Off To Higher Ground Bearcats

Sunday brings the move all members of the Bearcats Football Program enjoy. Camp Higher Ground is two weeks of all football as the Bearcats get ready for the opening of the season. So what have the Bearcats shown leading up to High Ground? We take a look back.

So What Has The Past Few Days Shown?

Really not much when you think about it. While it's great to get back on the field and see the football flying around the early days are all used for the basics. I really feel if coaches had their way pads would have come out the second day and things would take off from there.

As Brian Kelly has said this team enters camp in the best shape we've ever seen a UC team report in. Yes the heat took its toll on a few players but that was expected because of how much these guys push themselves in practice.

Now the real football gets underway as the team makes camp at Higher Ground. While players may not enjoy being away from campus they do find things they enjoy about the time across the state line. Coaches get a chance to really work players and push them until they find the ones they feel give them the best chance to win.

So let the next two weeks show the path of the Bearcats as the past five days are thrown out the window.

Tony Pike's Team

Make no mistake this is Tony Pike's team and Pike has responded looking sharper than anytime during his career. On Saturday he was money with his throws and if he can continue at this level will really push to pass a lot of UC Passing records. Gino Guidugli's 3,543 yards set in 2002 could be passed.

The Back-up

While Pike is the leader someone needs to really step up and take control as the back up quarterback. In the first week Chazz Anderson has been the number two guy for the most part with Zach Collaros also fighting for the spot. But we need to keep an eye on Brendon Kay as I've seen him hit some throws the other two can not hit. Kay has always been advertised with his strong arm and on Saturday showed it on an out pattern where the ball was right on the money.

Offensive Line Not So Offensive

Going into camp I was pretty hard on the offensive line. And while there is still much work that is needed you can start to see things coming together. Sam Griffin is in a battle for the right tackle spot but he is really starting to show he's got all the tools to be a good one. If Griffin is on the right side it will be real hard for defenses to get outside of him as he's shown great feet early in camp.

Jeff Linkenbach is a future NFL lineman and Jason Kelce and Chris Jurek are extremely solid players with Kelce in the best physical shape of his career. Alex Hoffman and C.J. Cobb along with Randy Martinez are all fighting for time on the field. I'm also very impressed with Evan Davis who I fill could come in and take Jurek's place without the Bearcats missing a beat.

Andre' Cureton is listed at 280-pounds in the media guide but is pushing 350-pounds. Even with this high weight you can see the talent he has with his feet and I'm sure Paul Longo and Jeff Quinn will get through to him and straighten him out.

As for the other freshmen linemen, I'd have to agree with Jason Kelce who told Bearcat Insider this was the best group of recruits to have come to the Bearcats since he's been in the program.

Calling All Pass Catcher

If you're a wide receiver there are really only a couple of schools you should be looking at. One of those is the University of Cincinnati. Brian Kelly's offense loves the passing game and wide receivers can become stars. While the Bearcats receivers have received some pub for their talents I have no problem going out and saying they are one of the most if not the most talented groups playing college football. A lot of eyes in the football world are going to have them opened wider when they get a chance to see what the Bearcats put on the field this fall.

So while everyone is looking at Mardy Gilyard to have another big year, they better have their eyes on D.J. Woods and Armon Binns along with a few others. I can't say enough how good of a job Charley Molnar does with the receivers. If rules allowed the Bearcats could place ten wide receivers on the field and it would be hard for anyone to really place one ahead of the other. That is how deep Brian Kelly has taken what was once a major weakness.

Who Will Start At Running Back?

Take your pick in my honest opinion. The Bearcats are four deep at the position and while John Goebel has been limited the past few practices players like Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Pead has the tools to get the job done.

I really like what Goebel brings to the field as an overall back and Pead's speed even impresses his teammates during practice. It would be easy to say Ramsey could be the odd guy out but he's been running better than anytime in his career.

Defensive Performance

While Bearcat Insider had a great relationship with Joe Tresey during his tenure at UC, it's easy to see why Brian Kelly is so high on Bob Diaco. The new defensive coordinator brings great energy and you'd be hard pressed to find three coaches in college football on one side of the ball (Diaco, Mike Elston & Kerry Cooms) with more energy and enthusiasm.

Each drill is done with energy while striving to play fast and you can see the difference in what the change to the 3-4 will allow the Bearcats to do.

How Good Is Dominique Battle?

One player that continues to impress me with each practice is Dominique Battle. His athletic ability and coverage ability has continued to improve and while teams will look early to expose any weakness they will be hard pressed to find them. His future is as bright as any defensive back Cincinnati has had play for them in recent years.

J.K. Schaffer Living The Dream

Just a few years ago the coaching staff at the University of Cincinnati was looking for a linebacker in the Class of 2008. The first offer went out to Steve Gardiner of Dublin (Ohio) Coffman High School. The player the Bearcats ended up with was J.K. Schaffer while Gardiner headed off to Michigan State.

Who got the better player? I've have always felt that Schaffer would be the better of the two based on two things. Schaffer played in the GCL (Greater Catholic League) and two was bigger physically. While six other players were considered better prospects that Schaffer I'd seen enough to fill he was as good as any of the six. He's now proving it after a solid freshman season and should continue to improve this fall. So far in practice Schaffer is hitting his mark on drills and turning the heads of coaches in the process.

And another thing Schaffer had over Gardiner was his dream was to be a Bearcat while Gardiner's was to play in the Big Ten.

Another Turning Heads

Another player I've found to turn heads in camp is Robby Armstrong. The junior linebacker showed great improvement in last years preseason camp and is again showing he's taking his game to another level. He's been solid in drills and is fighting to take more reps.

MIA

While we won't go into detail there are a few missing bodies in camp that were expected and just looking at those on the field it looks like a few might have also left. A couple players are still working to find there way with NCAA approval while a couple of others may have learned their football future wasn't very bright. We'll let the process work its way out before talking too much about any of these players.

Looking Good

The Bearcats report to Camp Higher Ground looking in good shape when it comes to injuries. Jordan Stepp was being held out but should be getting into action soon. Goebel has been limited but should be fine as well.

The press is allowed at camp on Monday morning and Bearcat Insider will have a report of the day's events.


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