#66 Cincinnati Football Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats

Overall Rank: #66
#5 Big East

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2010 Record: (4-8, 2-5)
2010 Bowl: none
Coach: Butch Jones (4-8 at Cincinnati, 31-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Bajakian
Defensive Coordinator: Tim Banks and Jon Jancek

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Isaiah Pead, RB, 1,029 yards
Passing: Zach Collaros, QB, 2,902 yards
Receiving: D.J. Woods, WR, 898 yards
Tackles: J.K. Schaffer, LB, 111
Sacks: Brandon Mills, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Drew Frey, S, 2; Wesley Richardson, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: LB Maalik Bomar, CB Camerron Cheatham, DE Dan Giordano, OT Alex Hoffman, DT John Hughes, CB Reuben Johnson, G Randy Martinez, LB Walter Stewart, DT Derek Wolfe

Key Losses: WR Marcus Barnett, WR Armon Binns, OT C.J. Cobb, OT Sam Griffin, TE Ben Guidugli, C Jason Kelce, K Jacob Rogers

Zach Collaros could put up some great numbers for Cincinnati this year. The senior quarterback was plagued with poor decision making last year and that was one reason for the Bearcats disappointing 2010 campaign. Collaros did throw for 2,902 yards and 26 touchdowns in Coach Butch Jones’ pass first offense, but his 14 interceptions were a big problem.

Even with the loss of quite a few starters on offense, this team can again lead the Big East in total offense and scoring. Receiver Armon Binns is gone, but D.J. Wood is ready to step up his game. Junior college transfer Kenbrell Thompkins will be a fine secondary receiver or could even emerge as Collaros’ main target. The Bearcats have plenty of other receiving options as well with plenty of youngsters like Dyjuan Lewis and Shaq Washington battling for playing time. Running back Isaiah Pead has been a great change of pace when Cincinnati wants to hit the ground. He only tallied 157 carries last year, but he averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Pead gives the Bearcats a legitimate rusher and that will keep the opposing defense off balance. The key to the offense may end up being the line. They did a decent job last year, but replacing center Jason Kelce will not be easy.

The defense returns just about everybody. That may or may not be a good thing. The Bearcats ranked last in the Big East in scoring defense and second to last in total defense. Stopping the pass was something this group rarely did. A year of experience in the system should help, but how much it helps is the big question. The front four has potential. Walter Stewart will move to an end spot after spending some time at linebacker last season. He will team up with sack leader Brandon Mills to attempt to consistently get into the backfield. Tackle Derek Wolfe is one of the best in the conference. Linebacker J.K. Schaffer should again lead the team in tackles, but he needs some help from the other linebackers. The secondary was pretty bad last year, but the return of corner Dominique Battle from an injury should help fellow corners Reuben Johnson and Camerron Cheatham. Malcolm Murray, a junior college transfer, could step into a starting role at free safety. Thus, the secondary could have two new starters despite returning all four starters from the 2010 season. That could inject some new talent into the unit and at the least will give the group more depth than they had a year ago.

The Bottom Line:
Assuming the defense improves a little bit, Cincinnati should win more than four games this year. Just a little improvement could get the Bearcats to a bowl game. However, things could get even better if Collaros and the rest of the offense can keep the turnovers down. The Bearcats committed a Big East worst 29 turnovers last year and often put a lot of pressure on their bad defense. A little more efficiency on offense and this time could make a little run at the conference crown in a wide open Big East.

Projected Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 156.67 (55th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 260.67 (28, 1)
Total Offense: 417.33 (32, 1)
Scoring Offense: 27.08 (57, 1)
Rushing Defense: 135.42 (39, 4)
Pass Defense: 234.00 (88, 8)
Total Defense: 369.42 (63, 7)
Scoring Defense: 28.00 (68, 8)
Turnover Margin: -1.25 (119, 8)
Sacks: 2.25 (38, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.75 (97, 7)

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