2010 Cincinnati Preview – Offense
Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros
Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros
Posted Jul 5, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Cincinnati Bearcat Offense

Cincinnati Bearcats

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 2010 Cincinnati Preview | 2010 Cincinnati Offense
- 2010 Cincinnati Defense | 2010 Cincinnati Depth Chart
- Cincinnati Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What you need to know: Okay, so you don't get better by losing head coach Brian Kelly and QB Tony Pike, but does anyone think Cincinnati still won't rock on offense? It will, even if the results aren't quite as prolific as a year ago. The ingredients for continued success are clearly in place. Kelly's replacement, Butch Jones, employs a similar spread offense, which means the personnel is already a good fit and the terminology won't be foreign. Oh, and that personnel is fantastic. QB Zach Collaros was a revelation as Pike's backup in 2009 and his supporting cast is loaded with playmakers, like RB Isaiah Pead, WR Armon Binns, and TE Ben Guidugli. Plus, receivers Vidal Hazelton and Marcus Barnett are a couple of imports from USC and the secondary, respectively, with enormous potential. If there's a concern, it surrounds an offensive line that must replace an all-star at center and left tackle. If this group can continue to overachieve, there's no reason ‘Cats can't average 30 points a game once again.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Zach Collaros
93-124, 1,434 yds, 10 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Isaiah Pead
121 carries, 806 yds, 9 TDs
Receiving: Armon Binns
61 catches, 888 yds, 11 TDs

Star of the offense: Senior WR Armon Binns
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LT Sam Griffin
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RG Alex Hoffman
Best pro prospect: Binns
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Binns, 2) Hoffman, 3) Junior QB Zach Collaros
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, skill positions, the guards, passing game, red zone conversions
Weakness of the offense: O-line depth, questions at tackle, third down conversions


Projected Starter: Although they didn't know it at the time, the 2010 Bearcats got a gift when Tony Pike was injured last fall. It allowed 6-0, 209-pound junior Zach Collaros to pick up some valuable experience that's sure to serve him well over the next two years. He was a revelation during a five-game stretch, all Cincy wins, finishing 93-of-124 for 1,434 yards, 10 touchdowns, and two picks. Of equal importance, he rushed for 344 yards and four scores on 57 carries. He was clutch in wins over South Florida and West Virginia, and prolific versus lesser opponents. His combination of athleticism and accurate throws on the mid-range routes is a perfect fit for Butch Jones' spread attack.

Projected Top Reserves: Collaros' backup will be 6-0, 209-pound junior Chazz Anderson, who has seen some spot duty in each of the last two seasons. Every bit as athletic as the starter, he isn't on par as a passer, failing to stack up with his accuracy or his decision-making. While he's not going to win this job in the summer, he's a capable No. 2, with a good knowledge of the system and playmaking tendencies.

The young gun of the bunch is 6-4, 232-pound sophomore Brendon Kay, a key recruit from the 2008 class. He's on the mend from an injury suffered last year, but he'll be ready for the summer and it's not as if he'll be needed in 2010. When healthy, he has the desired blend of arm strength and agility in a tough and thick frame. Although he'll have to wait his turn, the program loves his potential when that time comes.

Watch Out For .... Collaros to pick up where he left off last season. Not only a perfect fit for this attack, but last year's experience will benefit him immensely in 2010. Butch Jones wants a point guard at the position, and Collaros is just the kind of athlete to run the fast break and distribute the ball.
Strength: Dual-threat ability. Collaros and Anderson are both adept at avoid the rush and bolting out of the pocket for a first down. Even more than that, however, they've got the speed and light feet to motivate the staff to open up the playbook and design run-first plays for the quarterbacks.
Weakness: The deep ball. Collaros is like a surgeon on the intermediate stuff, but ask him to go long and his accuracy drops accordingly. In the case of Anderson, the decline is even more precipitous. Pike's arm strength and downfield threat will be hard to duplicate, allowing defenses to adjust accordingly.
Outlook: While it won't be simple replacing a hurler like Pike, Cincinnati has answers. Sure, it's a new year with new challenges, but Collaros was downright brilliant when forced into action last fall. That stint brought a level of confidence and experience that's going to carry over into this season.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Junior Isaiah Pead is on the runway and preparing for national lift-off. He took a big step in the right direction a year ago, flashing his all-purpose potential and knack for making the big play. He led the Bearcats in rushing, going for 806 yards and nine scores on 121 carries, while catching 20 passes for 201 yards and two more scores. A 5-10, 193-pound former high school track star, he accelerates quickly and has the extra gear to get into the secondary in a hurry. Although he's not the type of back you'd expect to carry the ball 25 times every Saturday, he is going to warrant an even bigger role in this year's offense.

