2009 CFN Cincinnati Preview
Cincinnati WR/CB Marcus Barnett
Cincinnati WR/CB Marcus Barnett
Posted Jun 23, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats

Preview 200

By Richard Cirminiello

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- 2009 CFN Cincinnati Preview | 2009 Cincinnati Offense
2009 Cincinnati Defense | 2009 Cincinnati Depth Chart
- 2008 Cincinnati Preview | 2007 Cincinnati Preview
| 2006 Cincinnati Preview 

Head coach: Brian Kelly
3rd year: 22-6
11th year overall: 159-57-2
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 18, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best UC Players
1. WR Mardy Gilyard, Sr.
2. QB Tony Pike, Sr.
3. LT Jeff Linkenbach, Sr.
4. RB John Goebel, Jr.
5. DE Curtis Young, Sr.
6. FS Aaron Webster, Sr.
7. CB Marcus Barnett, Jr.
8. RB Isaiah Pead, Sr.
9. LB Andre Revels, Sr.
10. C Chris Jurek, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

2009 Record: 0-0

9/7 at Rutgers
9/12 SE Missouri St
9/19 at Oregon State
9/26 Fresno State
10/3 at Miami Univ.
10/15 at USF
10/24 Louisville
10/31 at Syracuse
11/7 Connecticut
11/13 West Virginia 
11/27 Illinois
12/5 at Pitt

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

2008 Record: 11-

Aug. 28 E. Kentucky W 40-7
Sept. 6 at Oklahoma L 52-26
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 Miami Univ. W 45-20
Sept. 27 at Akron W 17-15
Oct. 3 at Marshall W 33-10
Oct. 11 Rutgers W 13-10
Oct. 25 at Connecticut L 40-16
Oct. 30 South Florida W 24-10
Nov. 8 at W Virginia W 36-23 OT
Nov. 14 at Louisville W 28-20
Nov. 22 Pitt W 28-21
Nov. 29 Syracuse W 30-10
Dec. 6 at Hawaii W 29-24
Orange Bowl
Jan. 1 Virginia Tech L 20-6

Now that Cincinnati has posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history, can it capitalize and keep the momentum going?

These are heady times for the Bearcats, which won the Big East championship, the school’s first outright conference title since 1964. However, that team was clearly built for 2008, brimming with returning starters and getting a stunning six players drafted by the NFL in April. Now that 14 starters have departed, including 10 on defense, Cincy will be trying to avoid slipping back into national anonymity.

The biggest reason to smile around the Queen City is that head coach Brian Kelly continues to be on the sidelines, despite being the target of top-shelf programs following each of the last two seasons. In fact, he recently signed a contract extension designed to keep him around through the 2013 season. He’s been nothing short of a gem for Cincinnati, leading the school to a 22-6 mark and that high-profile appearance in January’s Orange Bowl. He can flat out coach kids up, which is a good thing because most of the region’s brightest talent usually ends up in Columbus.

So where do the Bearcats go from here? The offense should be fine now that QB Tony Pike has developed into a pro prospect and incendiary WR Mardy Gilyard put off the NFL for one more amateur season. This unit won’t have many problems scoring points. This unit better not have many problems scoring points because the defense is a work-in-progress. Gone from last year’s group are all but one starter, four all-stars, and defensive coordinator Joe Tresey. New coordinator Bob Diaco has young talent at his disposal, like DE Derek Wolfe and SS Drew Frey, but it’s going to take time before everything comes together.

Is Cincinnati rebuilding or restocking in 2009? That’ll be answered pretty quickly with a September schedule that includes trips to Rutgers and Oregon State, and a visit from Fresno State. While it’ll be hard to match last year’s success, expecting less from Kelly-coached teams is perennially becoming a humbling sentiment.

What to watch for on offense
: The next stage of QB Tony Pike’s development. Hey, no complaints about Pike’s All-Big East debut as the starter, but he’ll need to step it up this fall and become the catalyst of the entire program. Basically, he’s got to be Ben Mauk-good in order to offset a defense that’s sure to take time to gel. For those who forget, Mauk is the guy, who tossed 31 touchdown passes in 2007 and was near flawless in one of the best seasons by a quarterback in school history. Pike had a habit of feasting on weaker defenses and got exposed by Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He has to elevate this fall and become the pro-caliber hurler that many are predicting.

