As the Bearcats return to campus today for preseason camp, we release the breakdown on the area most Bearcat fans are talking about being the most important this fall. Here is the long look at the players who will be fighting for time along the offensive line.
While many want to talk about the quarterback position for the Bearcats,
the main area of concern from my point of view is the offensive line.Last season this unit had it's up and
downs but worked to continue finding themselves.Gone is standout Steve Eastlake and
he'll be hard to replace.Here is
the breakdown for the one position that can make or break the Bearcats in
Is there talent at the offensive line position?Yes, but many of the players have been
projects or haven't lived up to their potential as of yet.Can the Bearcats find a solid five-man
unit to get through the season?Yes
Digger Bujnoch has all the tools needed to excel at the
college level.Coming into to
was penciled as a tight end and then moved to the offensive line.This is his year to have a breakout
season and become the player the coaching staff feels he can become.
Strengths: I really like Digger as an offensive line prospect.He's very athletic and has great feet
for a man of his size.He fits the
mold of the type of offensive lineman I like to see (6'5 – 290 lbs.).His ability to take on speed rushers
will be key to the Bearcats line hopes this fall.
Weakness: I don't feel Digger does a good job keeping defensive linemen's
hands down as they rush the passer.This seems to be a major mental block of him becoming the player I feel
he can become.I also don't feel
he's felt comfortable playing at tackle.I do feel this will change as he'll be looked upon as a veteran this year
and not the young kid he's been on the previous two lines.
What Do I Expect From Digger Bujnoch:I feel he's got the ability to become at
least a second team all conference performer.I feel he's going to find himself this
year and become a leader along the line and show the talent many feel he
possess.If he can't get it done
this year he'll be looking over his shoulder as other players will be fighting
to take his position. The biggest thing Digger needs to do is stay
Bolton continues to get
better with each passing week of his career.While he'll be fighting for a starting
position he'll also make a solid backup if he doesn't get it.
Strengths: Bolton brings nice size and
strength to the right side of the offensive line.In the Bearcats offense right tackle is
very important in the running game.Bolton has shown he's capable of getting
the job done but must keep improving his overall game to become a finished
Weakness: Bolton must show he can
contain the pass rush coming from his side of the field.Last season he was tested and performed
so-so overall.The Bearcats offense
needs to find a tough hard-nosed player to man the right tackle and open running
lanes for the running backs.
What Do I Expect From Jeremy Bolton: While he's not fancy, Bolton has worked his tail off in the winter and summer to
have a chance to earn a starting spot.He's the strongest Bearcat offensive lineman and has improved his
straight speed, but the main area of concern will be his ability to stop a pass
rusher coming hard off the edge.If
he doesn't earn the starting spot he should be the first guy off the
Canfield brings the size and strength you look for in a guard at the
college level.Last season he
progressed to the point were he was fighting for more playing time.By spring he got it as he outperformed
Jeff Reinstatler for one of the guard positions.He'll enter camp the favorite to keep
the right guard spot, but will be tested by others each week.
Strengths: Size and Strength give Canfield a great edge.Keep in mind he's only going to be a
sophomore and you can see the promise he brings to the Bearcats up front.But while he may enjoy the early edge he
won't be able to rest on his laurels as others will be looking to take his
spot.This will test him and be
good for the o-line as a whole.
Weakness: Experience in big games with success.While not many talk about the mental
make-up of an offensive lineman, I can assure you it's one of the most important
areas a young player needs in the trenches.You can't think you can run the ball,
you must know no matter what you and your teammates can get the yardage needed
on each play.
