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Old 05-05-2010, 09:51 AM   #1
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Cincinnati Spring Wrap (Brian Bennett - ESPN)

2009 overall record: 12-1

2009 conference record: 7-0, first in Big East

Returning starters

Offense: 8. Defense: 6. Punter/kicker: 1

Top returners

WR Armon Binns, QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead, TE Ben Guidugli, DT Derek Wolfe, LB JK Schaffer, WR D.J. Woods, LB Walter Stewart

Key losses

QB Tony Pike, WR Mardy Gilyard, OT Jeff Linkenbach, S Aaron Webster, DE Alex Daniels, DE Ricardo Mathews, LB Andre Revels

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Isaiah Pead* (806 yards)
Passing: Tony Pike (2,520 yards)
Receiving: Mardy Gilyard (1,191 yards)
Tackles: Andre Revels (108)
Sacks: Alex Daniels (8.5)
Interceptions: Aaron Webster (4)

Spring answers

1. Loaded with skill: New coach Butch Jones said running back Isaiah Pead was a model of consistency, and speedster Darrin Williams had a standout spring to give the Bearcats another weapon in the backfield. Receiver is stacked with Armon Binns, D.J. Woods, USC transfer Vidal Hazelton and junior-college import Kenbrell Thompkins. Ben Guidugli leads a talented tight end group. Everywhere you look, Cincinnati is loaded at the skill spots.

2. Center of attention: Evan Davis was a bit of a question mark coming into the spring while trying to replace Chris Jurek at center. Davis performed well enough to erase those questions. Cincinnati offensive line as a whole got banged up a bit, but the same five who were starting before spring were there atop the post-spring depth chart.

3. Zach is back: Jones waited until after the spring game to name Zach Collaros his starting quarterback, though there was little suspense about that formality. Still, Collaros had to prove he could master a new offense and go through his progressions instead of just taking off and running. Jones liked Collaros' development throughout the spring, and now the quarterback will try to build on his breakthrough 2009 campaign.

Fall questions

1. Defensive depth: Once again, the Bearcats face questions about their defense after losing five high-level starters. The first string is solid, but the defense needs more depth, especially up front on the defensive line as it transitions back to the 4-3. Derek Wolfe is an anchor in the middle; Cincinnati needs more guys like him.

2. Secondary competition: Jones mixed and matched his corners and safeties this spring, and he said the competition will be fierce as the team heads into fall. Expect a real fight at cornerback, where Dominique Battle and Camerron Cheatham try to hold onto their pre-spring starting status.

3. Can the magic continue? Cincinnati's players appeared to embrace Jones and his staff's new way of doing things. Yet there's no denying that Jones faces a tough task in following three-time Big East coach of the year Brian Kelly. The Bearcats have a tough schedule, playing at Fresno State, at NC State and against Oklahoma in the first four weeks, and they'll have a huge target on their backs in the Big East after winning the league two straight years. Can Jones keep the good times rolling, and will the players stay hungry for more success?

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Old 05-05-2010, 10:31 AM   #2
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I am not worried about some of the graduating players, but others...
Obviously losing Pike and Mardy hurt as does losing Revels, but the losses on D-Line and Linkenbach have me more worried.

Zach, Binns, DJ, Pead and company will be fine, if the O-line protects the QB and opens up holes. I know that is a blanket statement about any football team, but I have a lot of confidence in the skill position players. Jeff L has been a leader on the line and his loss could be disruptive.

We have a rotation of the defensive side, but losing two starters is never easy. I hope there is progression in the underclassmen as the opponents will look to tae advantage of young secondary.

Overall, I like our outlook for the upcoming season. Another Big Championship and BCS Bowl appearance will not be an easy task, but it is attainable.
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