While were a Prep site, we still follow college football and the teams in Ohio. With many Ohio players taking the field for these teams we felt the need to give you some insight on what may lie ahead for these teams. We start with our first Ohio team and will take looks at the others during the next few months.
University of Cincinnati
Returning Offensive Lettermen: 25
Returning Defensive Lettermen: 23
Returning Special Teams Lettermen: 3
Lettermen Lost: 13
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio - 1st Year as HC
With a quick stroke UC fired Rick Minter after years of rebuilding the Bearcats into a real program. With a decent job of recruiting, Minter and his staff took a dead program and made it into a team capable of going to bowl games. That they did, but was Minter the right coach to take the team into Big East play for the 2005 season? The UC athletic department felt not, and hired Ohio State assistant coach Mark Dantonio in December.
The first order of business for Dantonio was the recruiting class of 2004. He ponder the question of keeping the prospects recruited by Minter or to release them and start over. Dantonio took the chance and released all the recruits and allowed his staff to start the process over in hopes of finding the players needed to build a winner in the years to come.
After taking a hit from critics, Dantonio stood his ground and found the makings of a top recruiting class. While many outsiders didn't see the impact of this class, don't be fooled. The Bearcats got some top talent to add to what was already coming back for this season.
The Bearcats have a schedule that won't be easy. With an opening date against Ohio State the Bearcats will then take on Miami of Ohio and Syracuse before seeing an easy game against East Carolina. Then they see UAB followed by Army, Memphis, TCU, Southern Mississippi and USF before closing at rival Louisville on the road.
What areas will the Bearcats find as their strengths in 2004? Let's take a look at the players who will make a difference.
In his final year of play QB Gino Guidugli will let the ball fly one more time. The question will be what offense Coach Dantonio will play. If the coach allows the QB to throw the ball around, look out. While Guidugli wasn't accurate in 2003, a new season with better receivers could make the difference. Also if the offense gets better play from running back Richard Hall the Bearcats will have a one-two punch any team would love to have. Look for linemen Kyle Takavitz to be a key for the Bearcats.
The defense was the strength early last season. With great outside pass rushers the Bearcats gave many teams fits. Late season lets down hurt the defense and the strength became a weakness. Look for former Xenia High School's Trent Cole to have another big season for the Bearcats. After having a great year last season, Cole is set to become a force and could see his NFL draft stock rise with a great season. On the other side of Cole is Andre Frazier. He and Cole could become the best two outside rushers in college football this year.
Ohio State - 9/14 - Can the Bearcats scare the Buckeyes like they did in 2002? With the Buckeyes working in a new quarterback and missing many of the key players from the past two seasons anything is possible. Will Allen won't be there to save the Buckeyes, but with a new coaching staff and schemes being put in for the first time by the Bearcats look for the Buckeyes to win this match-up.
Syracuse - 9-18 - Traveling to the Dome is never easy for any team. The Orange coaching staff needs a big season to keep their jobs, and the Bearcats could mean a victory. Look for the Orange to take the Bearcats lightly and this game could see Coach Dantonio record his first victory as UC's head man.
TCU - 10/30 - Playing at home UC will need to beat TCU for any chance to win or share in the final C-USA title. The Bearcats have a chance to come into this game with a 5-2 record or even a 6-1mark if things go well. TCU will give the Bearcats a tough game and this one could be settled with a big play on special teams.
Louisville - 11/27 - Always a big game. The Cards want a share of the C-USA title and bowl placement. This game almost never goes as plan and I don't see anything to change that in this years match-up. The edge is with the Cards, but you never know when these two teams hook up.
WHY THE SEASON WILL BE A SUCCESS
Just too much talent in the senior class. With key seniors at many of the positions the Bearcats have the players to win. If they don't win at least a share of the C-USA title or a bowl bid the season was a failure.
WHY THE SEASON WILL NOT BE A SUCCESS
New coaching staff that wants to put their mark on the team now and for the future. How many players really return from last years team is yet to be seen. Buzz is Dantonio and crew have tightened some bolts on players and some may leave. Is the coaching staff working for victories this season or for their first in the Big East in 2005? That could determine what road of success the Bearcats achieve in 2004.
TOP NEW PLAYERS
The Dantonio staff started over when they took over. But they hit the road hard and found much talent to stock the Bearcats for the future.
TOP FIVE RECRUITS
LAMONTE NELMS - RAVENNA HIGH SCHOOL - This safety prospect could grow into a linebacker before all is said and done. While he was underrated by many look for this kid to blossom into a top player for the Bearcats in the future.
BRADLEY GLATTHAAR - ELDER HIGH SCHOOL - Another underrated recruit that could become gold for the Bearcats. All the kid knows how to do is win and play hard. Look for him to pick up the tough yards and play a big role down the road.
TYJUAN JONES - TROTWOOD-MADISON HS - Another steal by the new staff. Was a verbal to the Big 10 and will see his future rise when the Bearcats head into the Big East. While listed as a DB, could grow into a linebacker or play at strong safety.
DELBERT FERGUSON - WARREN HARDING HS - The marquee name for this class. Delbert was being recruited by many top schools all over the country. An injury at the end of his senior season and questions about his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield keep some from recruiting him harder.
KHALIL EL-AMIN - PURCELL MARIAN HS - A monster of an offensive lineman El-Amin will see his stock soar with hard work and increase playing time. Big time prospect that has the size to play as a true freshman. Prospect that is a steal by the Bearcat staff and one that will have other college coaches scratching their heads in years to come.
Anytime that a team has a coaching change there will be questions. The Bearcats have the numbers you want to see from a team in terms of senior leadership. The question will be if the new system will be understood by them and will they be able to play the system on the field. Things look good for the Bearcats with this their final season in C-USA and the new Big East waiting for 2005. Coach Dantonio has a big job on his hands with turning UC into a football school and not just a basketball school. The ship looks pointed in the right direction, but only time will tell.