What Do I Expect From Trevor Canfield: I feel Trevor should continue
improve with each snap he takes.While not a final project he's come pretty far in a short time.Canfield must keep improving his foot
work if he expects to make the climb to an all-conference performer during his
El-Amin had a great chance of taking a starting spot this spring and
showing those who've watched him develop that he's reached the level they've
expected him to be at.But after a
very slow start and then an injury the jury is still out on his chances of
finding a spot on the line.Khalil
has the tools to be a major player but he must put it all together and raise the
Strengths: I feel El-Amin before the injury was the most athletic linemen
on the Bearcats team.He's got
great lateral movement and move very well for a man over 300 pounds.If he can comeback and be 100 percent
he'll fight for a starting position along the line.While he's still young, he's going to
start seeing more players with his ability enter the program and pass him
Weakness: Intensity is an area offensive linemen must have.Each play is a battle and only the
strong survive.El-Amin has all the
tools to be a top-notch lineman but he must find the mental intensity to battle
on each and every play.
What Do I Expect From Khalil El-Amin: Depending upon his status from the
injury that ended his spring, I'm not sure of the role he'll be able to play for
the Bearcats this season.If he's
back 100% he'll be looking to earn a starting position, if not he'll be watching
from the sidelines as others pass him by.El-Amin is the type of kid you want to see succeed.He's got lots of talent and has only
scratched the surface of them.
Flores is still learning
to play along the offensive line.A
great program player who continues to get better, Flores must be prepared due to
the lack of quality depth at the center position.Will he see his work payoff in a
starting spot?At this time I'd say
no.A hard worker, Flores will
battle anyone who looks to play the center position.
Strengths: This is a make or break season for Flores as he enters looking for a starting position.Flores
is solid at everything but not great at any one area.He's a great player for the program and
works hard knowing his time could be just around the corner as the game of
college football has a way of players getting onto the field because of injuries
Weakness: I don't really want to say Flores has a weakness, but if I had to choose one I'd go
with experience.A converted
defensive lineman, Flores is still learning.But being able to snap and take on a
defensive tackle is a skill very few can master.
What Do I Expect From Chris Flores: I expect Flores to continue his progress and working towards
earning a starting position.If he
feels he can't get the job done he'll be of no use to the program and I just
don't see this kid feeling this way.Chris Flores must enter camp with the feeling the center position is his
for the taking.
This is a player I felt had a real chance to be special at Cincinnati.I've always been a fan of centers that
can move their feet and Jurek showed that in high school.The problem I see in Jurek is his lack
of being able to put on the weight needed.To come into the program at 260 pounds and to still be at the same weight
a year latter means something just isn't right.Jurek should have seen at least a 10
pound increase to his body over the winter months and major increase in his
numbers from the time he reported to camp last fall.
Strengths: Jurek has good feet and shows good hand
placement after the snap.I fully
expected Chris to be fighting for early playing time in his career as the center
position is more about the ability to snap and get into position.
Weakness: While Jurek could squeak by at 260 pounds in
the Big East, that is not what you expect from a player in a college weight
program.Jurek needs to get his
weight up to the 280-285 area and missed his chance.
What Do I Expect From Chris Jurek:I can't really say at this time because of the lack of his progress in
the weight room.This will be one
I'll watch at camp and have a better feel for at that time.
This is a kid I've watched progress with each passing day of spring
practice.He's done so much work
for a kid who came into the program over weight and out of place.This work shows me he's got the chance
to become a top-notch player at the college level if his work ethic
Strengths: Work ethic and size give Linkenbach two of the tools needed to
have success as an offensive lineman in the Big East.Getting his weight done to under 300
pounds will allow him to be able to take on the many speed pass rushers he'll
find in conference play.Look for
him to get snaps this fall and push for even more playing time.
Weakness: Experience is the biggest weakness an offensive lineman can
have in college football.Most
players have never felt or seen the speed or aggressive nature the college game
brings.Time will only make him
What Do I Expect From Jeffrey Linkenbach:To continue to improve on a daily basis
and push for major playing time by the time the season is heading into the final
half.He may not see the field as
often as he'll like, but he'll know where he stands heading into spring drills
and should then see his development take off even more.
One of if not the biggest offensive lineman in college football is still
working towards getting himself into a position to be able to become a
factor.Rodney Pompey is a work in
progress and if the light ever comes on and he finds his way he could become the
biggest surprise in college football.It's not going to happen this season but I'll give him credit for working
towards a goal many felt he'd never have a chance to achieve.