Projected Top Reserves: The top backup will once again be 6-1, 213-pound senior John Goebel, a sturdy veteran of the offense and the special teams. A physical, north-south runner, he's lettered in each of the last three years, and is no stranger to the lineup. The Bearcats' best option in short yardage, he earned 12 carries for 41 in 2009, and has some of the most reliable hands as a receiver out of the backfield. It was just two years ago that he turned an opportunity for more snaps into 607 yards and seven scores on 133 carries.

Cincinnati's change-of-pace out of the backfield will be provided by 5-7, 180-pound sophomore Darrin Williams, who carried 17 times for 37 yards a year ago. Tougher than his size might indicate, he has the speed and stop-and-start moves to be a long-ball threat when he gets into the open field. He also has soft hands as a receiver, which will increase his snaps this season, especially on third downs.

Watch Out For .... the backs to do plenty of multi-tasking this season. Assistant Mark Elder demands that his kids do all of the little things well, which means that anyone unable to pass protect, split out wide as a receiver, or protect the ball will see his snaps reduced.
Strength: Versatility. This is all Pead, who can do so many different things for the offense and is explosive with the ball in his hands. He'll run inside, outside, and catch passes in order to advance the ball and keep drives going. He's the kind of do-everything back every school wishes it had.
Weakness: More pop behind Pead. It's not a major issue ... unless Pead goes down. Williams is more of a situational player and Goebel needs to prove 2008 was no fluke after being a complete non-factor in 2008. The decline from No. 1 to No. 2 is something the program hopes it doesn't have to experience in 2010.
Outlook: Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis and West Virginia's Noel Devine will make more Big East headlines, but Pead isn't too far behind on the league pecking order. A dynamite all-around back, he has earned the right to get more than the dozen or so touches a game he had in 2010. Goebel is a dependable backup who'll pick up the slack when No. 23 needs a breather after a long run.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Yes, Cincinnati has its hands full trying to replace superstar Mardy Gilyard, but it can take solace in the returns of its other three top pass-catchers from 2009 and a prized transfer. Leading the way will be 6-3, 200-pound senior Armon Binns, who has the frame and the production to use this year as a launching pad deep into the NFL Draft. Far more than just a complement, he caught 61 passes for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns, making a tremendous target on go-routes. He has long arms and a long stride, often making the spectacular catch appear routine.

Although he sort of got lost in the crowd last season, 6-0, 175-pound junior D.J. Woods quietly pieced together a very nice season as a starter. The team's best weapon out of the slot, he caught 51 passes for 640 yards and four touchdowns, showing outstanding fundamentals and some of the surest hands among the receivers. While he may not match the numbers of the outside guys, he has undeniable value to the Cincinnati offense, especially on third down, when the quarterback is searching for a safety net.

Even though he has yet to catch a pass for the program, absolutely everyone around Cincinnati is excited about the debut of 6-2, 210-pound senior Vidal Hazelton, the high-profile import from USC. A blue-chipper coming out of high school, he's more than just a big body, combining that muscular frame with excellent ball skills and a great feel for the position. In a salary run final season of college eligibility, don't be shocked if he gets out of the gate quickly and earns the confidence of the coaches and quarterbacks.

Senior Ben Guidugli provides the Bearcats with a unique and valuable weapon at tight end. While not to be confused with an intimidating in-line blocker, the 6-0, 237-pounder is more of an H-back, catching a career-high 27 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns. He has soft hands and the athleticism to make difficult catches down the seam. When he gets the wind at his back, he'll attack defenders like a fullback on the loose.

Projected Top Reserves: Welcome back to the offense, Marcus Barnett. After being used at cornerback last year, the 6-2, 174-pound senior returns to the scene of his greatest achievements as a Bearcat. It was two seasons ago that this speedster shocked everyone, including his coaches, by catching 62 passes for 862 yards and 13 touchdowns. While those numbers won't be reachable in 2010, he certainly can be a potent weapon, especially on deep routes.

Behind Hazelton is the similarly-sized senior Jamar Howard, a 6-4, 210-pound senior looking to finish his brief Bearcat career on a high note. The second-year product of College of the Sequoias (Calif.) was pursued by a number of Big Ten schools before deciding on Cincinnati. However, he was quiet in his debut, catching three passes for 50 yards in his debut. Still, the potential exists for him to become a productive part of the rotation.

Helping take an already good situation at tight end to a new level will be 6-4, 244-pound junior Adrien Robinson. In a secondary role a year ago, he flashed playmaking ability, catching 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. If he remains motivated and continues working to get better, he's a pass-catcher who could be playing for a shot at the NFL this time next year.

