#71 Cincinnati Football 2016 Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats
Overall Rank: #71
#5 American
The 2015 campaign was supposed to be a big one for Cincinnati, but it turned into a 7-6 year that culminated with a 42-7 loss to San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl. The Bearcats made a lot of mistakes last year and that cost them games. This team still has talent and probably more depth than they had in 2015, but turnovers and penalties could haunt them again in 2016.
2015 Record: 7-6, 4-4
2015 Bowl: Hawaii Bowl vs. San Diego State (L 7-42)
Coach: Tommy Tuberville (25-14 at Cincinnati, 155-91 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Zac Taylor
Defensive Coordinator: Robert Prunty
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mike Boone, RB, 749 yards
Passing: Gunner Kiel, QB, 2,777 yards
Receiving: Nate Cole, WR, 262 yards
Tackles: Eric Wilson, LB, 106
Sacks: Sione Tongamoa, DT, 3.0
Interceptions: Zach Edwards, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Tion Green, QB Hayden Moore, OL Ryan Leahy, OL Deyshawn Bond, LB Bryce Jenkinson, K Andrew Gantz
Key Losses: RB Hosey Williams, WR Shaq Washington, WR Chris Moore, WR Max Morrison, WR Mekale McKay, OL Parker Ehinger, DL Silverberry Mouhon, LB Kevin Brown
Cincinnati ranked sixth in the nation in total offense, gaining an impressive 537.8 yards per game. Quarterback Gunner Kiel is back to lead what should again be a very explosive offense. Kiel split time with Hayden Moore last year, but it is Kiel who is the better quarterback when healthy and out of Coach Tommy Tuberville’s doghouse. Kiel threw for 2,777 yards and 19 touchdowns, while Moore added 1,885 yards and nine touchdowns. At the least, Cincinnati has two solid quarterbacks. The Bearcats also have a stronger offensive line this year, led by Ryan Leahy and Deyshawn Bond. That should help Kiel and running backs Mike Boone and Tion Green. Boone is the more explosive back, rushing for 749 yards and nine touchdowns on just 104 carries. Green added 729 yards and eight scores. Cincinnati gets a lot of attention for their passing game, but if Boone and Green get a bulk of the carries, the Bearcats should have two 1,000 yard rushers.
For the fourth straight year, Cincinnati has a new defensive coordinator. The latest is Robert Prunty, although Coach Tuberville will likely take over much of the defensive workings on game days. Regardless, this is a defense that improved quite a bit last season, although they still allowed 31.2 points per game. The big loss is Silverberry Mouhon, who led the team with 4.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles-for-loss during his senior season. This team had a lot of trouble getting to the quarterback with Mouhon, so it could get even worse without him. Tackles Alex Pace and Cortez Broughton are solid pieces to build around, but somebody needs to get to the quarterback. Junior Mark Wilson is the most likely option. Linebacker Eric Wilson will again be the leader of the defense after tallying a team high 106 tackles. Bryce Jenkinson had a very promising freshman campaign with 59 tackles and he could be in for a big year at the middle linebacker spot. The secondary is led by safety Zach Edwards, who was second on the team with 94 tackles and picked off three passes.
The Bottom Line:
One potential problem area for the Bearcats is at wide receiver where the top six pass catchers are gone. And that list includes some great receivers, most notably Shaq Washington who caught 90 passes for 982 yards and six scores during his senior campaign. Nate Cole, who caught 19 passes for 262 yards, is the team’s top returning option. The pressure will be on players like junior college transfer Devin Gray to immediately be productive. Cincinnati has a couple tough conference games early in the year at home against Houston and South Florida. If they can get past those two, the Bearcats will be competing for an AAC title. If not, it could be another 7-6 type of season.
Projected Bowl: Birmingham Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 177.9 (57th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 359.9 (6, 1)
Total Offense: 537.8 (6, 1)
Scoring Offense: 33.8 (38, 5)
Rushing Defense: 191.6 (90, 9)
Pass Defense: 217.0 (58, 3)
Total Defense: 408.6 (78, 8)
Scoring Defense: 31.2 (91, 8)
Turnover Margin: -1.46 (124, 11)
Sacks: 1.00 (124, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (58, 6)


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