Since we’re a week removed from National Signing Day, we finally have the opportunity to sit back and digest the recruits who have signed on to play for the Bearcats for the next few years. Overall it was a solid class that ranked at about the same spot as the 2012 group. There were headliners like LB Kevin Mouhon and WR Casey Gladney and potential diamonds in the rough in Kimoni Fitz who wasn’t highly rated but notched 15 sacks as a high school senior.
The biggest question now is where do they fit in on the current roster? And which ones will likely see the field early? In all likelihood, Tuberville and his staff are going to redshirt well over half of this class. As they should with incoming freshmen. But some players have a chance to hit the field as first year ‘Cats. To determine which ones we have to first evaluate what Cincinnati has lost between the 2013 and 2014 season, finding the holes if you will, then figure out the incoming players who could alleviate those needs.
The end of the 2013 season saw Brendon Kay leave the program by way of graduation (and hopefully the NFL Draft). In his wake he left a quarterback position with more questions than answers. Will Munchie Legaux return and be 100% healthy? Who between the soon-to-be sophomores Gunner Kiel and Bennie Coney will emerge? Will they perform well enough to earn the starting job or will the coaching staff be forced to go with Legaux?
In short, Cincinnati doesn’t exactly have a stable quarterback position.
As such, it opens up the possibility of JUCO transfer Jarred Evans to step in and assume the starting role for the Bearcats next season. He has a wealth of experience under his belt, albeit at a lower competition level, throwing for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns in ten games at Santa Barbara Community College. Evans has an elongated throwing motion but gets the ball out quick, allowing him to put quite a bit of zip on the football. UC’s coaches have to like that. Plus Evans is already enrolled at Cincinnati and will participate in winter workouts and spring practice. That will only give him a leg up heading into next season. There’s no telling who will win the starting role come late August but as of now I wouldn’t write off the JUCO transfer from earning it.
The Bearcats are absolutely stacked at the wide receiver position. Everyone except for Anthony McClung will be back, returning over 75% of the yards from this unit in 2014. That includes contributions from guys like MeKale McKay, Shaq Washington, Chris Moore, and Max Morrison. The only issue right now is who will throw to them.
Still, there is room for improvement and added depth by way of JUCO transfer Casey Gladney. Now, unlike Evans, he isn’t on campus right now and will join his teammates in the summer. But luckily for Gladney the learning curve isn’t nearly as steep at wide receiver as it is at quarterback. He should be able to pick up Eddie Gran’s playbook fairly quickly. Plus, given his almost inhuman blend of size and speed, Gladney should fight for at least a spot on the two-deep in his first season.
To say Cincinnati is thin on the interior of the defensive line would be an understatement. And I mean that both ways. Not only are the Bearcats lacking depth at defensive tackle (hence UC signing 5-6 in this class) but those on the current roster are relatively small. Only Brandon Mitchell weighs over 300 lbs. So don’t be surprised to see JUCO defensive tackle Hakeem Allonce earn a role with the starters in his first year in Clifton.
The 6’5″ 290 lbs interior lineman has the ability, and most importantly opportunity, to start in what will be he junior year at Cincinnati, challenging players such as Alex Pace and Camaron Beard at the position.
The Bearcats don’t lose a whole lot at the linebacker position but a very important cog in Greg Blair. The good news is that Nick Temple and Jeff Luc return with the latter moving over to middle linebacker, which is a more natural role for him. With the other outside linebacker role vacated, expect Solomon Tentman or Clemente Casseus battle it out for the starting job. Also Northwestern transfer Eric Wilson could be in the mix.
But true freshman Kevin Mouhon could certainly challenge for a position as well. He could honestly be successful in either the inside and outside linebacker role so I’d be curious to see where the coaches place him. As such, add Mouhon to the list of ‘Cats battling it out for the SAM or WILL positions with Tentman, Casseus, and Wilson. He’s not an early enrollee but has more than enough raw skills to see the field as a true freshman. If not the outside, expect the coaches to move him inside and backup Luc. He will have the benefit of getting his feet wet while learning behind a seasoned veteran in #48.
Additionally, keep an eye on JUCO transfer Marcus Tappan out of Glendale Community College. He, like Mouhon, has a nice blend of size and speed except with a year of collegiate experience under his belt. That will give him a slight leg up on the true freshman. I’d expect either Tappan or Mouhon to fight for a spot on the two deep. Will both make it? I don’t know but the battle throughout the 2014 season will be interesting.
After years of pretty solid depth here, all of a sudden Cincinnati is razor thin at the cover corner position. Deven Drane is gone, Trenier Orr is no longer listed on the roster, and Howard Wilder is the only returning senior on the team. The latter will probably start along with Leviticus Payne or Grant Coleman but with just 5 non-safety defensive backs on the roster, there’s a huge opportunity here for a true freshman to earn immediate playing time.
If I were to peg that freshman, it would probably be J.J. Pinckney. He thrived as a wide receiver in high school but also played cornerback at Sylvania Southview. On first look I figured Pinckney would be molded into an outside receiver but the coaches are planning to play him on defense at UC, at least in his first year. So look out for this kid during his first year on campus. He might get on the two-deep as a true freshman and could see the field as well.