Bearcat Defense Quietly #1

Fans might not know it, but the Bearcat defense is ranked first in the country in a couple of defensive categories. Bearcat Insider spoke with Cincinnati defensive coordinator Joe Tresey after Wednesday's practice about his highly rated defense.

The Cincinnati Bearcat defense leads the entire country in a couple defensive categories.  The Bearcats are ranked #1 in turnover margin with a +13 leading Florida Atlantic who is +10.  UC also leads the nation in interceptions with 11 while Boston College is second with 9.  In scoring defense the Bearcats rank #2 after giving up a total of 16 points in three games.  LSU leads the country by giving up only 7 points in its three contests. 


Bearcat Insider spoke to Cincinnati's defensive coordinator Joe Tresey after Wednesday's practice.  With the quarter system, the Bearcat defenders have had the luxury of concentrating solely on football, but that all changed with classes starting today (Wednesday).  Coach Tresey felt his guys continued to give maximum effort.  "I didn't notice a difference until after practice when Coach Kelly addressed the class issue.  That's when it hit me.  This was probably the best practice I've been around on the first day of school."


After getting six turnovers against SEMO and increasing that to seven against Oregon State, I had to pull Coach Tresey's leg a little bit by suggesting his defense had an off day at Miami by recording ONLY four take aways.  Coach Tresey chuckled at the thought of getting four turnovers being considered an off day.  "I hope every day is an off day by getting four turnovers."  He continued, "You envision that you're going to be great in turnover ratio and sacks.  That's what you think about.  That's what you dream about, and you try to put your kids in position to be successful at those things.  When you get six and seven turnovers back-to-back, that's a surprise, but when you get four, that's a good day but not uncommon.  Getting seven is uncommon."


In preparing for Marshall, Coach Tresey knows his defense will have its hands full.  "Bernard Morris, their quarterback, is the best quarterback we've seen thus far.  He has a turf toe issue right now, but he still moves very well.  He has a good arm and is very accurate.  He's hitting 68% of his passes and his pass efficiency rating is 151, which is out the roof.  He'll take a sack sometimes maybe when he shouldn't, but he doesn't throw the ball into traffic.  We'll be challenged this week to get turnovers."  Morris' 151 rating ranks him #25 in the country, and he has thrown 3 interceptions in 97 passing attempts this season.  Herd sophomore tight end Cody Slate will also present challenges for the UC defense.


Coach Tresey is looking forward to getting one of his most experienced linebackers back on the field this week.  "Corey Smith is practicing, but he has a fractured hand.  Still, he'll be ready to go."  Smith had a nice interception during Wednesday's practice.


Terrill Byrd picked up his first two sacks of the year against Miami last week but also got flagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the second sack for doing a little dance after being warned by the referee earlier.  Coach Tresey jokingly hide his displeasure.  "I wanted to jump out of the press box.  Terrill knows it wasn't very smart, and it was a lesson learned.  That's why we tell our players to celebrate with a teammate.  If someone is coming to hug me, I can't celebrate.  I've got to hug him and celebrate with him.  I also told him it was a terrible dance."


One player that had Bearcat fans flashing back to the Rutgers game last year was DeAngelo Smith when he returned a Redhawk pass for a UC touchdown late in the game.  Coach Tresey explained the defensive philosophy for his cornerbacks.  "Our hardest thing with the cornerbacks this year because we're playing off and not a press team any more is trying to help them sustain their backpedal.  If you can backpedal and stay square, you can break right or left.  If you flip your hips, you have to overcompensate to turn the other direction.  The better they get at staying square; the better chances we have of getting more picks."


One of the subtle changes last week in the starting defensive line-up was inserting Ryan Manalac at middle linebacker, but this is another case of Coach Tresey having a 1a and a 1b player.  "Ryan happened to be our third most productive player on defense.  We looked at that and felt he was playing a little bit better so he got the nod.  If you look at the reps, I think Rev (Andre Revels) probably got more reps because he had to play some ‘will' linebacker too.  When Corey went down, Carpenter went in and the #3 Collin McCafferty was hurt so Rev had to come over and play some ‘will.'  These kids understand the ‘next man in.'  Nobody is worried about starting.  They just all want to win a championship."


The Bearcats defense gave up its first touchdown of the year at Oxford, but Coach Tresey took the blame.  "That was probably my fault.  If I had to do it over again, I would have made a different call.  We rarely zone the field down there.  We're usually more aggressive in our approach and coverage.  That's why the ball got behind us."  Cincinnati went into the week with Ohio State and Iowa as the only defenses not to have given up a touchdown.  The Hawkeyes were the only defense of the three to continue its streak, but Iowa also was the only one to lose after giving up five field goals in a 15-13 loss to rival Iowa State.  Tresey was aware that the Buckeyes lost its streak too.  "I told the kids Ohio State gave one up too."


Marshall's offense is ranked 63-rd in the country and is scoring 20 points a game.  To put that statistic in some sort of perspective, Oregon State has the 41-st ranked offense while Miami of Ohio is ranked 59-th in the country.

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