Strengths: Physical size you can't teach but must control.Many people feel an offensive lineman
just needs to be a mountain of a man.This is false as offensive linemen must be able to move their feet and
get themselves into position to open up running lanes.But is he ever gets everything together
he could make the Bearcats happy he's from Cincinnati.
Weakness: Conditioning is an area Rodney must work hard at every
day.While he's come along way in
getting himself even on the field, he must continue to work if he ever wants the
chance to play during a game.
What Do I Expect From Rodney Pompey:To continue working towards getting
himself into a position to take the field before his career is over.I watched Rodney during the early part
of his senior year.Many then were
talking about him being able to play at the next level, but I could see the
flaws in his game.Size isn't
everything in the game of football and I feel Rodney has learned this
lesson.If Rodney will continue to
work hard every day he'll achieve some great results.
Ft. Thomas, Kentucky
Reinstatler is the type of player you know is going to show up and give
you effort.While it's taken him
four years into the program to find playing time he knows if he's going to see
more this fall he'll have to win the job early and hold on tight.
Strengths: Intelligence is key for an offensive lineman
and Reinstatler has it.I like his
ability to get his pads low and control defenders.
Weakness:While it took him
almost his entire career to see the field, he's going to be pushed by those
around him.If he can stay
consistent he'll have a chance to stay on the field, if not he'll get passes
What Do I Expect From Jeff Reinstatler:To work his tail off and fight for a
starting position along the offensive line this fall.Camp will decide if he'll be a starter
or a backup, but he better be ready as this year the offensive line could see
several shifts if things aren't working out.
Coming from one of Ohio's top prep programs gives Simon an
understanding he needs to compete for playing time.With great size Simon must continue to
work on his craft and use it to his full advantage.Has a great chance to be a solid member
of the line this fall and help them be better then many think.
Strengths: Size and athletic ability give Simon a nice combination for an
offensive lineman.Tim and I both
marvel that he plays a big role in the kickoff return team as a
Weakness: Simon must continue to understand the position better.Leverage for a man his size is key.He's got the tools he must now put it
Weakness: There is more to playing the o-line then size of a player.Most offensive linemen don't find
themselves until their junior year, I feel Simon has seen the light and should
push for major playing time this fall.He must continue to work on the finer points of his game.Feet and hand placement are the two
areas he needs to take the next steps in.
What Do I Expect From J.P. Simon: This is easy, I expect Simon to be
fighting for playing time along the line.I care what position he's going after, he must be pushing and showing the
coaching staff he needs to be on the field.While projected as the right tackle
Simon must take that position or have the coaches move him because they can't
keep him off the field.This is a
big year for Simon and many feel he'll have a great one.
The guy most fans forget about along the offensive line for the
Bearcats.Straub has size and
experience but has just not taken the next step to become a starter.This is it and entering spring Straub
showed he understood if he's going to get a chance to start he needs to do it
Strength: Straub is able to lineup at tackle or guard for
the Bearcats.Being projected in
the mix at guard this fall has many feeling Straub may be able to win the job
outright.Above average athlete who
has seen improvement each year in the program.
Weakness: While he's seen action as a backup and even started a game,
Straub has never gotten over the hump to earn a fulltime starting position.You can look at it several ways.One he played behind a solid line two
seasons ago, but last year should have seen him take advantage of heavy
graduation loss.He got snaps but
never earned the fulltime spot.Fine tuning his technique is the area Straub needed to work on the
What Do I Expect From Frank Straub:Entering his fifth year in the program allows Straub to know what is
fully expected of him this year.The work he's done in the summer will determine if he becomes a starter
or a backup.The first two weeks of
camp will be the most important of his career.But if he doesn't earn the starting spot
he'll need to keep his mind in the game because he's just an injury away.From what we've seen he's been doing the
work and it showed during the spring with a strong performance.Depending upon the availability of
Khalil El-Amin and where Ken Rodriguez is in his development, Straub should be
considered the favorite at a guard spot.