What to watch for on defense: The results of the myriad position-switchers. The program that relocated former tight end Connor Barwin and helped turn him into an NFL defensive end is at it again. Former fullback Marcus Waugh is battling for a starting job at middle linebacker. Former defensive end Craig Carey has the inside track at strongside linebacker. Former quarterback Demetrius Jones is bucking for playing time at outside linebacker. Former wide receiver Marcus Barnett is in the lead at one of the cornerback openings. If defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is going to excel in his debut, he’ll need these nomads to be quick studies, or else the back seven could be hurting.

The team will be far better if… the defense regroups rather than rebuilds. The offense is going to be a notch better than a year ago, which means progress depends on the development of a defense replacing 10 starters and four all-stars. Cincinnati can probably win a lot of shootouts if it has to, but would prefer not having to play in the 30s week after week. If the defense can remain tough against the run and produce a few more turnovers than a year ago, the Bearcats will be right back in the Big East title hunt. 

The Schedule:
The Bearcats aren't taking it easy with the non-conference schedule with a tough game at Oregon State to go along with interesting home games against Illinois and Fresno State. The Bearcats will be better than Miami University, but that's always an interesting in-state game. There are three road games in a four-game stretch in the middle of the season, but it's helped by an off week and the home game against Louisville. There are four Big East road games, but one of them is at Syracuse while Connecticut and West Virginia are at home. The final kick is tough with the Illinois game coming before a tough trip to Pitt to close things out. 

Best offensive player
: Senior WR Mardy Gilyard. Had he left for the NFL, Gilyard would have been the seventh Bearcat selected in the 2009 NFL Draft. From a spare part in 2007, he mushroomed into one of the nation’s most exciting weapons, catching 81 balls for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns, and adding a pair of touchdowns on kick returns. Instant electricity in a 6-1, 190-pound frame, he’s already being viewed as a possible first-day pick next April. He’s a defense-stretcher, who makes life easier for the rest of his offensive mates.  

Best defensive player: Senior DE Curtis Young. Feel free to insert senior FS Aaron Webster, the lone returning starter on the defense. However, now that Young has a chance to play full-time, the sneaking suspicion is that he’ll emerge as one of the team’s most consistent playmakers. He gets off the line in a hurry, and despite not starting a single game, still produced 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. As an every-down player, who’s being asked to ignite the pass rush, he could double those numbers in 2009.  

Key player to a successful season: Junior CB Marcus Barnett. Of all the hurdles facing Cincinnati this season, none is taller than rebuilding the defensive backfield, specifically the cornerbacks. Barnett has been moved from wide receiver, where he caught 92 balls in two seasons, in an attempt to bolster the position. What began as an experiment in the spring looks as if it’s going to continue through the summer and fall. The 2009 schedule features a lot of quality receivers, so it’s incumbent upon on Barnett to defend passes as well as he caught them in 2007 and 2008.

The season will be a success if ... the Bearcats bowl without having to break a sweat in November. In what could shape up as a semi-rebuilding year in Cincinnati, a fourth consecutive postseason game would be evidence that the program is firmly on the tracks. With a schedule that includes trips to Rutgers, Oregon State, South Florida, and Pittsburgh, and visits from Fresno State, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Illinois, anything more than seven wins would be an achievement.

Key game: Sept. 7 at Rutgers. While it’s not like an opener will dictate what happens the rest of the way for the Bearcats, they are going to learn a lot about themselves right away. With so many new starters on both sides of the ball, Cincinnati doesn’t really know how far it has to travel in order to defend its Big East throne. A trip to Piscataway to face a Scarlet Knight team with title hopes of its own will answer loads of questions for Brian Kelly and his staff.

2008 Fun Stats:
- Kickoff Return Average: Cincinnati 24.2 yards - Opponents 20.2 yards
- Second Quarter Scoring: Cincinnati 119 - Opponents 55
- Fumbles: Cincinnati 30, lost 15 - Opponents 19, lost 5

- 2009 CFN Cincinnati Preview | 2009 Cincinnati Offense
2009 Cincinnati Defense | 2009 Cincinnati Depth Chart
- 2008 Cincinnati Preview | 2007 Cincinnati Preview
| 2006 Cincinnati Preview