NCAA rules allow schools to conduct fifteen practices in the spring. The Bearcats have had only four of those practices this week so a lot can and probably will change in the next three weeks, but here‘s what I saw.
Bearcat Insider interviewed five of UC's twenty-two freshmen recruits this week, and they all are impressive young men. All have had as much success in the classroom as on the football field, but Corey Smith gets the award for most dedicated. I still can't fathom a high school kid taking a bus for 15 hours so he can watch a week of spring football practice. Absolutely amazing!
The quarterback competition has been very fair. All four quarterbacks have received equal attention from QB coach, Dan Enos, and all have gotten significant reps with the first offense. Todd Spitzer has NFL size and maybe even arm strength, but I believe Dustin Grutza and Nick Davilla have taken the lead in the QB sweepstakes to this point. Grutza has shown very good accuracy with his throws, and he's very mobile. But Nick Davilla has looked very good too, and he also moves extremely well. Tony Pike has some excellent skills and will continue to improve.
The fact that Bradley Glatthaar was rated so low as a high school senior by many of the recruiting services is one of the main reasons I don't put much stock in the rankings of recruiting classes. Glatthaar is an absolute bull of a runner, and one of the best with ball security. He also never loses his composure. With Butler Benton being injured and not participating in some of the drills, I thought Bradley was clearly at the top of a deep position, although Delbert Ferguson looked very good Saturday. Mike Daniels provides the Bearcats with some different weapons and brings unique skills to the position.
Cincinnati's receivers are impressive with their size and ability. Three of these guys are listed at 6' 3" (Giddens, Jackson, and Poland), and Derick Ross has done a beautiful job of catching the football this week. Poland and Jackson seem to be growing into their frames with the help of the weightroom. It would be almost impossible to rank these guys on the basis of what I saw this week, but I did not see Jackson or Ross drop a ball. Plus, Carlos Simpson is waiting for his chance to show what he can do.
The offensive line isn't as raw or inexperienced as some think. Eastlake is a proven veteran, but he‘s been held out of some drills this week. Ryan Brown and Matt Webster will be 5th year seniors next year, and both have some game experience. Jeff Reinstatler is a 4th year junior who also has some limited game experience. Digger Bujnoch is the novice, but he does have quite a bit of game experience from playing tight end last season. I think the biggest concern with Digger is his size. He's an excellent athlete, but he doesn't look like a tackle. If he ever grows into those huge feet, he'll be a monster. I don't think fans will see a repeat of last season when only five guys got the majority of the snaps. I expect at least 7-8 guys to play.
Fullback is in the very capable hands of Doug Jones. It's tough to compare anyone to Jones. He's in a class by himself with his size and speed, but Brad Bury needs to supply some depth at the position. As good as Jones plays at fullback, Brent Celek is every bit as solid at tight end. He had a couple drops this week, but overall, he looked like the all-conference tight end he is. Celek is another example of recruiting services missing the mark. He's a talent. Hank Davis will get plenty of competition from the incoming freshmen for the back-up spots.
Defensive line is one of the most inexperienced positions on the team. The one real veteran, Adam Roberts, has changed positions to defensive end. Anthony Hoke got some valuable playing time last year as a true freshman and has looked good this spring, but the defensive tackle position is very inexperienced overall. Jon Newton of Roger Bacon seems to be the frontrunner at one spot, but there's plenty of room for others to earn playing time. Some of the newcomers will compete with Jamie Wimmer, D‘arrell Brown and others for playing time.
Every Bearcat fan was wondering what would happen at linebacker next season since UC lost its top six. Leo Morgan has been extremely aggressive at middle linebacker. At times, he's been almost too aggressive, reminiscent of Antwan Peek's aggressiveness. Kevin McCullough has shown some ability there too. Switching Jon Carpenter from fullback to outside linebacker may be the best move of the spring. Carpenter is tough and smart and would have seen only limited time behind Doug Jones at fullback. He's been solid at linebacker. Lemonte
Nelms is trying to make the switch from DB to LB. He's still learning, but Ryan Manalac has thrown his helmet into the mix and shown some ability. This position could see one of the newcomers on the two deep chart or even as a starter.
Defensive back is actually the most experienced part of the defense.
Cornerbacks John Bowie and Antoine Horton have seen considerable playing time and Dominic Ross and the injured JaJuan Hall shared time at safety last season. Add redshirt freshman, K.L. Smith, to the cornerback position and Haruki Nakamura to safety and you have some very solid DB's. Nakamura has been very impressive with his speed and willingness to hit. Also don't count out converted tailback Terry Arnold from earning playing time.
All the kickers return. Chet Ervin is coming off his best season as the punter, and Kevin Lovell returns from a solid sophomore season. Plus, UC has capable back-ups like Brian Steele, Kevin Huber and Brandon Yingling. To make matters even better, long snapper Patrick Farsing also returns.
Nothing has been decided after week #1 of spring practice, but some frontrunners have emerged.
As I watched practice this week, I was struck by the absence of any profanity from the coaches. They chastise, cajole and yell, but they are also quick to provide encouragement and praise. It's a very enthusiastic group that seems to have a lot of camaraderie.
Is it April 23 yet?