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Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
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Cat-Man Offline
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Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/...909047001/

Fletcher Page, Cincinnati Enquirer Published 3:06 p.m. ET Aug. 3, 2019 | Updated 3:19 p.m. ET Aug. 3, 2019

WEST HARRISON, Indiana — The Cincinnati football team held the first practice of its annual two-plus week stay at the Higher Ground Conference & Retreat Center on Saturday.

It's clear through the first four days of training camp: The Bearcats have plenty of positions of power. Running back, safety, tight end and quarterback would be among that group.

But here's a few positions in question that could shake out in August while UC is away from home in all-football mode:

Right tackle

The offensive line appears to be in solid shape with left tackle Chris Ferguson, left guard Jeremy Cooper, center Jakari Robinson and right guard Morgan James in line to start. The right tackle position, however, is still up for grabs.

The coaching staff has expressed no outward concern at this point. Remember, last season's starting left tackle Dino Boyd got a late start to camp and Chris Ferguson came essentially from off the radar to secure the right tackle spot.

With Ferguson moved to the left side, redshirt sophomore Vincent McConnell, redshirt freshman Lorenz Metz and junior Darius Harper are the candidates for the right tackle job.

"We're giving a couple different guys shots there," said Bearcats' offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock. "Three guys right now, which may be one too many. As we go through camp we'll have to make a decision with the top two. We've tried to give each one of those guys a day starting with the ones so we can truly evaluate where we're at and the competition that we're going against. It's been very good. I think there's more than one there, which is good. That's what we want: quality depth and competition that makes each other better. That's what those guys are doing a good job."

McConnell and Harper have also spent time as the backup left tackle.

Defensive tackle

For a team that returns so much production, the interior of the defensive line was depleted when Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland exhausted eligibility and moved on to the NFL. That left newcomer d-line assistant Chad Wilt with a challenge for his first year on staff.

Or, according to his positive take, you could call it an opportunity.

"No one person has to replace a person," Wilt said. "First off, Cortez and Copeland were leaders and the examples of values and culture of the program you want to have. Nobody has to replace them individually on their own. They were also great players with the production they had. No one person has to replace that. We as a unit have to replace it. We have to find ways to replace that."

So far in camp, junior Elijah Ponder and sophomore Jabari Taylor have spent time with the No. 1 defense and juniors Marcus Brown and Curtis Brooks have gotten plenty of reps, too.

"We as unit, as a group, have to all rise to the challenge," Wilt said. "If that means it takes nine guys to get the same production, that's fine. Ones and twos, that's irrelevant. We're all going to play. There's opportunities for guys."

Wide receiver

This much is true for the Bearcats' wide receiver unit: There's plenty of bodies to work with.

The question is: Who will emerge? According to Denbrock, wide receiver is the missing piece to a completely balanced offense.

"That's really for us what I think could make the the explosiveness that we showed last year go up," he said. "That could probably be the biggest leap in who we are if we just have somebody on the outside that can make those plays for us consistently."

A handful of players have had flashes during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 this week, including senior Rashad Mendaris, sophomore Jayshon Jackson, junior Malick Mbodj and sophomores Trent Cloud and Alec Pierce.

Pierce, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound Glen Ellyn product, has had his share of moments.

"The thing about Alec that he proved in the spring was consistency," said Bearcats coach Luke Fickell. "He's a highly intelligent kid that you know over time is going to continue to get better. He's a hard worker."

A group of newcomers, including Ohio State transfer Blue Smith (still awaiting word of immediate eligibility from the NCAA) have shown potential, too.

"We're looking for consistency more than anything else, a guy that day in and day out when we put him in those matchups he can win them," Denbrock said. "It's been great for our wide receivers because we've got some really quality guys in the secondary. The work we get everyday against those guys helps their level of play go up, so I think we're going to find what we need there. And the great thing about what we do here is we're versatile enough to move the chess pieces around however we need to. I think there's a lot of quality there. I think it's just go to be refined a little there and see who rises to the top."

