Bearcats True Freshman Stepping Up in the First Half

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This past offseason Coach Butch Jones reiterated the fact that the Bearcats would have more depth this season but it would not be quite where he wants the program to be (see: BK’s 2009 recruiting class). In that same vein, he alluded to the idea of wanting to play 8 – 9 true freshman this fall as he believed they would push for immediate playing time. This shouldn’t alarm anyone as even the most established programs in the country start true freshman. This season Ohio State is starting Braxton Miller as their quarterback and in 2010 Auburn started Michael Dyer who ran for over 1,000 yards for the National Champs. So while starting true freshman is somewhat a testament to some lack of depth in the program, it is by no means unusual in college football.

The Bearcats have gotten a lot of true freshman involved this season. It’s always one of my favorite things to look for each year, watching those highly rated prospects sporting their new red and black jerseys with ‘Cincinnati’ written across the chest. The most I’ve watched them play until then is five or six minutes of grainy video from a high school game so it’s nice to see them play live. It’s even especially exciting now that Coach Jones is pulling in some of the highest rated recruits to ever sign with UC. It really is no wonder why these kids are getting so much playing time- They’re just that good. Today I wanted to highlight a few of them as they’ve been absolutely killing it so far this year.

Nick Temple

The former Warren Central Warrior came to Cincinnati as a run stuffing bowling ball who also could also cover running backs and tight ends across the middle of the field. Temple began the year as Maryland transfer Ben Pooler’s backup at the SAM linebacker position. As the season progressed, the young talent has pushed the vet for playing time, warranting the coaching staff to place the signature ‘-or-‘ next to his name on the depth chart indicating they would split reps in games. This change is intriguing for two reasons, both of which are beneficial to Cincinnati and in no way diminishes Ben Pooler’s talents. First, Temple is showing that he is an FBS caliber linebacker, commanding so many minutes at such a young age. It also indicates that his future, and UC’s linebacker corp for that matter, is very bright. Secondly, Pooler is the Cashmere Wright of the football team in that his knees have been constantly nagging him throughout his career. It’s a great thing that the coaching staff knows that his ‘backup’ can slide into his place to give his knees a rest and the defense won’t miss a beat. Temple has already notched 15 total tackles this year which is good for third best among the linebackers and even recorded his first TFL last week against South Florida in his second start of the year. With both Schaffer and Pooler graduating after this season, Temple and Bomar will have to be the anchors at the linebacker position that will be very young next year.

Alex Chisum

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ9KsqL84cU]Yep, I think that video tells you everything you need to know about Mr. Chisum. But because I like to write, I’m going to tell you about him anyways. Chisum comes from Sandy Creek High School in Georgia, the same program that produced Calvin Johnson. Even better than that, Chisum actually broke Johnson’s receiving yards record among others while at Sandy Creek. Now at Cincinnati, the tall wide receiver is getting more and more comfortable in this offense making plays like you’ve saw above. The most encouraging part about this is that now Cincinnati has yet another threat on offense. Most schools struggle to find 3 or even 2 playmakers. The Bearcats have a legit 5. Also, in 4 WR sets, Chisum and Thompkins can play the outside with Woods and McClung on the inside. All four would be at their most natural positions giving this coaching staff more confidence in opening up the offense. Chisum himself is already fourth among the receivers with 176 yards through the air. Look for those numbers to go up quickly in the coming weeks.

Ralph David Abernathy IV

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sdx-E1GDxYM]Abernathy has been a mainstay on special teams since training camp. It was theorized by many (me) that Akise Teague would take that majority of snaps at returner. But a nagging injury kept him sidelined through most of camp and Abernathy stepped in with terrific results. He made headlines breaking out the first play of the 2011 season for a 60 yard return against Austin Peay. A natural scat back in high school, Abernathy has a nice blend of front end speed and quick feet to evade tacklers. Most importantly, he has the vision to see the smallest of seams made by his blockers and the agility to burst through them before they close. That is how he’s been able to return kicks at a rate of almost 25 yards per carry and is always about one or two blocks from taking it to the house. He brings the kind of explosiveness that the Bearcats has missed since Mardy Gilyard graduated and took the #1 ranked return game with him. It’s waaaay too early to don him the second coming of Mardy but all signs point to a couple return touchdowns sometime this year and a more explosive return game while Abernathy is a Bearcat.

Tony Miliano

Ok, he’s not a true freshman but with Miliano redshirting last year and taking over for the always reliable Jake Rogers at place kicker this season, you can’t get much greener than that. He had an inauspicious start to his career shanking the first kick as a Bearcat, which also happened to be an extra point. But he’s done pretty solid since then hitting 30 of 33 extra points. On field goals, Miliano has also performed admirably nailing about 73% of his kicks. But I always felt he never had to face the pressure cooker that all kickers inevitably go through because Cincinnati was either blowing out teams (AP, Akron, Miami) or getting blown out themselves (Tennessee). That changed for me when Miliano nailed a 21 yarder late in the Louisville game to put Cincinnati up by two scores. It wasn’t the longest of field goals but it came at one of the most critical times. He also crushed a 43 yard bomb just a few drives after missing a shorter one, which tells me that he has the poise to bounce back after a bad kick. If Miliano can improve his kickoff abilities, Cincinnati will be set at kicker for the coming years.

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Tags: Alex Chisum Anthony McClung Bearcats Bearcats Football Ben Pooler Coach Butch Jones Coach Jones D.J. Woods Freshman Iv Kenbrell Thompkins Nick Temple Ralph David Abernathy Tony Miliano True Freshman UC Recruiting Warren Central

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