Can you smell football in the air again Bearcat fans?
So can I and I am very excited about this season of Bearcat Football. I will be with you again this entire season reporting on the state of the Cincinnati football program, giving you my inside analysis about the season and the results. This is my preseason preview which will be the first installment of many this season. So let’s get started.
Last year, the Bearcats finished with nine wins and in any first year of a head coach, that is a great accomplishment. Tommy Tuberville has definitely already proved that his experience and coaching style is a much needed commodity for this program. Continuity is something that the Cats have rarely if never experienced so having a coach that is staying is very refreshing to see. I expect that the year two version of team Tuberville will be fun to watch.
The non conference slate has picked up this year with the likes of Ohio State, Miami (FL) and Toledo on the schedule. This should provide a good reading on how good this team is. I think if there is to be a statement that has to be made; this is the year to do so.
Every season a new team takes the field and we all try to analyze what the strengths and the weaknesses will be and I have identified three areas that I think will be keys to the success of the Bearcats season.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF Gunner Kiel - This is a highly touted and talented QB who has the ability to make every throw with his arm and also make plays with his legs but he has not taken a snap as a Bearcat. I think it needs to be said that this team will go as far as Gunner will take them. If he can play well under pressure and eliminate mistakes, the Cats will be in very good shape. He actually reminds me of Gino Guidugli when he first came to UC, let’s see if he can put up the same kind of numbers.
THE DEFENSE - A cornerstone of the Bearcats success last year, the defense will have to play a big part of the success this year as well. The run defense is going to have to be much more improved as the Cats have to force teams into long yardage situations where they are forced to throw. This will cause more pressure on opposing offenses and hopefully will translate into sacks and/or turnovers. New defensive coordinator Hank Hughes will dial up more pressure and the Cats will have a more aggressive look on defense as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY - The Cats didn’t get much out of its return game or out of the kicking game, which is going to have to change this season. Missed FGs at critical parts of games last year forced the Cats to lose out on scoring opportunities and you never want to take points off the board. If the Cats can get production out of the kicking game, scoring will come easy. The return game is going to have to yield more yards to aid field position for the offense and the bowl game against UNC really exposed issues that need to be addressed in defending against speed on the kickoff team. A lot of teams that the Cats played last year did not have the speed to really test the kickoff team until UNC exposed that weakness.
Those are my keys to the season if the Cats want to not only win the American Athletic Conference but also receive a major bowl bid at the end of the season. I do think that this team has a really good chance to finish again with nine or more wins.
In my next article I will breakdown every opponent on the Cats schedule and give my predictions.
Bob Duckens was a four-year starter (1990-1993) and letter winner for the Bearcats during his career. He returns to Bearcat Insider in 2014 to give his thoughts on the Bearcats, AAC and more in his "On The Nose" segments that will give you updates, previews and reviews on all things UC Football.