Big East Preview -- Part 7

This is the last in a seven part preseason tour of the Big East. I'll finish my tour of the Big East with a look at the decimated Cincinnati Bearcats. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits, based upon my pre-season research and analysis.


In 2004, former Ohio State Defensive Coordinator assumed control of a Cincinnati program that was drifting under former Head Coach Rick Minter.  Minter led the Bearcats to three consecutive bowl games between 2000 and 2002.  Cincinnati earned a share of the Conference USA title in 2002 but collapsed to a ninth place finish in 2003.  Minter did not survive the collapse of a veteran team.  Dantonio inherited an experienced if underachieving team.  The Bearcats stumbled badly out of the gate with a 2-4 start that included a humiliating loss at woeful Army.  Left for dead with the meat of his schedule ahead, Dantonio managed to regroup his players, spring a few upsets, and qualify for a bowl game.  Cincinnati crowned its comeback with a 32-14 win over Marshall in the Fort Worth Bowl. 

Dantonio will have a challenging second act.  The rebuilding job one typically expects when a coach is fired was delayed a year at Cincinnati.  Dantonio returns only 5 starters – plus both kickers – from a veteran team.  With so many starting positions open, Dantonio will have an opportunity to firmly imprint his stamp on the Bearcat program.  Dantonio must overhaul his starting lineup in the Bearcats inaugural season in a Big East conference that is deeper across if not tougher at the top than the former Conference USA.  It could be a rocky start for Cincinnati.  Here is a look at the decimated Cincinnati Bearcats. 


Cincinnati lost eight starters from a strong, balanced offense.  The Bearcats operate a standard I formation.  Despite featuring a four-year starter at QB, Cincinnati nonetheless was actually more prolific running the football.  With the loss of so many starters, Dantonio will have to let the offense find its own identify.  Running?  Passing?  Balanced?  Ball control?  Quick strike?  Cincinnati's 2004 offensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 183 rushing yards per game (#4 of 11 in the old Conference USA and #28 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 222 passing yards per game (#7 in the old Conference USA and #50 in Division 1A)
  • 406 total yards per game (#4 in the old Conference USA and #30 in Division 1A)
  • 29 points per game (#5 in the old Conference USA and #41 in Division 1A)

Cincinnati returns one starter in the receiving corps – Second Team All-Conference USA Jr TE Brent Celek (22 receptions for 254 yards and 8 TDs).  Second Team All-Conference USA WR Hannibal Thomas (64 receptions for 1,028 yards and 9 TDs) and Two-year starter WR George Murray (30 receptions for 361 yards) departed.  Backup TE RS So Digger Bujnoch, who was primarily a blocker, was switched to RT.  Former backup WRs So Earnest Jackson (24 receptions for 314 yards and one TD) and RS Sr Derrick Ross (12 receptions for 173 yards and one TD) will replace Thomas and Murray as starters.  Jr WR Bill Poland (5 receptions for 88 yards and one TD) and So WR Antwuan Giddens will backup Jackson and Ross.  RS So TE Hank Davis will play primarily as a blocking TE, alongside Celek rather than behind him.  Fr TE Connor Baldwin will backup Celek as a receiver.  Dantonio has enough experience returning at receiver to give him enough him a viable passing game, if he can find a QB to deliver the ball. 

The rushing game suffered a big loss in two-year starter and Third Team All-Conference USA TB Richard Hall (210 carries for 1,012 yards and 6 TDs plus 25 receptions for 152 yards and one TD).  Backup FB So Jon Carpenter (6 carries for 23 yards) was switched to LB.  Starting FB RS So Doug Jones (14 carries for 46 yards plus 21 receptions for 201 yards and 4 TDs) returns.  Backup TB So Butler Benton (100 carries for 453 yards and 4 TDs plus 4 receptions for 9 yards) has been demoted to third team TB despite the departure of Hall.  Former third team TB So Bradley Glatthaar (72 carries for 315 yards and 4 TDs) has leapfrogged Benton to seize the starting job.  Jr TB Mike Daniels (30 carries for 119 yards plus 6 receptions for 44 yards) has also passed Benton on the depth chart.  Walk-on Jr FB Dwight Stargell will backup Jones.  Dantonio has lots of experienced options to choose from in replacing Hall and the demotion of a TB who averaged 4.5 yards per carry can be viewed as a promising sign for the backfield. 

