In a little less than eight hours, the Bearcats will kickoff the 2012 season as they welcome a beat-up Pittsburgh squad to Nippert Stadium. Pitt, who lost their home opener just five days ago to Youngstown State, is now under the direction of former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.
It was an interesting outcome for the Panthers because of not only who their opponent was, but also the personnel they still have on offense. Chryst’s run-heavy offense which is making the move from Madison to Pitt is led by seniors Tino Sunseri and Ray Graham. Graham a preseason pick for offensive-player of the year in the BIG EAST still looked hampered by his injury, which ended his 2011 season.
Cincy fans were excited to see Pitt lose on Saturday, but this is a team that is determined to show the nation a different game this week. So, Bearcat fans who are chalking up a win tonight, in the words of Lee Corso I have to say, not so fast my friend! The Panther have what what UC does not have, a game under their belt.
This is a very interesting contest for the red and black because of the key losses from last season. What’s it going to be like looking at a backfield without Isaiah Pead standing it? Is Munchie Legaux going to be able to make the key plays late in games that Zach Collaros did? With no J.K. Schaffer leading the linebacking core, who will step up and be that lead tackler on defense? A pass rush is important, so will the losses of Derek Wolfe and John Hughes be bigger than expected?
The answers to these questions may not be answered in full tonight, but the measurement of talent head coach Butch Jones has this season will be recognized.
Legaux had his time last season before the Liberty Bowl and showed off some of his skills, which allowed him to earn the starting job this season. A good runner when the play breaks down and a good runner when it is part of a designed play, Legaux’s arm and accuracy is what we are looking to see improvement in tonight. His throwing motion isn’t pretty at all times, but with a more spread-type offense in place this season look for Jones to put Legaux’s arm in simple situations.
Isaiah Pead is gone to NFL and we have to live with it. Now, more of a running back by committee design will have to make up for the plays that the St. Louis Rams running back provided last season. Senior George Winn is a good looking back and has more size than what Bearcat fans were used to seeing in Pead. Winn is not the spead back that Pead was, but instead will be focusing on power-running between the tackles. Coveted recruit Jameel Poteat is now a sophomore, electrifying Ralph David Abernathy IV will be incorporated in the offense more, and freshman Deionte Buckley looked good in camp this summer. All have been mentioned to to be in the mix for carries this season with Abernathy also mentioned to be in the passing game. Look for Winn to carry the load most of the night as he had success last season, but I believe Abernathy and Poteat will break out at some point this season.
As for the defense goes, the Bearcats should pick up right where they left off last season. Wolfe and Hughes may be gone, but senior Walter Stewart is going to be the man taking down opposing quarterbacks this season. Stewart is the leader of the defense according to Jones and is the top NFL prospect on UC’s defense. At linebacker Solomon Tentman and Greg Blair will attempt to fill the void left by Schaffer. Both looked good in camp according to Jones. Defensive backs Deven Drane, Camerron Cheatham and Drew Frey have experience and should control opponents passing game.
Kickoff tonight is slated for 8:00 PM on ESPN.
Topics: Alex Chisum, Anthony McClung, Big East, Butch Jones, Camerron Cheatham, Cincinnati Bearcats Football, Deionte Buckley, Derek Wolfe, Deven Drane, Drew Frey, George Winn, Greg Blair, Isaiah Pead, J.K. Schaffer, Jameel Poteat, John Hughes, Kenbrell Thompkins, Leviticus Payne, Munchie Legaux, Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh, Ralph David Abernathy IV, Ray Graham, Solomon Tentman, Tino Sunseri, Walter Stewart, Zach Collaros