Cincinnati fans should have the answer to this question relatively early into practices. The coaching staff is optimistic that Thompkins will be cleared to play this season. During the spring practices Thompkins showed some real playmaking ability with his speed and pass catching ability. With him eligible this season the Bearcats could have one of the deepest and most talented receiving groups in the country. 4) Who will step up on the defense?
Early indications are that Walter Stewart will be the real key to the success of the defense in 2010. Stewart will be playing a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. At times he will be used to rush the quarterback and others dropped into coverage. If he is able to adjust to playing these multiple roles Stewart could be the defensive MVP.
However, there are several other players poised for a breakout season, including Jon Hughes, J.K. Schaffer, Dominique Battle, Reuben Johnson, Drew Frey and Brandon Mills. But who knows, maybe this will the Cincinnati version of the "no-name defense" where there is no real star and everyone just works well as a unit. Either way, the defense needs to improve upon last season when they ranked 67th in the country in total defense and allowed an average of 23 points per game. 3) How will the offensive line shake out?
At this point it is anyone's guess who the complete starting five will be, but early indications are that Samuel Griffin, Jason Kelce, Evan Davis, Alex Hoffman and C.J. Cobb will get the early looks. However, T.J. Franklin, Sean Hooey and Randy Martinez could challenge for starting jobs as well. 2) How will Vidal Hazelton fit in?
In the spring the USC transfer showed the ability to be an absolute stud and should fit in nicely to Cincinnati's spread offense. But practice and game situations can be two very different animals and we won't know exactly how Hazelton will perform until the first game against Fresno State. With only one remaining year of eligibility though, Hazelton will be hungry to show that he is not only a top-flight receiver but also an NFL receiver.
1) How will the transition from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones go?
Jones obviously has had success following Kelly at his previous stop at Central Michigan with two MAC titles in three seasons. The transition should go smoothly as Jones runs a similar spread offense, but will use running back Isaiah Pead more, which can be nothing but good. While not the showy speaker Kelly was, Jones has brought a real family atmosphere to Clifton and the players seem to have really taken to the new head Bearcat. With all of that and the returning talent Jones has inherited, the Butch Jones era in Cincinnati shouldn't miss a beat from the previous three years.