Cincinnati lost four starters with eight years of starting experience off its OLine – three-year starter and former First Team All-Conference USA LG Kyle Takavitz, two-year starter and Third Team All-Conference USA RT Clint Stickhorn, two-year starter RG Matt Mercer, and starting C Adam Shorter.  The OLine will be rebuilt around two-year starter RS Sr LT Steve Eastlake.  Former backups RS Sr LG Ryan Brown, RS Sr C Matt Webster, and RS Jr RG Jeff Reinstatler will move into the starting lineup.  Former backup TE RS So Digger Bujnoch was moved to RT and will replace Stickhorn.  RS Jr RT Frank Straub is the only returning backup.  RS So LT Jeremy Bolton was demoted off the two-deep.  RS So LT J.P. Simon, RS So LG Jon Tobin, RS Sr C Joel Yakovac, and RS Fr RG Trevor Canfield complete the second unit.  Dantonio may be able to rebuild his OLine on the fly.  While the OLine has only 28 combined starts – 24 of which belong to Eastlake, the new starters have 50 games of combined experience, including four starts. 

The loss of four-year starter and former Second Team All-Conference USA (2002) QB Gino Guidugli (210 of 342 for 2,633 yards, 26 TDs, and 8 INTs plus 43 carries for 90 yards and one TD) is a huge loss for Cincinnati.  Backup QB Collin Carey (4 of 15 for 18 yards and 2 INTs plus 15 carries for 21 yards and 2 TDs) also departed.  RS Fr QB Dustin Grutza will replace Guidugli.  JUCO Jr QB Nick Davila will backup Grutza.  With some experience at OLine, receiver, and RB, the Bearcat offense will go as far as Grutza can lead it. 


Cincinnati lost nine starters off a defense that was essentially one-deep.  The Bearcat defense yielded points far disproportionately to yardage last year.  The Bearcat defense uses a 4-3 scheme undersized DE upon whom Dantonio relies for playmaking.  Cincinnati deploys its safeties back in pass coverage and, as a result, does not give up much passing yardage.  An offense must negotiate the field without allowing a drive crippling big play by the Bearcat defense.  Cincinnati's 2004 defensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 147 rushing yards per game (#5 of 11 in the old Conference USA and #58 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 194 passing yards per game (#1 in the old Conference USA and #26 in Division 1A)
  • 341 total yards per game (#2 in the old Conference USA and #38 in Division 1A)
  • 27 points per game (#3 in the old Conference USA and #69 in Division 1A)

The defensive backfield returns two experienced starters – RS Jr SS Dominic Ross (37 tackles, one TFL, and one FR), who was demoted late last season, and So CB Antoine Horton (19 tackles, one TFL, and one FR), who split time as the starter last year.   Four-year starter and Second Team All-Conference USA SS Doug Monaghan (79 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 4 INTs, one FF, and one FR), two-year starter and two-time Second Team All-Conference USA CB Daven Holly (45 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, and 2 INTs), and co-starter CB Tedric Harwell (14 tackles) departed.  Backup FS Jermaine Jackson (26 tackles, one TFL, and one INT) also departed.  While Horton has regained his starting job, Ross has not.  Former backup SS Jr JaJuan Hall (19 tackles, 3 INTs, and one FF) will replace Monaghan in the starting lineup.  So FS Haruki Nakamura (3 tackles), who played on special teams last year, and former walk-on RS Sr CB Walter Dudley, a converted WR, will also start.  RS Jr CB John Bowie (9 tackles) joins Ross as an experienced backup.  True freshmen CB Marshwan Gilyard and FS Cedric Tolbert will complete the second unit.  With two experienced starters and two experienced backups, the defensive backfield is the most seasoned unit on the Bearcat defense. 

The DLine suffered relatively few losses, with "only" three of four starters gone – three-year starter and two-time First Team All-Conference USA DE Trent Cole (68 tackles, 22 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, and one FF), four-year starter and two-time All-Conference USA (First Team last year) DE Andre Frazier (37 tackles, 11 TFLs, 5 sacks, and one FR), and two-year starter DT Mike Wright (42 tackles and 6 TFLs).  Backup DT Lonnie Simmons (4 tackles and one sack) also departed.  Backup DE So Anthony Hoke (12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one FR) was switched to OLB.  Starting DT Sr Adam Roberts (32 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks) will anchor the rebuilt DLine.  Former backup DE RS Jr Donald Germany (10 tackles and one FR) will replace Frazier in the starting lineup.  RS Jr DT Jamie Wimmer, who has not played in three years, and true Fr DT Terrill Byrd will join Roberts and Germany in the starting lineup.  RS So DT Jon Newton, who contributed negligibly last year, returns as the only "experienced" backup.  RS Sr DT D'arrell Brown, who has not played in three years, former walk-on Jr DE Toney Carvitti (3 tackles), and RS Fr DE Lamonte Nelms complete an extremely green second unit.  Once the strength of the Bearcat defense, the DLine comprises only two experienced players.  The rushing defense could be ugly.  So too the pass rush. 

