Breakdown - Grades & Photos From Saturday

Saturday afternoon found Brian Kelly and his Bearcats on the field turf of Camp Higher Ground looking to show off what they've learned over the past week. In the team's first scrimmage of the season, parents along with members of the media came away with somewhat of a feeling for what's ahead in the 2008 season.

Keep in mind, one preseason scrimmage will not make or break a season. But with 70+ plays, Brian Kelly and his staff will have enough film to see who has taken their game to the next level and who will be left behind.

With one of the top defenses in college football a year ago returning several key members, those in attendance knew going into camp the Bearcats would be ballhawks looking to continue their assault on opposing team's offenses.

That got started Saturday as Mick Mickens continued to break-up passes and DeAngelo Smith and newcomer Brandon Underwood posted interceptions.

But the Bearcats defense is not just their defensive backs as members across the d-line and the linebacker crew each showed their ready for battle.

The star of the day was first year defensive end Connor Barwin who is finding the move to defensive end may be one of high growth and future wealth. Barwin showed why Kelly pushed for the former tight-end to move over to the defensive side and left parents and members of the media in awe as he beat Jeff Linkenbach with a crossover inside move to reach quarterback Dustin Grutza and lay him on his back with a hard hit.

This wasn't the first Barwin was found in the backfield looking to create havoc and one of the biggest question marks on the defensive side seems to have been answered. Barwin shows great pure athletic ability and his increased strength and size combined with his great explosion gives the Bearcats a much needed force to place pressure on quarterbacks this fall.

Barwin wasn't the only one making a point as some of the younger players continued to shine and even a couple of the freshmen showed signs of the future.

Drew Frey and Robby Armstrong continue to work themselves onto the field with Frey making a huge move since the start of camp.

Of the freshmen J.K. Schaffer really turned some heads with his play and several of the coaches commented on it. Several members of the media claimed how strange it was seeing number 13 on the field knowing it wasn't Haruki Nakamura. But soon they saw signs that the new 13- Patrick Lambert has some of the same qualities as he laid a lick on wide receiver Danny Milligan.

On offense the team is now under the total control of Dustin Grutza and the former starter knows he'll be looked upon to take this team to the same level of success his predecessor had last season.

While for the day Dustin showed the ability to make things happen, he still found a mistake waiting to happen as he tossed an interception in the redzone.

Knowing his team must prove it can run the ball, Kelly looked to establish a strong running game behind Jeff Quinn's improved offensive line. While there is no questioning the play of senior Trevor Canfield, the line must come together and continue their pace of moving the chains.

Ending the first week of camp it's easy to say the defense is on pace to be ready to jump out of the gate when the season opens. The offense is improved and must continue to work hard in the coming days as positions become solid.

Here are the grades and breakdown after the end of the first week.

Overall Defense: B+

The Bearcats have great talent and it's flying across the field. There are a few questions that must be answered prior to the end of camp and the start of the season, but things are on track. This could also be an "A" but too many mistakes were made and depth is a question. The play of players like Drew Frey, Torry Cornett and Robby Armstrong are strong signs the depth the defense could build as they get closer to the season.

The defensive backs are by far the strength of the team and should be considered among the best in college football. The defensive line improves daily as Connor Barwin continues to take his game to another level.

Overall Offense: C+

Ben Mauk is now gone and the Bearcats know it's going to be Dustin Grutza under center unless something happens to change Brian Kelly's mind. Grutza has had his ups and down's in camp but has shown he has more of an understanding of what Kelly is looking for. But he knows if he can't get the job done he'll be replaced as Chazz Anderson, Zach Collaros, Demetrius Jones and even Tony Pike look for time on the field.

The running game is still a work in progress but continues to get better. Both Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel are capable of breaking big runs. Goebel has also shown the willingness to block and in this offense this is a must from the running back. The play of the offensive line continues to improve but snaps continue to be a problem once you get past projected starter Chris Jurek. Both tackles must improve their play while the guards are the strength of the line. C.J. Cobb looks as if he's the sixth man coming off the bench and can spell both guards and has been working on center.

The Bearcats are loaded with talent at the wide receiver and tight end position as the known players are being pushed by those under them. The camp season has seen Marcus Waugh and Ben Guidugli prove they have to be considered for major playing time this fall.

The addition of moving players like Delbert Ferguson and Alex Daniels over to the offensive side and into the backfield in short yardage or goal line play is a move that can pay off at some point in the season.

I feel the offense is right where Brian Kelly wants it to be after the first week and the delay in knowing the status of Mauk. This week should see more movements and shuffle in the players on the field as the season moves close.

Here are several photos from Saturday's scrimmage. Included in these photos are Connor Barwin's sack of Dustin Grutza and more.

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