Scouting C-USA: Cincinnati

The Bearcats, who broke through with a solid campaign in '01 making a bowl appearance in December, bring most of their roster back for 2002. The team is highlighted by several explosive players on defense and a few receivers that will get late round consideration.

Cincinnati Bearcats

There is a pair of skill players to keep an eye on. DeMarco McCleskey is a ball carrier that caught our eye four seasons ago and has done a terrific job since returning from a suspension that cost him the 2000 season. McClesky is a solid interior back who runs with balance, power and instinct. An adequate receiver out of the backfield, he also lends a helping hand blocking in pass protection. It is unlikely McCleskey would break into the initial five rounds of the draft as he is not fast and probably cannot handle the load as a feature runner at the next level but he could thrive as an inexpensive back-up handling an array of duties. Receiver LaDaris Vann is a consistent target that gets separation from defenders, displays good eye-hand coordination and catches the ball with a good degree of reliability. Vann is not big, though he has a compact build, nor a wide out that stretches the defense with deep speed. He has an outside shot as a team's fifth receiver and his experience as a return specialist is a plus. Jon Olinger has exceptional size but only minimal production while Tye Keith is a smurf-type pass catcher that could be considered for the slot if he learns to return punts and/or kicks. Both are free agents.

Defensively, the Bearcats have three players that may garner interest, first and foremost being end Antwan Peek. A relentless defender that goes 100 MPH, Peek is a heady prospect who plays with solid fundamentals and is constantly around the action making something positive happen. Peek plays with leverage, balance and displays a burst of closing speed but is an undersized (6-2/238) pass rusher. In many ways he reminds us of Adalius Thomas, the former C-USA star now with the Baltimore Ravens, but much more intense. Peek displays the ability to play off the line of scrimmage and drop into coverage, and in the end he may be better off as an outside linebacker in a three-four scheme like Thomas. Solid post-season workouts could move Peek into the middle frames. The other bookend lineman, Derrick Adams, is a lesser version of his teammate as he's shorter and not nearly as quick or fast and is a late round type. Danny "Blue" Adams flashed brilliance as a cover corner early in his college career but a major knee injury has really set him back the past two seasons. Though Adams was rotated into the line-up last season he still displayed solid corner skills but it looks like a major uphill climb for him. Lastly; keep an eye on senior linebacker Jason Hunt, a defender very good making plays up the field.



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