2009 Cincinnati Bearcats Football Preview
2008 Record: (11-3, 6-1)
2008 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (L 7-20)
Coach: Brian Kelly (21-6 at Cincinnati, 159-57-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Quinn
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Diaco
Other Key Returnees: WR Marcus Barnett, C Chris Jurek, OT Jeff Linkenbach, LB Andre Revels
Key Losses: DE Connor Barwin, DT Terrill Byrd, G Trevor Canfield, LB Torry Cornett, RB John Goebel, WR Dominick Goodman, DT Adam Hoppel, LB Ryan Manalac, CB Mike Mickens, DE Lamonte Nelms, LB Corey Smith, CB DeAngelo Smith, S Brandon Underwood
Some may say that Cincinnati took advantage of a weak Big East and waltzed into a BCS game. However, the Bearcats pulled off some tough games, like at West Virginia and at Louisville. If any team in the Big East can win against the Mountaineers and the Cardinals on the road, they deserve a Big East title. Coach Brian Kelly is just heading into his third year at the helm and the good times should continue to roll.
There will not be a quarterback controversy this year for the Bearcats. Tony Pike was among a group of possible quarterbacks heading into the 2008 campaign, but he stepped up and became the go-to-guy. Pike threw for 2,407 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season and should be in for a good senior season. Pike will occasionally force passes and his completion percentage and interception rate could be better. And for his senior season, they probably will be better. With the return of Marshawn Gilyard, Pike has a quality receiver to work with. Gilyard, who is also one of the most dynamic kickoff returners in the nation, caught 81 passes for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Dominick Goodman will be missed and it will be important for other receivers to step up so the opposition cannot simply focus on stopping Gilyard.
Ten starters are gone from a defense that occasionally struggled. Linebacker Ryan Manalac was a tackling machine and Connor Barwin caused nightmares for the opposing quarterback. The secondary was full of quality players like Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith and now they are all gone. Since the personnel is changing so much, it is not a bad time to change the scheme. New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will employ a 3-4 defense and is making plenty of other changes. The best returning defender is safety Aaron Webster and other players like defensive end Curtis Young have to step up and take over a bigger role. Diaco will look to some odd places to fill out his defense. Former quarterback Demetrius Jones is being moved to linebacker and former wide receiver Marcus Barnett could be starting at cornerback.
The Bottom Line for the UC Bearcats:
The offense should be in good hands, but Coach Kelly needs a more consistent running game if the offense is going to be good enough to cover for the defense while they retool. Jacob Ramsey is back after leading the team with 664 rushing yards. It was the now departed John Goebel who finished drives and tallied seven touchdowns. Sophomore running back Isaiah Pead is the more interesting option. He only carried the ball 30 times as a freshman, but his spring went well and he could be the difference maker this team needs in the backfield.
By Joel Welser
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