Cincinnati Football: News And Notes From UC’s Spring Practice

Cincinnati Bearcats Spring Practice 2016.
Cincinnati Bearcats Spring Practice 2016. /

For the first time this year, I popped down to the Sheakley Athletics Complex to take in one of Cincinnati’s spring practices. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen this team in person as life reached up with its filthy hand and snatched me away for a few months.

But it seemed like a lifetime of changes had been made to the team since I last checked in. Gone are most of the receivers and the vocal energy from Eddie Gran and Steve Clinkscale. What has replaced them are a slew of fresh faces and the calm guidance of Zac Taylor and Mike Gillhamer. Sure, there was plenty of yelling today. Robert Prunty is still on this coaching staff, after all, but there was a sense of focus and tranquility from the Bearcats.

Perhaps that’s just the kind of environmental change that this team needed to break away from their disappointing 7-6 season en route to a 2016 AAC Championship. Who knows?

Stray Observations

  • I was happy to see Deionte Buckley running with the second/third team offense. He’s truly come full circle as a Bearcat, signing with UC in 2011, transferring away due to lack of playing time to Indiana State, rejoining Cincinnati under new head coach Tommy Tuberville, filling the warm body role with the tight ends, then finally getting into the running back rotation. It’s unclear what kind of reps he’ll earn this Fall but you have to think he’ll see the field, even if it’s only a little bit.
  • Also interesting was the fact that sophomore Marquise Copeland, who started at times at defensive end last season as true freshman, was lining up at defensive tackle today.
  • It’s still early, so let’s not everyone freak out by this, but the wide receiver rotation looks like it’s down to Kahlil Lewis, new JUCO Devin Gray, Tshumbi Johnson, LSU transfer Avery Peterson, Nate Cole, and true freshman Tyrin Summers. For most of today Lewis, Gray, and Johnson ran with the first team while Peterson, Cole, and Summers acted as their backups.
  • For what it’s worth, Gray and Summers look ready for D1 college football right now. Gray ran silky smooth routes and got behind the defense a handful of times while Summers, despite looking like he was wearing oversized pads, found himself wide open at least twice after putting the opposing DB on skates. The latter even had a nice one handed catch as he was turning to get out of bounds. If they’re a part of the rotation by September, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
  • I really liked what I saw from linebackers coach Jeff Koonz. He displayed the numerous qualities you’d like to see from a coach; calm demeanor with the ability to get on players if they got out of line while at the same time teaching them correct way to go about things.
  • Among the interesting formations and plays today, Mike Boone lined up out wide in a four receiver set and Kahlil Lewis was ran on jet sweep twice. It looks like we’re getting a glimpse into some of the wrinkles of Zac Taylor’s offense.
  • Gunner Kiel didn’t participate in basically any drills and I doubt that should be a cause for concern. Instead, Hayden Moore took most of the reps with the first team offense with Ross Trail leading the second team.
  • The first team running back role looks to be a dead heat between Tion Green and Mike Boone with, as mentioned Deionte Buckley as their back up. Redshirt freshmen Taylor Boose and Joshuwa Holloman fill in behind them and, while they’re young, it’s clear that they could be stars at Cincinnati someday.
  • Starting outside linebacker Eric Wilson had a great Jeff Luc-esque interception/forced fumble on Tyler Cogswell. The pass was initially caught by the tight end but Wilson never gave up on the play, ripped the ball out of his hands, and subsequently raced 50 yards to the opposite end zone. Well, I guess if Wilson intends to score some touchdowns this season, practices does make perfect.
  • Finally, it was nice seeing former defensive end Walter Stewart in the house. Now that he’s on Mark Elder’s staff at Eastern Kentucky as the defensive line coach, hopefully we’ll see more of him around campus in the near future.