Preview 2017: Cincinnati Bearcats

Preview 2017: Cincinnati Bearcats

American Athletic

Preview 2017: Cincinnati Bearcats


Preview 2017: Cincinnati Bearcats

Previewing and looking ahead at the Cincinnati season – and what you need to know.

Contact @PeteFiutak

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2017 Cincinnati Preview: Bearcats About To Go Big-Time?
2017 Cincinnati Schedule & Analysis
– Cincinnati Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The Cincinnati Offense

Fast, fast, fast. New offensive coordinator Mike Denbrook wants to crank up the tempo and get the O moving. Considering the Bearcats were 99th in the nation in total offense and 123rd in scoring, any production would be a welcome change.

It starts with a passing game that put up yards, but couldn’t close out enough drives with points. Hayden Moore is the likely No. 1 quarterback, but there will be a battle in fall camp to run the machine. Whichever option is the most accurate, and can get the ball out of his hands the fastest, will be the man.

The receiving corps should be one of the team’s biggest strengths, starting with the combination of Devin Gray and Khalil Lewis, and helped by the pass-catching ability of RB Mike Boone. The ground game isn’t necessarily going to be along for the ride, but the passing attack will be the center of the UC O.

Three starters are back on a line that was okay in pass protection, but did nothing for a ground game that ran for 1,418 yards with eight touchdowns, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.

Biggest Key To The Cincinnati Offense

Keep the passing game quick. Obviously, the O has to start scoring again – more on that in a moment – but as long as the air show is spreading the ball around and doing it with a good pace, it should be fine.

The pieces are there to have a few huge moments. The receiving corps has enough weapons and enough options to shine right away, and once the quarterback situation is settled – if Moore doesn’t have it locked down – the offense should be dangerous. Any production will be good production compared to last year.

What You Need To Know About The Cincinnati Defense

Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman has a good core to work with, and Luke Fickell certainly knows how to handle an offense, but there are a few missing pieces that might be missed early on.

The defensive front should be fantastic, with the tackle combination of Marquise Copeland and Cortez Broughton among the league’s best. With Kevin Mouhon in a hybrid role on the outside, and a few JUCO transfers about to step up in the linebacking corps, the front seven has a massive upside, even without linebackers Eric Wilson and Mike Tyson around.

The secondary was okay last season, but it could use help from a better pass rush. Corner Alex Thomas is a playmaker on the ball, while Carter Jacobs has fringe all-star potential at one safety spot. Again, though, the …

Biggest Key To The Cincinnati Defense

That pass rush. Getting behind the line wasn’t that huge a problem for the D, but getting to the quarterback at times was like pulling teeth. The Bearcats came up with three sacks in the opener against UT Martin, three against Houston, and five against Miami University – and that’s about it. 11 of the 19 sacks cam in the first four games, and then it went bye-bye at times, with just five sacks over the final six games.

Cincinnati Will Be Far Better If …

The offense puts points on the board. It’ll be a faster attack, there should be a greater tempo with more yards and more pressure put on defenses. All that matters is whether or not the team once again figure out how to put the biscuit in the basket.

This isn’t hard. The 2015 Bearcats – led by a passing game that finished sixth in the nation – averaged 34 points per outing and won seven games. Had they scored 34 points per outing last year, they win at least eight games, maybe nine. Instead, UC scored 13 points over a late three-game stretch, ending up going 4-1 when scoring 27 points or more, and 0-7 when scoring fewer.

Best Cincinnati Offensive Player

WR Devin Gray, Sr. – Potentially the breakout star of the new offensive style, the 6-0, 177-pound former JUCO transfer out of California should put up massive numbers after leading the team with 58 catches for 860 yards and five scores. While he’s not all that big, and he’s not going to outmuscle anyone for the ball, he can hit the home run, averaging almost 15 yards per catch with three 100-yard games.

2. QB Hayden Moore, Jr.
3. WR Kahlil Lewis, Jr.
4. RB Mike Boone, Sr.
5. OT Ryan Stout, Jr.

Best Cincinnati Defensive Player

DT Cortez Broughton, Jr. – While he was limping with a foot injury this offseason, the 6-2, 297-pound star of the line should be just fine this fall as the glue up front. Very quick and active in the interior, he came up with 42 tackles, 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. Now he has to stay healthy. He was knocked out of his freshman year hurt, but if he’s able to last the year, he’ll be an All-AAC First Teamer.

2. LB/DE Kevin Mouhon, Jr.
3. DT Marquise Copeland, Jr.
4. CB Alex Thomas, Jr.
5. S Carter Jacobs, Sr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Hayden Moore, Jr. – The passing game was able to put up yards, but there were too many mistakes, too many stalled drives, and not enough points. Gunner Kiel did what he could, but it was Moore who led the team with 1,744 yards and 11 scores with seven picks in seven games.

Now he has to battle with Ross Trail – who threw one touchdown pass and six picks as a freshman – to see who gets to run the warp-speed attack. While Moore is the No.1 guy going into the summer, Ohio State transfer Torrance Gibson – a former receiver – will be in the hunt for the job in fall camp, too.

The Cincinnati Season Will Be A Success If …

It challenges for the East. Expect a massive turnaround. If the offensive scheme works at all, all of a sudden, the Bearcats could be real, live players in the AAC East race. The USF game is on the road, though, but this team could still push for eight wins and a shot at the conference title game. Beat the Bulls, and with this schedule, the potential is there for something big.

Key Game To The Cincinnati Season

Sept. 23 at Navy – Not just the American Athletic Conference opener, it’s a gut-check moment for the Bearcats after going on the road to deal with Michigan, and then the rivalry date against Miami University. Win this, and with the next three games at home, there’s a chance for a good start – and more wins before Halloween than the team had all of last year.

2016 Cincinnati Fun Stats

– 2nd Half Scoring: Opponents 171 – Cincinnati 96
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 11-of-18 (61%) – Cincinnati 7-of-17 (41%)
– Time of Possession: Opponents 33:30 – Cincinnati 26:30

2017 Cincinnati Preview: Bearcats About To Go Big-Time?
2017 Cincinnati Schedule & Analysis
– Cincinnati Previews: 2016 | 2015

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