1. I really love the aggressiveness Coach Dantonio shows with fake kicks and punts. He's not afraid to take a chance and his success rate on these types of plays has been remarkable.
2. Although I was able to see the Rutgers game on tape delay, it was the first game this year where I really got the chance to sit down and listen to Dan Hoard, Jim Kelly and Scott Springer. Those guys are the best. They managed to keep a blowout interesting using some of their humor. Hoard and Kelly have a great rapport in the booth, but I do miss the in-game sideline reports from Scott Springer, who is never afraid to ask the tough questions after the game. (Incidentally, after the game where Coach Dantonio abruptly answered Springer's question about the Bearcats playing poorly on national television with a "that's your opinion," Dantonio called Springer the next day to make sure there were no hard feelings.)
3. The many true freshmen that played this year acquitted themselves well. Corey Smith was probably the best of the bunch, but Mike Mickens will soon be a shutdown corner. Asking a true freshmen to start on the defensive line is a tough deal. Asking four true freshmen (Byrd, Anderson, Claggett and Mimms) to contribute on the defensive line is almost unfair. Give Tim Swanger and his staff a year or two with these guys (and sophomore Jon Newton), and they'll be one of the best units in the country.
4. Winning two Big East games was a pleasant surprise since the Bearcats were picked to finish last, but it takes time to build a consistent winner. I believe UC is still a couple years away from achieving their goal.
5. Bill Poland emerged as the top receiver on the squad. No one worked harder to get ready for the season, and Poland should go into his senior season as the #1 guy.
6. Dominick Goodman was only a double dribble away from being a basketball player at Findley. I'm glad the Bearcat staff saw the potential of this young man in football. He had the tough job of changing positions, but he has proven himself a very capable receiver and kick returner. I think he's the #2 receiver behind Poland.
7. I love what Tony Carvetti brings to the football field. Tony earned himself a scholarship this season and had a good year as a specialist pressuring the passer. After seeing him return several kickoffs this year, I'd look at him as a fullback in short yardage situations as either a blocker or runner.
8. Chet Ervin had his ups and downs at UC, but he finished with a strong senior year (39.8 average). He even completed a pass for a first down.
9. I'm looking forward to seeing Derrick Stewart and Curtis Smith next year. Stewart handled his situation as a partial qualifier as well as any teen could. The time I spent around this young man in August made it clear to me that one of his strengths is his character.
10. Kevin McCullough had a solid year at MLB. He recorded his first interception against Rutgers and will be receiving a scholarship for winter quarter. I'm bias regarding McCullough because I really like the young man and what he's overcome.
11. Haruki Nakamura led the team in tackles with almost 7 per game, one tackle per game more than anyone else. Haruki showed that he can physically hold up despite being only 185 pounds.
1. I wish college football was handled more like the pros when it comes to injuries. Penn State already does that by listing their injuries at the beginning of the week. The Bearcats are far too worried about concealing injury information. Prepare a game plan, coach the guys you have, and let the guy from Bearcat Insider report the injuries to the fans.
2. The Bearcat offense was dreadful, especially down the stretch. The Bearcats averaged only 17.5 points per game for the entire season. The last three games were even worse scoring only 25 points, and 15 of those came after the game was decided. The Bearcat offense had 25 turnovers and only 25 touchdowns.
3. The offensive line struggled most of the season. Bearcat quarterbacks were sacked 40 times. That's an average of 3.6 per game. Keep in mind that Rutgers was ranked 4th in the nation (prior to Saturday's sackfest) with 3.8 sacks per game. The Bearcats were also unable to run the ball with only a 3.2 yard per carry average.
4. The play at quarterback must improve if the Bearcats want to be successful. Dustin Grutza was often pressured, but he didn't help the cause by making a variety of bad decisions-hanging onto to ball too long, throwing into coverage, or not protecting the ball after feeling pressure. Dustin had 11 interceptions and lost 4 fumbles to account for 15 of UC's 25 turnovers. He had 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
5. I still would like to see the Bearcats have a more offensive threat at fullback. Doug Jones is a big guy and a good blocker, but he seldom breaks a tackle and creates no mismatches out of the backfield as a receiver. With the offensive line problems, wouldn't it make sense to move a mobile 282 pounder to offensive guard? I doubt Jones would like the idea, but it could help the team and help Jones get to the next level.
6. Despite David Wess's 10 tackles Saturday against Rutgers (12 tackles for the season), I don't think he's a defender. David has been described as one of the best athletes on the field, but I'd like to see him return to quarterback or move to receiver. David moved to safety at Camp Higher Ground because it was supposed to be his best chance to get on the field, but David seldom played defense until his mop-up duty Saturday.
7. The Bearcats are in dire need of speed at almost every position. After watching 11 games this season, Mickens is the one guy that seems to possess great football speed. They need more guys that can run.
8. Finally, one big negative is too many college football programs, including Cincinnati, moving their games to week nights for television exposure. I understand every program wants exposure, but these week day games are bad for the fans and bad for academics.
Despite the weak finish by the Bearcats, I'll miss Game Day!. I'll miss the Saturday afternoons at Nippert and the camaraderie with the other Bearcat football fans. I'll also miss the road trips and the preparation for a bowl game. Is it September 2nd yet?