Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats quarter of the season report card

As we approach the 5th game of the season for the Bearcats this week against South Florida at Nippert Stadium Bearcat Insider’s Tre Larkins takes a look at each group’s performance so far this season. Check out the grades Tre gives the offense, defense and special teams unit at this point in the season.

Offense C

Let’s start off on the offensive side of the ball. With new offensive coordinator Zac Taylor in the mix he brings a certain level of experience from the NFL the Bearcats desperately needed after losing Eddie Gran to Kentucky. With having lost six receivers to graduation (a couple are currently on NFL rosters), Taylor was depended on to involve a heavy dose of Tion Green and Michael Boone. He’s done just that as the Bearcats have had a balanced attack with the exception of the Houston game where they only gained 30 total rushing yards as an offense. Green and Boone have combined for 474 rushing yards this season compared to last season threw the first four games they had 666 total rushing yards. Take into account last season it was three running back attack with Green, Boone and now graduated Hosey Williams that’s how they gained 192 more total yards at this point. So the running game is just as effective with two backs.

Wide receiver Devin Gray has emerged as the primary option for the Bearcats. The junior receiver has 18 receptions for 331 yards averaging 20.3 yards per catch and 1 touchdown. Gray brings an element to the Bearcats offense similar to McKale McKay last year with his ability to race pass defenders and take the top off opposing defenses. His big plays have helped the offense average 266 yards of passing offense so far this season.

The offensive line is led by center Deyshawn Bond and Ryan Leahy, but currently under preforming, but this is a young group that has the talent to turn it around. Keep an eye on them getting better as the season progresses.

Looking at expectations coming into the season I would say the offense has played well. The only reason I can’t give the Bearcats offense a higher grade is because of the most important position on the field, which is quarterback play. Between Ross Trail and Hayden Moore they have thrown for six interceptions on the season with three coming in the 40-16 lost vs Houston.

Defense B

As we shift to the defensive side of the ball let’s take some things in consideration. Defensively the Bearcats struggled last season giving up a lot of big plays. Co Defensive Coordinators Robert Prunty and Jeff Koonz stressed all off season how the defense was much improved and they were ready to carry this team considering all the young talent on offense. The defense has vastly improved and then some from last season. Through the first four games this unit has given up a combined total of 87 points. Compare that to last season this team gave up 130 points through the first four games. That’s a 43 point difference.

The defensive is going a solid eight deep and the two guys that have been standing out so far is converted defensive end Marquise Copeland and defensive tackle Cortez Broughton. Copeland has 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack so far this this season. Broughton has 13 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, .5 sack and 1 interception.

One of the keys in improving is being able to take the ball away from opposing offenses. The Bearcats have improved vastly in the turnover department with 10 interceptions on the season. Last season they only had 9 interceptions the entire season. They are currently tied in the American Athletic Conference with SMU in the interceptions category. Senior safety Mike Tyson has 3 of those 10 interceptions and is also tied for the lead in interceptions in the AAC with three other players. (Props to new secondary coach Mike Gillhamer)

Old Mr. Reliable, senior linebacker Eric Wilson has averaged 12 tackles per game. Wilson leads the AAC in tackles and has emerged has the heart and soul of this defense. He is the leader and has elevated his play from last season to help aid this Bearcats defense.

As you look at this unit the most impressive stat that stands out has to be their ability to force turnovers. They even forced Heisman candidate Greg Ward into 2 interceptions in the game versus Houston. So, overall the Defense gets a B from me.

Special Teams C

The special teams unit has been solid, but not spectacular so far this season. Between Josh Pasley and Andrew Gantz they have combined to go 4 of 6 on field goals. Gantz, who was out the two of the first four weeks, he has produced 6-6 on PATs and 2-2 on field goals when on the field. Pasley, the walk on kicker has gone 5-6 on PATs and 2-4 on field goals.

The kickoff returning team is usually done by committee. The Bearcats have 176 total yards in the kickoff return game with 144 yards coming from Mike Boone. Field position is key when trying to score points so it’s essential for Boone to keep up the solid work returning kicks to put the Bearcats offense in position for success.

Punter Sam Geraci leads the punting team with 747 yards averaging 42 yards per punt.


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