Two weeks ago (what took so long, I know), I had the pleasure of speaking with Bearcat Journal’s Tim Adams over the phone. If you don’t know Tim or his fabulous online magazine, let me tell you they are the pinnacle of UC athletics coverage. He and his crack team work tirelessly to bring the most up-to-date information on Bearcats football, basketball, and baseball to their readers. I’m talking more inside coverage than the longtime local media outlet the Cincinnati Enquirer.
So if you haven’t visited Bearcat Journal yet, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to check it out and sign up. I promise it’s well worth your investment.
Anyways, two weeks ago I was able to garner some of Tim’s valuable time to talk UC football. In this first part, we review the 2013 football season, discuss how the team has progressed through spring practice, and briefly preview some players who could emerge as household names in the upcoming season. Part two will drop tomorrow where we switch gears to recruiting, wrapping up the most recent class as well as next year’s crop of players, discuss the NFL Draft, and Tim gives us his prediction for the 2014 season. Think of these columns as a mere taste of what you’ll find at Bearcat Journal.
Chris: During the coaching transition from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones, it appears the players, especially the seniors, didn’t take well to Jones’ coaching style. Did you witness the same reluctance when Tommy Tuberville took over?
Tim: I don’t think so. I think that difficulty that they had with the transition from Kelly to Jones was that Coach Kelly won 33 wins in 3 years. So any departure from the way Kelly did things was going to be met with some resistance. While Jones had success, he didn’t have 33 wins in 3 years. And Butch was a guy who had a lot of ideas and was constantly making changes, trying to improve things. I think that led to a lot of it. Coach Tuberville is much more laid back than Coach Jones was.
Also I think the transition has been easier because current Strength and Conditioning Coach Joe Walker’s lifting philosophy is more in line with the Paul Longo (of the Brian Kelly era). Whereas Dave Lawson (Butch Jones S&C Coach) was a totally different methodology, emphasizing a lot of running and leg work which tired the players quickly. I think the resistance really started in the weight room.
Chris: Overall, a 9-4 record probably wasn’t what most fans anticipated after seeing the full AAC schedule early last year. What’s your take on how the season went?
Tim: I went out on a limb and said they would be 11-1. I really thought that was an achievable goal. One thing I didn’t take into account was the relationship between the new staff and the personnel. When the new staff came in, they didn’t spend a lot of time reviewing what everyone had done the previous year. They really wanted to give the players a fresh start. The negative affect of that is that I don’t think they knew what everyone was strong at and they didn’t realize it until late in the season.
We ran into the situation with the new staff implementing the power blocking/drive blocking as opposed to the zone schemes the team was used to under Jones/Bajakian. I think it occurred during the USF game when they had the epiphany to go back to the spread offense. The team got substantial better after that game. Overall, I think Tommy Tuberville would tell you that they lost some games they probably should have won.
Chris: With extra time to implement his pro-style schemes, do you think we’ll see Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran go all-in with them this season or is the spread here to stay?
Tim: I definitely think we’ll see a continuation of the spread in 2014 because they’ve had success with it. Plus the staff isn’t convinced that with the offensive linemen they have on the roster that they can be that Big Ten type of line. Finally, UC doesn’t have a lot of a depth at tight end or full back. So we’ll see more 3- or 4- WR sets that feed into this team’s strength at receiver.
Chris: It seems Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel has looked sharp in spring practice and looks to be the front runner thus far to step into Brendon Kay’s enormous shoes. Would you predict that he’ll be the starter by game 1 this fall?
Tim: Going into this spring I heard a lot of things about Jarred Evans and I think he has a chance to be a very good college quarterback. But I would give the winner of most of the practices thus far to Gunner Kiel. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising because last year in the Belk Bowl practices, with Brendon Kay so banged up, they used about half of them on Kiel with him taking reps with the first team. He knows the offense and when he’s back there he looks like he knows what he’s doing. By comparison, Jarred Evans at this point is less sure with most of his passes. So I think Gunner Kiel is going to be a starter.
Chris: I’m a little concerned about both lines heading into next season, except for defensive end of course. UC lost basically every single snap at defensive tackle to graduation and depth at offensive line is razor thin. Can you tell me anything to quell my fears?
Tim: I would actually be more worried about the offensive line in 2015 than the upcoming season. Returning is Eric Lefeld who has been one of the most decorated offensive tackles in UC football history and Parker Ehinger, even though is playing guard now, is another experienced lineman who will be back. Also, Corey Keebler is a fifth year senior who will probably be the starter at right tackle, center Deyshawn Bond will be back, Kevin Schloemer who is a fifth year senior will be back, as well as dominic mainello. I also think Ryan leahy is ready to help, tryreec burwell will surprise some people, and Justin murray is a fouth year senior out of Sycamore High School who could fill out their 8-9 man rotation. So the coaches have more wiggle room here than at defensive tackle.
Chris: Who have you seen shine this spring and could become a household name this fall?
Tim: I think Eric Wilson who transferred from Northwestern to Cincinnati at outside linebacker could surprise some people. With the popularity of spread offenses, you need fast linebackers like Nick Temple and Wilson who were both recruited as safeties coming out of high school. It gives UC some flexibility without them having to change their entire personnel package constantly.
Another guy I really like is Mike Tyson. He’s a pretty good sized kid and had several offers coming out of high school. Tyson actually had to leave his senior high school and transfer to Hargrave Military Academy because he was too old. Now he’s 20 years old sophomore who played in nine games as a true freshman and is a big hitter like Antonio Gibson of the early 80’s. Tyson really reminds me of him.
Carter Jacobs is a third guy I would keep my eye on who will be arriving on campus in the summer.