoffman and Griffin have lots of upside,
but without much experience between them, there could be some
very precarious this fall.
Labeling this unit anything beyond average would be rather
charitable. After Linkenbach, a genuine pro prospect, the
Bearcats are a collection of overachievers and youngsters,
who’ve yet to reach their full potential or fill out physically.
A year ago, this unit did a mediocre job of run blocking and
pass protecting. Improvement will depend heavily on the
maturation of Griffin and Hoffman on the right side.