The University of Cincinnati hit the practice fields in Miami Shores, Florida Saturday at Barry University. Brian Kelly wasted little time in stressing the work needed in the days to come prior to his team taking on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
With everybody on the field, Brian Kelly looked to get his team adjusted to the change in weather from Ohio to Florida. In what the Bearcats head coach would call a bonus day, the team went about its business.
With Mike Mickens and Dominick Goodman both on the field the Bearcats were back full strength as the team gets ready to show the national media the Big East is a conference worthy of being a BCS member.
"They looked good," Kelly told the media. Goody took all the reps today at the W position. Mickens is back but Brandon Underwood was banged up a little bit, but we got everybody back in the lineup today and now it's just a matter of getting them some more work."
Mickens, who missed the team's final three games, is a major return for the Bearcats defense. The All-Conference and All-American is considered one of the top seniors in the country and a sure first day draft selection in the next NFL Draft.
Goodman, who was injured during the first series on the Hawaii game, was a question mark many fans where hoping to hear good news about. The senior wide receiver is a consistent performer and one of the Bearcats best "Big Game" players as he's proven during his career. Coming back from a shoulder injury in a matter of a few weeks and being able to go full speed in practice now could prove big in next weeks game.
Before leaving for Florida the Bearcats worked out indoors as winter weather played a role during the few practices held. Kelly knows his team needs to be ready for the climate change.
"We didn't push them too hard today. Tomorrow we'll go full gear and bang it around a little bit. I think if there's any need for concern relative to our conditioning, we'll get a better feel for it tomorrow."
While getting the team ready for the Orange Bowl is a must, Kelly understands this is also a reward for a well played season and some fun must be had.
"You know what, they really enjoyed just getting out. A lot of them got out to South Beach, some of them actually just walked up and down in some of the areas by the hotel. They're pretty excited, and I think I said in our press conference, with no disrespect to Birmingham, Alabama, but our kids have really enjoyed their first glimpse of Miami, it's a pretty exciting place."
Kelly knows all eyes are on his under the radar team as some still question the Big East Conference being an automatic BCS member.
"We've won 21 games the last two years, we were 17-th in the country last year, but we weren't even on the radar, so by even finishing 17-th, you simply skip over our name as your scanning the Top 25. I said going into the season that now it's a matter of consistency, as we need to do this every year. Everybody knows that Cincinnati plays more than professional football and baseball. It's not surprising, it takes time, but I think we've got people's attention now being here in the Orange Bowl and we just got to keep doing it."
So far the Big East Conference has flexed its muscle with two bowl victories in as many tries. With six teams from the conference playing in the post season, this could be another banner year for the conference and the teams that continue to do better than critics give them credit for.
The following notes are from Saturday's practice on players and the upcoming Orange Bowl game. Some of the notes were used in the above story.
Cincinnati Practice Quotes – 12/27/08
Brian Kelly, Head Coach
On today's practice …
We needed to get out here, obviously, we've been indoors, and just get acclimated a little bit to the weather. We've got a lot of work to do and our kids understand that when they come to practice that it's business and I'm pleased with the work we got done today.
On adjusting to the South Florida heat …
We didn't push them too hard today. Tomorrow we'll go full gear. Today was kind of a bonus day for us, so tomorrow we'll put all the pads on and bang it around a little bit. I think if there's any need for concern relative to our conditioning, we'll get a better feel for it tomorrow.
On injured players …
They looked good. Goody (Goodman) took all the reps today at the W position. Mickens (Mike Mickens, SR, DB) is back, Underwood was banged up a little bit, but we got everybody back in the lineup today and now it's just a matter of getting them some more work.
On getting advice from others coaches on the Orange Bowl…
I didn't talk to anybody that had been to the Orange Bowl. I have talked to, and have a lot of coaches in the fraternity that I've talked to about bowl trips. What I was most concerned with more than anything else was simply the logistics. You know, going to a new hotel, you know all those things. So I was more focused on the logistics more than anything else, but when you got a football ops guys like I got in John Widecan, I don't worry about a lot of that stuff.
On moving Connor Barwin to defense …
I think more than anything else we are trying to strengthen our football team, and I felt like as a head coach you have to look at your entire roster and both sides of the ball, and you don't win on one side of the ball. I felt like we needed some edge players. I mean we lost two very good edge players the year before and we needed a guy that I felt could do that. He had all the tools. The only thing we didn't know is he never played the position. You know we did it in the spring as a matter of finding out does he got what it takes to do it, and we saw very, very quickly in the spring that he had some of the things necessary to be successful.
