We'll be reunited this weekend, as Paul now covers the Bengals for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the University of Cincinnati for GoBearCats.com. I asked him a few questions to prep for Saturday's game...
What's the transition to Coach Tommy Tuberville been like for the Bearcats?
Paul: "As smooth as can be expected and made much smoother by the thumping put on Purdue last weekend. He's a pretty smooth guy and been doing this a long time so he knows how to make the engine run. There's a ton of first-year players and JuCo transfers logging snaps for him and he's put in a new offensive system so that has been the most challenging aspect, but they handled it exceptionally well in the opener."
Compare and contrast the two quarterbacks -- Legaux and Kay. How much will we see each play and how does the offense change, if at all, when one or the other is in?
Paul:"Legaux has been the starter and likely he will be again Saturday. Tuberville doesn't want to run two QBs in and out, he wants the starter to gain a rhythm and take the ball. Whoever starts will play the majority of the game, barring some kind of disaster. Which could always be possible with Legaux. He struggled mightily with accuracy last season and that's why he was eventually pulled midway through conference play for Kay. Legaux looked more comfortable in the opener, hitting better than 60 percent of his passes for the first time in his career against an FBS school. If you see Kay, his strength is he throws a fantastic deep ball and pretty accurate to anywhere on the field. He's nowhere near as electric running the ball as Munchie, but few in college football are."
Seems like there's plenty of options at tailback -- Williams and Abernathy the headliners perhaps -- is the position diverse? Obviously depth is great to have, but is there something specific each back brings to the table?
Paul:"Ralph David Abernathy IV is the feature back. He's the most electric player on the Bearcats offense and has been for more than a year now. He's the one guy who makes you turn your head and wonder how the heck he pulled that off. However, he's a little guy and can't handle a full-time workload. So, they bring in Hosey Williams to spell him and also split RDAIV outside to utilize him in different ways there."
Anything else we should know about the offense?
Paul:"This offensive line returned all five starters from a team that ranked among the best in the country in rushing and fewest sacks allowed last season. They absolutely punished Purdue up front and are quietly the strength of the team. Starting center Dan Sprague was lost for the year in preseason, but DeShawn Bond filled in well in the opener."
Who stood out on defense in the Purdue game/were you expecting the defense to have that much success in the first game of the season?
Paul:"These linebackers rank among the best in the conference, if not the country. Greg Blair is a frontrunner for American Defensive Player of the Year. Nick Temple is a three-year starter whose made as many plays as anybody, specifically in pass coverage. Jeff Luc was a former Florida State recruit listed as the No. 1 LB recruit in the country coming out of high school. He played his first game since transferring Saturday and appeared to be the real deal. They attack the gaps extremely well and can move sideline to sideline. Short to intermediate passes just don't go far against them. You better be able to hit some shots up top."
How would you describe the Cinci defense? Considering the Illini passed for over 400 yards in Week One, do you see the secondary as being ready for that type of attack?
Paul:"The secondary is ready, Deven Drane will be in the league next year and the others have held up well. Don't forget this defense was No. 14 nationally in points allowed per game last year (18.5). Purdue's offense was a dumpster fire, but that partially was a result of the Bearcats."
Any good Tim Banks stories to share? Any about Mike Thomas?
Paul:"Mike Thomas never really spoke with the media while he was here. And Tim Banks always seemed a nice guy to me, but I don't have any lovely anecdotes."
Anything else interesting you want to talk about?
Paul:"I will be doing the Illinois Tour de Force, driving from Cincinnati to Brownsburg, Ind, then to Champaign for the game, then to Chicago for Sunday's Bengals-Bears tilt. Expect quite a few Cincy fans there pulling the same act. I fully expect a lovely buffet for Saturday's battle and there had better be cookies or I will get cranky."
Paul:Bearcats 24, Illinois 13.