Rutgers-Cincy Preview

Whether Greg Schiano turns to Dom Natale, Jabu Lovelace, Tom Savage or some combination, one thing's for sure, the Cincinnati defense is nearly as inexperienced as the Rutgers passing game.

The Bearcats lost 10 starters on defense from last season meaning that, no matter how inexperienced the Rutgers offense may seem, they aren't the only ones.

"I think we're both going to learn a lot about our guys that haven't played, that's for sure," Schiano said. "Then you throw in the other variable of they're changing their scheme on defense, or at least rumored to be changing their scheme on defense. That really throws an extra question mark in there. It's certainly going to be exciting to watch it unfold. That's one word, 'exciting,' I guess."

But don't let the non-starters fool you. Zero of 10 new starters are freshmen, meaning there is a decent amount of backup experience now in the starting lineup.

"We do have a lot of veterans that we're going to put on the field that have been waiting for their opportunity," said Cincinnati head coach and reigning Big East Coach of the Year Brian Kelly.

"So I think I'd feel a whole lot more nervous about replacing those guys if we were replacing them with a lot of freshmen, but in those 10 starters we have to replace, not one of them will be a freshman. So they've been here, they've developed in our program and I feel a whole lot better about that because we had some guys who can step in."

The Bearcats also have a new defensive coordinator, Bob Diaco from UVA, and will throw a mix for 4-3 and 3-4 looks at the Scarlet Knights.

Natale, likely to start for Rutgers after getting the most reps with the first team throughout the spring and summer, is not looking past their defense as inexperienced.

"They have 10 new starters, but at the same time they had a guy last year at tight end that they put at D-end and he got drafted (Conor Barwin) so we're not putting anything past them," Natale said. "We know they're going to come out with some talent and we're getting ready for it."

On offense, the Bearcats have two of the biggest weapons in the Big East, quarterback Tony Pike and wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, both of which are legitimate NFL prospects.

Pike, standing at 6-foor-6 and allegedly 20 pounds heavier than last season, is the cream of the crop in terms of Big East quarterbacks. He completed passes for 2,407 yards and 19 touchdowns last season as one of Cincinnati's four starters at quarterback.

"I really think Tony Pike is an NFL quarterback," Schiano said. "He's got all the tools, he's big, he's strong, he can throw the ball well, he sees the field well, he makes good decisions, and he has good mobility."

Gilyard, Pike's go to guy, had 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"Gilyard is really a talent," Schiano said. "He's got all the things: size, speed, athleticism and he's got an edge to him. He plays with an edge." Notes: -Three true freshman have cracked the two-deep for the opener. Savage, the backup quarterback, and Mohamed Sanu, the second starter at wide receiver, are all but guaranteed to play on offense whereas outside linebacker Steve Beauharnais is the only defensive true freshman to make the list.

-Both the battles at left guard (Caleb Ruch vs. Howard Barbieri) and weakside linebacker (Antonio Lowery vs. Manny Abreu) appear to have gone undecided with Schiano saying that both position swill involve split reps.

-On the injury from, tailback Kordell Young (knee) is the only player that isn't expected to see the field. Both defensive end George Johnson (shoulder) and defensive tackle Blair Bines (ankle) will play.

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