A Way-Too-Early Look at the Cincinnati Bearcats 2012 Depth Chart

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The 2011 season is over but it’s never too early to take a quick look at the two-deep heading into the 2012 season. Heck, just a day after March Madness ends you’ll read tons of predictions of the following year’s Big Dance right down to seed of each team. So yea, this isn’t as unorthodox as it sounds.

The Bearcats lost 21 seniors at the closure of the 2011 season. UC will have to replace important cogs to the 2011 championship team like Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, Alex Hoffman, J.K. Schaffer, and Derek Wolfe. The good news about the 2012 season is that Cincinnati’s depth problems should be behind them. Brian Kelly’s attrition-filled 2009 class that has haunted this team for three years should be overcome by the two incredible classes (2011, 2012) brought in by Butch Jones. Some freshman from the 2011 class like Nick Temple and Ralph David Abernathy had significant playing time last year and will get more reps next season. It’s too early to tell how many players out of the 2012 class will play next season outside of Bennie Coney who I believe will compete for the starting quarterback position. But as of now, here’s how the 2012 depth chart will probably shape out before the beginning of next season:

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Munchie Legaux, Bennie Coney/Patrick Coyne/Trenton Norvell

Runningback: George Winn, Jameel Poteat, Ralph David Abernathy/Akise Teague

Right Offensive Tackle: Eric Lefeld, Kevin Schloemer

Right Offensive Guard: Austin Bujnoch, Sam Longo

Center: Dan Sprague, Daniel Murray

Left Offensive Guard: Andre Cureton, Sean McClellan

Left Offensive Tackle: Sean Hooey, Cory Keebler

Tight End: Travis Kelce, Blake Annen

X Receiver: Kenbrell Thompkins, Dyjuan Lewis

Y/Slot Receiver: Anthony McClung, Chris Moore

Z Receiver: Alex Chisum, Damon Julian

DEFENSE

Right Defensive End: Dan Giordano, Steve Hancock/Brad Harrah

Nose Guard: Jordan Stepp, Brandon Mitchell

Defensive Tackle: Camaron Beard, Roney Lozano

Left Defensive End: Walter Stewart, Brandon Mills

Weakside (WILL) Linebacker: Maalik Bomar, Clemente Cassius

Middle (MIKE) Linebacker: Solomon Tentman, Dwight Jackson

Strongside (SAM) Linebacker: Nick Temple, Corey Mason

Field Corner: Cameron Cheatham, Adrian Witty

Nickel Safety: Chris Williams, Rueben Johnson

Strong Safety: Drew Frey, Arryn Chenault

Free Safety: Pat Lambert, Malcolm Murray/Marcus Foster

Boundary Corner: Deven Drane, Dominique Battle

SPECIAL TEAMS

Place Kicker: Tony Miliano, A.J. Fleak

Punter: Pat O’Donnell, John Lloyd

Kick Returner: Ralph David Abernathy, Akise Teague

Punt Returner: Danny Milligan/Dyjuan Lewis/Ralph David Abernathy

Some players on the two-deep are no-brainers like holdovers from the 2011 season like Austin Bujnoch at right guard and Pat O’Donnell at punter. As a rule of thumb, non-seniors who started at their position in 2011 are about 99% assured of starting in that same position in 2012. But other positions like quarterback and along the defensive line aren’t as clear cut with all of the graduating seniors there. That’s what I’ll talk about now:

– QB-1 is going to be Munchie Legaux. He was the backup in 2011 and will be the frontrunner in 2012. But behind him will be a three-horse race for the backup job between redshirt freshman Patrick Coyne and true freshmen Bennie Coney and Trenton Norvell. In my mind, Jordan Luallen will have to work a TON on his mechanics and the spread offense before he gets a look at the backup role. I’ll get into more details about this position after signing day.

– The runningback position is very similar to the quarterback position in that Cincinnati will be searching for a replacement to Isaiah Pead. George Winn should be the front runner there but he could easily be sharing time with Jameel Poteat, Ralph David Abernathy, Akise Teague, or any of the incoming freshman for that matter. It’s just too early to say.

– Wide receiver should be the strongest of all the skill positions with veterans Kenbrell Thompkins and Anthony McClung leading the way. I expect Alex Chisum to line up opposite of Thompkins in 2012 and have a good season. There is also depth here with guys that could easily step in if the starters go down.

– I’m confident in Don Mahoney after the work he did with the offensive line in 2011. With guys like Sean Hooey and Austin Bujnoch returning along with Eric LeFeld who played pretty well last season, the 2012 group should be a good unit despite being thin depth-wise on the interior.

– Along the defense line, the starting and backup ends should look much the same as it did in 2011 with just about everyone returning. The tackle position will take a step back in 2012, however. It only makes sense as replacing two 300 lbs DTs is never easy. Jordan Stepp took some snaps at nose guard last season and Camaron Beard also played some at defensive tackle. I expect both of them to be starters next year with redshirt freshman Brandon Mitchell pushing for playing time.

– The linebacking corps will without a doubt miss J.K. Schaffer but it will return Maalik Bomar and Nick Temple who will be starters in 2012. I think Solomon Tentman will finally get solid playing time at MLB. The backups will again be young but at least Dwight Jackson and Clemente Cassius got some experience in 2011.

– The secondary will be the best Cincinnati has seen in years. Deven Drane has become a shutdown corner and Cameron Cheatham progressed nicely as the 2011 campaign wore on. Backing them up will be Dominique Battle who is a veteran of the squad and Adrian Witty who saw the field on special teams. The cornerbacks should be a good unit. At strong safety, Drew Frey (much maligned by yours truly) actually looked VERY good near the end of the year. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he has a good senior season. The Bearcats will have to replace the experience and intelligence of Wes Richardson at free safety but guys Malcolm Murray and Marcus Foster should compete for playing time, although I think the staff will make Pat Lambert the starting FS to begin the season.

There you have it, a quick look at what next season’s two-deep will look like at this point in the year. Like I mentioned it’s WAY too early to lock any of this in stone but please feel free to rip me a new one in August if this changes. Go ahead, I know you want to.