Kicker

There's a three-way competition for the job to kick it through the uprights this season. Sophomore Cole Smith, senior Ryan Jones and graduate transfer Sam Crosa have a rotation each practice. Two take turns each day with one sitting out for rest.

"There's three guys that we're going to continue to roll through," Fickell said. "A little bit like the wide receiver position, you know. Hopefully at the end of the camp and the kick scrimmages that we have we're going to put as much pressure on these guys as we possible can and see who will perform."

Smith connected on just 5 of 12 field goals and 54-for-56 on extra points as a freshman last season. Jones was 5-for-5 on extra points in the Military Bowl after taking the starting job. Crosa was 10-for-14 on field goals with a long of 44 yards last season at Western Illinois.

"Got a plan for it and we're going to stick to the plan," Fickell said. "Hopefully it's a tough decision for us based on everybody performing well."
 
08-04-2019 10:20 AM
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dubcat14 Offline
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
Not sure if I'm the only one who senses this but it seems like the Enquirer has "turned on" the Bearcats coverage over the last month or so. Not sure if they finally got the message or if it's the annual turn up before the season which was lacking the last few years because of the product on the field. Just tons of stories recently from Beaver's eligibility to the latest commit.
 
08-04-2019 07:59 PM
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
Ryan Jones kicks in the Military Bowl were nailed. Unless Smith learned a new leg swing I cannot see him winning the job.
 
08-04-2019 08:13 PM
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natibeast21 Offline
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-04-2019 07:59 PM)dubcat14 Wrote:  Not sure if I'm the only one who senses this but it seems like the Enquirer has "turned on" the Bearcats coverage over the last month or so. Not sure if they finally got the message or if it's the annual turn up before the season which was lacking the last few years because of the product on the field. Just tons of stories recently from Beaver's eligibility to the latest commit.

I have noticed the same thing from recruiting coverage to transfers to now camp. Great to see from the CINCINNATI Enquirer.
 
08-04-2019 08:40 PM
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bearcatlawjd2 Offline
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
I am only one nervous about all four groups especially the Defense Line and Kicker. The schedule is extremely difficult in front six that it basically makes UCLA, Miami OH, Marshall, and UCF must wins. Any issues with the kicking game could be costly. If the lines can’t hold up the other groups can only do much.
 
08-04-2019 08:50 PM
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UCGrad1992 Offline
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-04-2019 08:50 PM)bearcatlawjd2 Wrote:  I am only one nervous about all four groups especially the Defense Line and Kicker. The schedule is extremely difficult in front six that it basically makes UCLA, Miami OH, Marshall, and UCF must wins. Any issues with the kicking game could be costly. If the lines can’t hold up the other groups can only do much.

IMO, all those games SHOULD be wins. I really believe this team is chompin' at the bit to improve over last year, and in particular, their play against UCF. One thing I really appreciate about Coach Fick is the level of physicality and toughness that he has brought to the program. The ability to run the ball effectively is a wonderful arrow to have in the quiver. It takes pressure off the passing game and the defense, wears down the opposing defense, and it moves the clock. What I love the most about Fick's philosophy...he doesn't ABANDON the run. Keep grinding and going back to it. It will remain a point of emphasis this year with the thoroughbreds in the stable. Heck, put two tight ends in the game at times for extra blocking or one TE can flare out for a pass. Also, ROY Dez Ridder will take it to another level in the passing game.
 
08-05-2019 07:18 AM
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-04-2019 08:40 PM)natibeast21 Wrote:  
(08-04-2019 07:59 PM)dubcat14 Wrote:  Not sure if I'm the only one who senses this but it seems like the Enquirer has "turned on" the Bearcats coverage over the last month or so. Not sure if they finally got the message or if it's the annual turn up before the season which was lacking the last few years because of the product on the field. Just tons of stories recently from Beaver's eligibility to the latest commit.

I have noticed the same thing from recruiting coverage to transfers to now camp. Great to see from the CINCINNATI Enquirer.

Fletcher Page started the beat a month or so ago and that is when the uptick started. