Waugh Enjoys Being In The Middle

It's been a career of changes for Marcus Waugh since arriving on the campus of the University of Cincinnati in 2005. Now, in his final season, Waugh likes the most recent change he's been assigned to.

Bearcat Insider first crossed the path of Marcus Waugh after his senior season at Toledo (Ohio) St. Johns-Jesuit High School. The event was the North-South All-Ohio Game and Waugh was a member of the victories North squad with 65 yards rushing on 6 carries. That's right, at the time the now middle linebacker was a running back.

After entering Cincinnati as a fullback, Waugh has experienced a knee injury, a moves to a few other positions before settling in as one of the middle linebackers in the Bearcats new 3-4 scheme.

"It's been a long ride but getting placed back on the defensive side at linebacker I feel I can help the team to the best of my ability."

One of the things Waugh has always enjoyed about the game of football is the contact. Now as a linebacker he knows he'll get his share.

"I played linebacker in high school and being able to hit people again has been great. I got to hit people as a fullback but now you just read your keys and go hit someone."

But being a linebacker was the farthest thing from Waugh's mind.

"I thought they would keep me at the H-Back position. But Coach Kelly and Coach Diaco have been great to me and real supportive of me with this move. They are two great guys and have placed me in a position to help the team to the best of my abilities." While many talk about the loss of ten seniors from last years championship team, Waugh feels this year's group of seniors also have a lot to offer.

"This senior group has a lot of work to do by coming together. But we're a real tight knit group of guys and we'll be a real strong team. And when the freshmen come in we'll be even closer. We've all seen our time on the field over the course of our careers. Now it's just a matter of we're the ones getting the starts."

One of the things Marcus Waugh has experienced with his teammates is the change of coaches from the day they signed to be Bearcats. While there were moments many of them questioned what the future would bring. He's learned that change can be good.

"Being Big East Champions is a great feeling and a testament to Coach Kelly, Coach Longo and the rest of the support staff in getting us to believe in what we could do. When a new coach comes in you know things are going to change, but they changed for the better with Coach Kelly. Seeing what Coach Kelly has done and what Coach Longo has done with guys like Connor Barwin who is getting ready to go to the NFL as a high draft choice, shows you what can be done. Coach Longo creates beast in the weight room and that carries over from the weight room to the field. Seeing these results and how everyone is getting better shows that the change was for the better."

One thing Marcus is excited about is getting his newest championship hardware.

"We get the rings at the spring game. I'm real excited to see those rings. The Papa Johns Bowl ring is nice and everything, but going to the Orange Bowl and winning a Big East Championship was an experience that can't be matched."

Growing up with a father that played his college football at Ohio State had many asking the Toledo native why he chose Cincinnati when he was going through the recruiting process. Like many of his teammates they bought into what the future of the Bearcats program would be instead of the past. Now with a championship and BCS game in the books Waugh is now having the last laugh.

"We're coming to be a national power now. A few years ago we weren't even a blimp on the radar screen of college football. With Coach Kelly coming in and teaching us how to win it's becoming where Cincinnati is on the national map. It's a great feeling to be on the map but we've now got to continue to work to stay there."

With the placement on the national scene Waugh knows no one can take away everything he's experienced over the past few years.

"It's been the highlight on my career. Playing fullback, having knee surgery and coming back from it and the position changes have really tested me over the past few years. Now I feel I'm just getting to a position where the coaches believing in me as a player the can place in the national spotlight."

With this being his final spring, Marcus has felt the difference others ahead of him have talked about.

"Everything is with a sense of urgency now. If feels like your back is up against the wall as it's your last year, your last time to prove yourself to coaches, the national media and maybe even NFL scouts as they come around. It has a sense of urgency."

With the change to the 3-4 defensive scheme and the emergence of sophomore to be J.K. Schafer, middle linebacker is starting to look like a position of strength.

"J.K. is coming along great and it feels like I'm a rookie right now myself learning linebacker all over again. But Andre Revels is a great leader, he's a great friend. He helps me out a lot with the play calling as he's rehabbing a knee injury himself right now too. Getting with him has really helped me develop myself to play linebacker again."

Having missed his own time on the field with an injury has allowed Marcus and Andre to build a stronger relationship.

"Andre has come to me and asked how I dealt with different things when I was going through my rehab. It's a real give and take relationship because he's helping me and I'm helping him at the same time. If you have this kind of chemistry with a guy who plays the same position it shows you what type of group of guys we've got on this team."

In the new scheme Marcus Waugh knows the coaches eyes will be on the linebackers more than ever as they look to stop the runner better than they have in the past.

"Linebackers are the leaders of the defense. Coach Diaco has stressed this to us all spring. It's the linebackers that drive the defense and the first thing we must do is stop the run. This is a no-crease defense and us as linebackers are not going to let runners cut back on us. With this no-crease defense and me being in the middle along with Andre and our other seniors on defense we're making it our goal is to stop the run."

One thing those who've watched spring practice can say is that Marcus Waugh is enjoying himself this spring more than even. His confidence is growing and he knows it's his turn to show what he can do.

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