Watch Out For .... Hazelton. He was a really big deal at one time, but that was four years ago. And he hasn't accomplished much since then. While the potential remains in the clouds, he needs to eliminate the drops from the spring and prove he looks good on more than just paper.
Strength: Talent. Pure and simple, Cincinnati is loaded with playmakers at wide receiver and tight end. There's size, speed, and experience, a combination that'll keep the passing game from experiencing any noticeable drop-off. Heck, how many corps can import a defensive player, who once had a 13-touchdown season?
Weakness: A true-gamebreaker. Gilyard had a knack for picking up yards after the catch, slashing through defenses without being touched. As good as Binns and Woods were a year ago, neither has the world-class speed to bring opponents to their knees the way No. 1 did the last few years.
Outlook: It says a lot about this group that it can lose an all-star in Gilyard and still be among the nation's most dangerous. Binns is next-level, Woods is vastly underrated, and Guidugli is a playmaking tight end. Oh, and if Hazelton, Barnett, or Howard realize their potential, there won't be enough passes to keep everyone happy.
Rating: 8.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: This unit produced four all-stars in 2009, two of whom are back and two of whom are gone. Unfortunately, the Bearcats need reinforcements at the most important positions, center and left tackle. At the pivot, 6-4, 262-pound junior Evan Davis allayed many fears with his play this past offseason. He grabbed control of the opening in the spring, showing a good grasp of the offense and the quickness off the snap to get downfield and make multiple blocks. Yes, he's undersized, but that's by design in the spread offense.

Protecting Zach Collaros' backside—and succeeding Jeff Linkenbach—will be 6-4, 275-pound senior Sam Griffin. He's coming off a breakthrough season, starting for the first time on the right side of the line. Fitting the mold of the ideal lineman in Cincinnati, he has long arms and light feet, and slides nicely down the line. Switching positions presents a challenge, but the staff believes he's up to it.

Taking Griffin's old spot at right tackle will be 6-4, 304-pound senior C.J. Cobb, provided he can stay healthy. He's had injury issues, most recently breaking his ankle and requiring surgery in April. A two-time letterwinner, he's ferocious at the point of attack, bringing a dose of size and physicality to a line built mostly on finesse. The Bearcats need him to be at full-strength by the time summer drills begin.

Both of last year's guards finished the season on the All-Big East second team. Junior Alex Hoffman has a tremendous future, especially now that he's laid such a solid ground floor to his career. A top recruit by Brian Kelly's staff, he moves very well for a 6-5, 293-pounder and has the pass protection skills of a tackle. As he refines his technique and leverage, he'll have a shot to be one of the league's premier blockers.

Over on the right side, 6-4, 290-pound senior Jason Kelce is back for his third season as a starter. A one-time walk-on linebacker, he's been a pillar at guard, using an explosive first step to get out of the blocks and out to the second level in a hurry. A self-made all-star, he's earned every snap he's gotten and now has an outside shot of continuing his playing career in the NFL.

Projected Top Reserves: The closest thing to a veteran on the second unit is 6-1, 277-pound junior Randy Martinez, who appeared in five games during the first half of 2009. A former defensive lineman and prep wrestler, he uses his hands extremely well and plays faster than most interior blockers. He'll backup Davis at center and can also play some guard.

While he only played in four blowouts a year ago, the program remains excited about the future of 6-8, 296-pound sophomore Sean Hooey. The likely successor at left tackle in 2011, he's bulked up considerably since arriving, yet has maintained the balance and foot speed that portend a bright future as a blindside pass protector.

Watch Out For .... Davis to not skip a beat at center. All of these Bearcat linemen are well-coached, and if the spring session was a fair barometer, the junior will have enough athleticism and maturity to handle the promotion with few setbacks.
Strength: The guards. Quick, name a program in the country that has two returning all-stars at guard. There aren't many, which puts Hoffman and Kelce in unique company, and Cincinnati in great shape at the position.
Weakness: Depth. The Bearcats are going to be painfully young beyond the first unit, an issue that could surface as the season develops and bumps and bruises begin to mount. Martinez has the most experience among the backups, yet played in just a handful of games in 2009.
Outlook: A step backwards almost seems inevitable after losing Linkenbach and Jurek, but how far remains an unknown. There's a good core in place and Davis looks as if he's ready to solidify the middle. The senior tackles have to step up, and it's vital that the overall depth doesn't get tested too early.
Rating: 6.5

- 2010 Cincinnati Preview | 2010 Cincinnati Offense
- 2010 Cincinnati Defense | 2010 Cincinnati Depth Chart
- Cincinnati Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006