Q&A with J.T. Smith of Bearcat Insider

J.T. Smith of Bearcat Insider talked with Brian Wudkwych to talk about ECU and Cincinnati's upcoming matchup. Check out what he had to say:

Q1: It seems like it has been a pretty up and down season with injuries derailing some of the team's expectations. How is the overall health of the team coming into this matchup?

JS: Injuries did hurt, on defense losing corners Grant Coleman and Adrian Witty for the season didn’t help for that side of the ball. Gunner Kiel being hurt didn’t help as far as keeping consistency under center (aka in shotgun). Even with all the injuries this is a very talented team and the main thing that hurt this teams output in 2015 was turnovers and all the games besides USF turnovers put UC in a uphill climb that could’ve been prevented.

Q2: A lot of people were surprised by USF's 38-point win last week over Cincinnati, including ECU offensive coordinator Dave Nichol. What went so wrong for the Bearcats defensively and is it fixable in time for Saturday'sgame?

JS: We all were surprised. Honestly the whole team was flat and looked unprepared for what USF was going to do them. It’s fixable for the ECU game, but it starts with effort because ECU’s back is against the wall and has more to play for right now.

Q3: ECU fans I'm sure remember Gunner Kiel from last season when he topped Shane Carden in that shootout game. How has he matured or played differently this season and what can Pirate fans expect from Cincinnati's high-potent offense?

JS: That was an amazing game and to be there live almost caused me to have four heart attacks because of the action. Kiel has had a solid season, but injuries have derailed him from what was expected this year. He still throws a great deep ball, but at times can lock on to a particular target with obvious double coverage in the area. Overall Kiel and the offense will be explosive and when rolling can do damage with both the passing and running game.

Q4: Defensively, it seems the Bearcats have struggled at times this season. What can those struggles be attributed to? 

JS: Honestly youth, coaching, execution and injuries are all to blame. I want to say UC has used at least 7-10 players that are sophomores or younger for an extended period of time. The Bearcats are known to have a blown coverage or two that results in big plays, but at times you can see the growth in the group if you watched the Houston game you saw a team that was flying around to the ball like its hair was on fire the offense just put them in a few bad positions (coughs the refs also) that ended up costing them the game. Lately it seems Steve Clinkscales has let the defense line attack more which has resulted in better play.

Honestly next year I’m excited to see how this unit is going to look call me crazy, but I expect a HUGE improvement.

Q5: Do the expectations for a coach like Tommy Tuberville change after this season, considering the bar was set so high? And what does the team need to do next year to correct some of the mistakes?

JS: Yes I do think the expectations change because let’s face it this year was a disappointment at the end of the day. But the thing I think Tuberville has going for him is that the defense should improve greatly with all of the young guys getting major experience. The offense will lose a lot at the receiver position, but the Bearcats incoming class and transfers will fill that void with no problem. I think next year is a real important year for Tuberville if we are a 6-8 win team next year people around these parts might not be as relaxed.

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