The first day of practice on the new turf at Nippert Stadium is in the books. With players looking to make statements for playing time and battles between veterans not wanting to be left behind, the 2005 version of the Bearcats made some strides after a slow and sloppy performance at the start of practice.
Under sunny skies and warm temperatures coaches and players looked to work at the pace set during spring drills. Things started good in the first few sessions, but once the offense and defense started some team work things got sloppy on the offensive side of the ball with 3 false starts by the offensive line. Coach Dantonio wasted little time in stopping the practice clock and making all who were in black do several up-downs for the miscues.
After pounding the ground a few times, the offense got their head into the session and things progressed at a strong and fast pace.
While many of the veterans were ready for the pace of practice, you could see several newcomers struggle with the constant drills and pace upheld from start to finish. This is common for any freshmen in his first few days of camp.
As for what the Bearcats showed on this first day is hard to say. Players in shorts and helmets are able to look good until the pads are put on and action goes at 100% contact. But Bearcat Insider has several things to report about Day One.
Quarterbacks: Dustin Grutza looked the part of the starting quarterback today. Todd Spitzer and Nick Davila both got reps during drills and looked good. Davila looks to be in more of a comfort zone as compared to spring practice. David Wess and Dominic Goodman started off working with the special teams but also received a few reps during drills. Wess completed a long pass for a score and look very good. Craig Carey got some time but don't look for the Elder product to fight for playing time this fall.
Running backs: Not much surprise here during drills. Butler Benton was in practice and ready to go. But during early drills didn't run hard to end the play and got some extra up-downs from Coach Hinton. Bradley Glatthaar was the featured back and Delbert Ferguson practiced but wasn't a full go player due to some sort of injury. Freshman Marshwan Gilyard got a few reps in.
Tight Ends: Two new members of the Bearcats saw lots of practice time with the tight ends. Connor Barwin and Kazeem Alli got many reps during the day and while each looked lost from time to time showed their athletic ability. Look for both players to have a chance to earn playing time this fall.
Offensive line: This was the first time we had a chance to catch new offensive linemen Jeff Linkenbach from Sandusky, Ohio. Jeff has great physical size and looks like he will be a steal of a recruit down the road. We also watched as Rodney Pompey worked during the day. Rodney has the size to be a big impact player if he ever makes up his mind to be a dominate player. We also got to watch as Chris Jurek and Steve Gawronski worked during the day. While the play of the offensive line will be a major question during the preseason and season several players look hungry to have the chance to earn starting spots.
Over on the defensive side of the ball several new Bearcats made some plays that stood out. Speed is going to be the factor the Bearcats use this season and several of the new Cats showed ability to get the job done.
Defensive backs: Xenia product Cedric Tolbert got many reps during the day and made several key stops during drills. Wayne product Mike Mickens has the speed needed to play at this level but lacks the weight and thickness many would want to see. But that didn't stop the former Ohio track champion from making a big play when it looked as if he was beat. During one drill Mickens working on cover skills looked to get beat when the receiver he was covering planted and turned back up for the ball. While slipping, Mickens regained his footing and was able to recover in time to knock the ball away from the receiver just as it arrived. Brad Jones also got reps and looks ready to battle for playing time. Also getting some reps as a defensive back was newcomer wide receiver Jared Martin. The Clyde High School product didn't back down and showed why Coach Dantonio offered him early and was excited about getting him. Also taking some last minute snaps with the DB's was Marshwan Gilyard. While only getting a few snaps Gilyard showed his athletic ability.
Linebacker: Jon Carpenter looks set at the middle linebacker spot right now. But he'll be pushed as Andre Revels looks to make his mark. I've watched Revels over the past two seasons and he's in the best physical shape of his life.
Defensive line: There is no lack of depth along this position. I came away very impressed from what Patrick Mimms and Thomas Claggett will bring to the field. Terril Bryd looked sluggish during the early going drills but once there was pursuit involved his motor came on and you could see why he'll be looked at this season to play some. A surprise player at this position was Carlos Parrish from Akron Buchtel. Talk over the past several months was Parrish was coming but no one was ever willing to come out and say. He's in camp and could be another big surprise.
UC Athletic Director Mr. Bob Goin was at practice during the early session. Several television news crews were on hand today to grab their early footage before not coming back for several days.
We already did the story on the newest Bearcat who gave his verbal today just before practice started. We'll also have a story on the Bearcats first verbal of the Class of 2006 Brandon Miller who watched practice with his high school coach Doc Gamble. Coach Gamble said stay tuned because another of his players may be getting ready to pull the trigger and end his recruiting.
Curtis Smith was not seen at camp. At this time our best guess is the NCAA Clearinghouse has not given it's blessing to him. We will keep our eyes out for him in the days to come.