Underwood Under Pressure, But Understanding

An already menacing University of Cincinnati defense has added another serious threat to its lineup. Brandon Underwood has joined the ranks at cornerback this spring following his transfer from northern neighbor Ohio State. We spoke with the senior after his impressive showing in Bearcat Bowl II.

“I have no questions about his ability to play at a high, high level,” said UC head coach Brian Kelly of the Middletown, Ohio native after his team’s spring game, a game in which Underwood surprised and impressed many.  He recorded five tackles, two of which were unassisted, as well as two more than impressive pass brake ups, and a game-clinching 67-yard interception return for a touchdown with the clock expired.


“They had thrown the same play a couple of times early on and I just read the play and I just broke on it,” said the 6’-1”, 177 lb. Underwood of the game’s final play.  “I didn’t even think; I just broke.  I trusted what my eyes saw and I just kept going.”


Despite the ability and athleticism he showed throughout the spring, it may be hard for Underwood to break through the deep Cincinnati cornerback’s depth chart, a position that includes both seniors Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith.


“It’s all what the coaches want to do,” said Underwood of the situation.  “It’s still a learning process for me because Mickens and Smith know the system real well.  I’m just trying to get on their level as far as learning the system.  It’s really whatever the coaches want to do with me.  I’m all for whatever they want to do.”


The safety spot may provide a chance for all three of the seniors to share the field at the same time, however.


“I just worked at corner this spring,” said Underwood.  “But like I’ve said before, coach (Kerry) Coombs preaches that it’s important for everybody to know every position, so safety wouldn’t be a bad spot for me to keep learning and continue to progress on, even though I didn’t take any reps.”


However, football may be one the things Underwood focuses on the least this off season.


“I want to make sure he goes to class,” said coach Kelly of Underwood this spring and summer.  “He’s got to do a better job, that’s why he’s here.  He didn’t go to class at Ohio State.”


A combination of not going to classes, being late, and not doing little things right dropped Underwood out of favor with Jim Tressel and the Ohio State coaching staff to the point to where his scholarship was revoked last year.


Transferring to Cincinnati has meant a fresh start for Underwood.  However, the end of spring ball means it’s time for the senior to devote his full attention to his studies.


“That’s all I concentrate on,” said Underwood.  “Monday (April 28th) starts just being a student, and the athlete can come in the summer time.”


The athlete may be coming back, but he’ll have to share time with the student.  Due to a number of credits not transferring from Ohio State to UC, Underwood will have to take seven classes this summer quarter, in addition to the seven he’s taking this spring quarter.


“I’m just taking 21 (credit hours) this quarter, and I’m going to finish up in the summer with 21 more,” said Underwood.


“I’m busy, but I manage it well,” he added.  “The coaches have got a great plan for me, so everything’s going to work out good.”


Coach Kelly knows that if Underwood can stay on track in the classroom, he could be a very valuable asset to his team’s defense this season, a defense that shared the national lead in takeaways last season with 47.  But if he can’t get it together in the classroom, Kelly isn’t afraid of playing without Underwood.


“All I’m saying is I love Brandon Underwood in terms of what he can bring to our football team, but he’s no good to us if he doesn’t understand the value of an education,” said the coach.


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