A player who showed much promise last season cut short from injury is
back and hungry for a starting spot.Doesn't have the height many like from their offensive linemen but has
the motor and ability to gain leverage over an opponent.
Strength: Fits the mold of a hard-nosed Ohio football player.Has good center of gravity that allows
him to get under the pads of bigger defensive linemen.Must use his athletic ability and
technique to win battles in the trenches.
Weakness: Many will point out Jon's height as a weakness.I don't buy it because all you have to
do is look at some other lines in the Big East (WVU) to find guys in the 6'2-6'3
range.Staying healthy is the
biggest weakness shown by Tobin.
What Do I Expect: Getting injured after earning a starting spot is the
hardest thing for a young player to come back from.Tobin worked hard in the winter and his
work in the summer may decide if he's got enough to win a starting spot to start
the season.He should be competing
for a spot and be no worse then the next in line.
Freshmen don't get much talk when they're an offensive linemen in
college.They are not ready to
fight the battles or strong enough to go against older players.Well if any freshman offensive lineman
is going to play this year, then Cobb would have to be looked at.While I've only seen him on film, Cobb
shows great feet and athletic ability to go with great brute
Strengths: Athletic ability and physical strengths set Cobb apart from
other freshmen entering this class.At over 300 pounds and with good height Cobb could see the field this
fall if needed.
Weakness: Cobb is still a freshman and many just don't have an
understanding of the game this early to be a big part of the game plan.Camp will tell us more about his mental
ability as he begins to learn about fighting against players equal to his
What Do I Expect From C.J. Cobb: I fully expect Cobb to enter camp and
show some signs of the things to come in his career.If he's playing a lot then there might
be some issues.I would hope the
offensive line gels enough to allow Cobb to red shirt without the staff even
thinking about him starting.
Boeckman will have to make the biggest adjustment this fall.A high school tight end, Boeckman will
start to learn the finer points of becoming a tackle.Don't expect to see him on the field
this fall as the staff will use a red shirt and allow him to get more size on
his 6'7 frame.
Strengths: Size, arm extension and feet make Boeckman the type of player
Bearcat fans will enjoy watching in a couple of years.
Weakness: Physical size is not there now but will come in time as the
training staff adds weight to his body.
What Do I Expect From Toby Boeckman: Boeckman will have a hard year going
from major player to watching on the sidelines.But this will be needed for him to grow
and prepare for what many hope is a long successful career along the Bearcats
Duenas entered the spring with many talking about him starting at a guard
or tackle spot.By the time spring
ended he was penciled in as the starting center.But the biggest thing about this
versatile player is his football IQ.
Strengths: While not a giant offensive linemen, Mario Duenas has the
natural abilities to become a very solid member of the Bearcats offensive
line.Football IQ sets Duenas apart
from those along the line.He
learns the offense and can make all the reads and calls needed.
Weakness: Snaps from center.Fans wouldn't be worried if Duenas was lining up at guard or tackle, but
many saw the poor performance when it came to snapping the football to the
quarterbacks this spring.Keep in
mind much of this is from him only playing the position for the first time and
I'm sure he's been working on it all summer.
What Do I Expect From Mario Duenas: Starter!!!!!Leader!!!!I fully expect Duenas to be the main man
along the Bearcats offensive line.That says a lot about him as a player and a person to be able to come
into a new system and become one of the main clogs.
Much was expected from Rodriguez when he entered Cincinnati early this past
winter.Spring drills saw him
struggle in some areas but excel at others.First spring in a new environment can
see some show their weakness and I feel that is what happened with
Strengths: I like the size and athletic ability Rodriguez brings to the
table.He'll find himself and push
for playing time as the season progresses.
Weakness: Techniques are the biggest area Rodriguez needs
to continue to work on.
What Do I Expect From Ken Rodriguez: I expect Rodriguez to be pushing for
playing time no latter then mid-season.If he's not showing progress he may not earn a starting position and
become a back-up during his two year stay in the program.The kid has talent and I don't feel
we've seen it yet.