On Connor Barwin's versatility …
Clearly he played on the basketball team at Cincinnati during the transition year, played tight end in the spread offense. Clearly he is a guy who is going to help somebody in the NFL because he can play so many different positions. He is a very valuable player for our team and he will be a very valuable player for somebody in the NFL. He's great in the locker room, he's a great leader. All I know is that you want him on your team because he's a winner. He blocks punts, catches touchdown passes, leads the league in sacks. I think the guys in the NFL are smarter than I, and they can figure out where to play him.
On South Beach …
You know what, they really enjoyed just getting out. A lot of them got out to South Beach, some of them actually just walked up and down in some of the areas by the hotel. They're pretty excited, and I think I said in our press conference, but no disrespect to Birmingham, Alabama, but our kids have really enjoyed their first glimpse of Miami—it's a pretty exciting place.
On Cincinnati's being under the radar …
Well, we've won 21 games the last two years, we were 17th in the country last year, but we weren't even on the radar, so by even finishing 17th, you simply skip over our name as your scanning the top 25. I said going into the season that now it's a matter of consistency, and we need to do this every year. Everybody knows that Cincinnati plays more than professional football and baseball and basketball. It's not surprising, it takes time, but I think we've got people's attention now being here in the Orange Bowl and we just got to keep doing it. We get a lot of attention within a city that loves sports (Cincinnati) just like any other, and they'll support a winner. If at the end of the day if you're winning, they'll come see you.
On preparation for Virginia Tech's offensive …
I think what concerns us more is Bud Foster and his defense. It's something that you need time to prepare for, it's not something you see each week, and again we run a spread no huddle, so we see virtually everything. But what he does defensively, Frank Beemer and Bud Foster, there's a unique scheme there. We've gone into games where there is a two quarterback system, one's a runner, and one is more of a passer, so we a lot more use to seeing that than a defense like Virginia Tech's.
#95 – Terrill Byrd, SR, DT
On Connor Barwin's versatility …
He's made a wonderful transition, to be able to play tight end for three years and switch to DE for a year, and as you can see he's having a wonderful year.
On enjoying South Beach …
We got to enjoy it. Got to see the scenery. But you got to have a lot of money to come down here and spend.
#16 – Dominck Goodman, SR, WR
On potentially breaking Cincinnati receiving records …
They mean a lot, especially coming in her my freshman year and doing the things then and up till now, it shows a lot of hard work has paid off and it's a great reward during my senior season.
On his injury …
I bruised my AC joint. I got it back, and it has healed up real nice. I had to take a couple weeks off to start rehab.
On Cincinnati football now compared to when father, Don Goodman played at UC …
He talks about it a lot. He always reminds me how it used to only be family at the games, but now it's a different atmosphere, especially coming down to the Orange Bowl and winning the Big East, we got everybody in Cincinnati behind us so it's a great feeling and a big difference. He tells me everyday how proud of me he is, and he is just so happy that UC has come this far from where he was at.
#5 – Connor Barwin, SR, DE
On his experience as a two-sport athlete at UC …
There was no break. Actually, at one point in my sophomore year before our PapaJohn.com bowl, I was practicing for both teams at the same time, in the morning with the basketball team, and in the afternoon for the bowl game. That was the hardest it ever was. The coaches scaled back practices a little bit, but there were a couple hard practices. It's always been that way for me. This off-season was the first winter that I had to train or workout since I was in grade school. The weirdest thing was having downtime this winter. I am still the biggest basketball fan at UC, I am at every game. I love the cross-town shootout between Cincinnati and Xavier.
On the transition to defense this year …
I don't know if I'll ever be going back to tight end, but I still miss it a little bit, but it's been a ton of fun. I really think for me, a lot goes to Coach Gilmore for my success, because he just let's me play to my skill set and that's playing fast and just running around. I think a lot less now playing defense, you know when the ball is snapped, try to go get it.
On which position he is better at …
It looks like I am better at defense. I am in no way have any confidence problems playing tight end. I think I can play tight end at the next level, and I think I would have had a great year if I played tight end this year full time. What people are saying is that I will probably be a defensive end or outside linebacker type. I will play whatever position this needs me to play or at the next level.
Day Two Story & Media Notes
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