Cincinnati ended a fine 10-3 season in 2012 with a 48-34 come from behind win over Duke in the Belk Bowl. The Bearcats opened spring practice last Friday, March 1, under new head coach Tommy Tuberville. Chris Baines of the Cincinnati blog Bearcats Nation breaks down the Bearcats for us in our Cincinnati 2013 spring preview.
Cincinnati certainly outperformed my expectations. After losing their starting quarterback, runningback, middle linebacker, and seeing two senior defensive tackles leave for the NFL after the 2011 season, I figured the Bearcats might take a step backward.
After a 10 – 3 campaign in 2011 I thought the Bearcats might go 8 – 4 in 2012 with all of the turnover they experienced in the offseason. But they did even better, winning 9 games and beating Duke in the Belk Bowl. It was a great season!
On offense Cincinnati’s biggest strength is the offensive line. A position group that was 2nd in the Big East allowing just 15 sacks in 2012 returns every single player on that unit next season. This is especially encouraging considering UC will have a brand new coaching staff next year. Sure they’ll have to deal with learning new schemes but at least we have the confidence knowing this is a veteran group as opposed to a relatively new crop of linemen.
On defense the Bearcats boast an extremely experienced unit in the linebacking corps. They lose senior Maalik Bomar who has been anchoring the Will LB position for the last three seasons now but return everyone else including All-Big East first teamer Greg Blair as well as Nick Temple. They will also have valuable depth here in former Florida State and #1 ranked linebacker recruit Jeff Luc in addition to veterans Solomon Tentman and Clemente Casseus.
The defensive line has to be called out as one of the biggest Achilles heels for Cincinnati heading into Spring camp. Not only did they underperform last season but that unit lost three senior defensive ends in Walter Stewart, Brandon Mills, and Dan Giordano to graduation.
Plus there are big question marks as to who their replacements will be. On the interior they were definitely feeling the effects of losing two players to the NFL but I didn’t expect them to get manhandled up front as much as they did.
Overall they should be improved next season however the defensive line as a whole will still be the Bearcats’ weakest area.
From a PR perspective UC really couldn’t have done much better than Tommy Tuberville. Just the fact that Cincinnati didn’t go to the MAC-well once more and nabbed a head coach from the Big XII speaks volumes. He brings instant credibility to a Bearcats football program that, while very successful over the past half-decade, is still an afterthought on the national stage. I’d expect ticket sales, donations, and UCats/1200 Club membership to see a sizable bump because of this.
From a pure coaching standpoint I think it’s too early to tell exactly how this will pan out but I’m in the camp that his campaign with Texas Tech doesn’t tell the full picture of who Tuberville is as a coach.
I think the task of following “The Guy” (Mike Leach) put unjust pressure on him and it wore on him over time. Also I don’t believe Tuberville played the style of offense he truly wanted to while in Lubbock. He’s a defensive minded coach who had to give that up to adopt the Air Raid at Texas Tech in order to maintain some semblance of consistency.
Any radical change would have been disastrous because the personnel there was built for that offense. At Cincinnati, where the personnel is more adapted to run-first, ball-control schemes to methodically wear down a defense and simultaneously keep the Bearcats’ own defense fresh, Tuberville should feel more comfortable.
For more Cincinnati football analysis and commentary you can follow Chris on Twitter @Bearcats_Nation.