Adam Hoppel-the Other Defensive Tackle

One of the Bearcat players quietly having an excellent summer is defensive tackle Adam Hoppel. Bearcat Insider spoke to Adam and his position coach, Keith Gilmore, after Saturday's scrimmage.

Playing in the shadow of 1-st team All-Big East defensive tackle, Terrill Byrd, is Lisbon, Ohio's Adam Hoppel.  Some Bearcat football fans may not be too familiar with the name, and that's somewhat understandable since the junior defensive tackle has made only 12 tackles in his Cincinnati career.  But the 6' 2"/290 pound defender looks to be positioning himself to have a breakout year in 2007.


Bearcat defensive line coach, Keith Gilmore talked about the guy who regularly lines up next to Terrill Byrd.  "Hop has had a great camp.  He's been healthy the whole time and has made a lot of great plays for us.  He's been consistent and is one of the strongholds on our defensive line."


Coming out of Beaver Local High School in 2004, the one star recruit was signed almost as an afterthought.  The Bearcats started recruiting him only days prior to his signing with Cincinnati because the 2-nd team All-Ohio football player may have been better known for his wrestling skills.  He was Ohio's Division II state champion as a junior and was runner-up as a sophomore and senior.  Now he believes the skills he learned on the mat help him on the gridiron.  "I definitely believe that has helped me.  In wrestling, there are a lot more hips involved that help you to get leverage.  I use that in football too."


Being paired up with Terrill Byrd on the interior of the defensive line helps to give the Bearcats not only one of the league's best defensive fronts, but according to Coach Gilmore, one of the country's premiere groups.  "Some of the professionals (scouts) seem to think we're one of the best defensive lines in the country.  I hope we can live up to those expectations.  We have some pretty good tackles with some depth behind them in Jon Newton and Ricardo Mathews.  Our front interior is pretty solid."


Adam had multiple sacks in the previous week's scrimmage and managed to pressure the Bearcat quarterbacks again on Saturday, but Coach Gilmore is not surprised that a player with only .5 sacks in his career is performing so well.  "It's kind of what I expected.  I'm happy that it has happened, but that's what our expectations are.  We get after the passer and create havoc in that offensive backfield."  Adam believes his work in the weight room with Coach Longo has also helped him get to the quarterback more this summer.  "I think I've improved in that area a lot more.  I've got a lot more explosion this year because we've been power cleaning and hand cleaning with Coach Longo, and that adds a lot more explosion to your hips."


Coach Longo believes Hoppel could soon enter an elite group for his work in the weightroom.  In a career that is entering his third decade and has helped to send dozens of players to the NFL, Longo says he's had fewer than a handful of players bench 225 pounds 40 or more times.  Hoppel presently sits at 38 reps and is a very good bet to reach that magic 40 before leaving the Bearcats.  Adam wasn't sure of his exact number but said he has maxed between 450 and 500 pounds on the bench press, making him one of the strongest Bearcat football players.


The experience gained in 2006 after taking over for an injured Tony Carvitti has also helped Adam prepare for this year.  "That really helped me, especially with my confidence going into this year.  I played during the heart of the schedule, and I know I played good so I'm ready for this year."


Playing next to a teammate the caliber of Terrill Byrd has also helped Hoppel in more ways than one might think.  "I know he's going to get a lot of attention from the offense, but I also know I have to step it up.  I can't let him get all the glory.  I need to get some too."  Adam may have missed out on some glory last year, but his efforts against Rutgers contributed heavily to one of the program's biggest football victories ever.  Most fans in attendance that night will remember DeAngelo Smith's 84 yard interception for a touchdown, but few will recall that Hoppel's pressure on Scarlet Knight quarterback Mike Teel caused the errant throw.


After working his way up the depth chart to becoming a starter in 2006, Adam admits he was worried when the coaching change occurred last year.  "It was worrisome because at the end of the season I got hurt, and they didn't know I was a starter.  I was worried about whether I would get my starting spot back in the spring, but they looked at the film, and it turned out okay."


The man with what he described as a spider web haircut assessed his play from Saturday.  "I think I did my job okay, but I wish I could have made a few more plays."  After getting three sacks last week, Hoppel laughed about the chances of his repeating that kind of performance weekly.  "That would be tough.  That was a lot of playing next to Byrd and the other two guys on the ends to help me get those sacks."


Adam's goal for 2007 is not about sacks or tackles; it's about the most important thing.  "I want a Big East championship.  That's about it.  I'm ready to play."


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