Dantonio lost his entire two-deep at LB.  A devastating blow.  Three-year starter and two-time All Conference USA (Second Team last year) MLB Jamar Enzor (73 tackles, 13 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 FF, and one FR), three-year starter and Third Team All-Conference USA OLB Tyjuan Hagler (82 tackles, 8 TFLs, one sack, one FF, and one FR), and two-year starter OLB Jason Russell (51 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, and 4 sacks) departed.  So did backup OLB Jamey Murphy (19 tackles), backup MLB Jermain Wilson (5 tackles), and backup OLB Kevin Hazel (3 tackles).  So OLB Jon Carpenter, a backup FB last year, Jr MLB Kevin McCullough, a JUCO transfer who played on special teams last year, and So OLB Anthony Hoke (12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one FR), a backup DE last year, will comprise the starting unit.  JUCO Jr MLB Leo Morgan, RS So OLB Anthony Williams, a converted safety, and true Fr OLB Corey Smith, will constitute the second unit.  Dantonio has only one experienced player in his LB corps. 


Cincinnati returns all of its specialists.  Three-year starter P Chet Ervin (41 yards per punt) and Sr PK Kevin Lovell (11 of 15 FGAs and 39 of 40 XPAs) will again handle kicking duties.  Jr Mike Daniels (12 yards per PR and 18 yards per KOR) will again handle return duties.  Dantonio has a strong kicking game and solid return game.  Special teams play will be crucial to a team otherwise lacking experience. 


Cincinnati has an 11 game schedule with only five home games.  The Bearcats play twice on Wednesday night (at Miami of Ohio and against West Virginia) and once on Thursday night (Eastern Michigan).  Cincinnati has two bye weeks – in late September and again in early November.  The Thursday game is the season opener and provides a long week for Game 2.  The Wednesday night games are each preceded by a bye week.  Cincinnati plays six 2004 bowl teams – Miami of Ohio (Independence), Pittsburgh (Fiesta), Connecticut (Motor City), Louisville (Liberty), Syracuse (Champs Sports), and West Virginia (Gator).  The non-conference schedule is not imposing, with MAC power Miami of Ohio and downtrodden Penn State.  The Big East schedule is brutal with only three home games including Louisville and West Virginia and road trips to middlings South Florida, Rutgers, and Syracuse.  The road schedule is daunting with only two realistic opportunities for win – at South Florida and at Rutgers.  The home schedule doesn't compensate with visits from Louisville and West Virginia.  The key to the schedule will be the final two games at South Florida and at Rutgers.  If Dantonio gets Cincinnati bowl eligible with an overhauled roster and murderous schedule, he deserves Big East Coach of the Year honors. 


September 1

Eastern Michigan

September 10

@ Penn State

September 17

Western Carolina

September 28

@ Miami (OH)

October 8

@ Pittsburgh

October 15


October 22


October 29

@ Syracuse

November 9

West Virginia

November 19

@ South Florida

November 26

@ Rutgers



I predict that Cincinnati will finish 3-8 (1-6 Big East).  The Bearcats will open the season with a win over middling MAC program Eastern Michigan and Division I-AA Western Carolina sandwiched around a loss at Penn State.  Cincinnati lacks the experience to beat MAC power Miami (OH) on the road.  Or win Big East games at Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, and Rutgers.  Or home games against Louisville and West Virginia.  Only a mid-October home victory against Big East middling Connecticut will spare Cincinnati from a seven game losing streak to end the season.  Dantonio needs to use this season to get his young and inexperienced team ready for next season. 

Coming Next:  Non-Conference Preview, Part 4.  I'll finish my pre-season tour of the non-conference with a look at the depleted Navy Midshipmen.  I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. 

Please send any comments to  I just noticed an error in my email address hyperlink.  I apologize to those of you who have been trying to email me, to no avail.  The link has been fixed.  Drop me a line at my Comcast address.  I welcome and appreciate your feedback, even if I make it hard to do.  And please put "Rutgers" in the message header because I wouldn't want to miss your email in a sea of spam.  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the spring camp with other Rutgers fans, please visit our message board.

Scarlet Report Top Stories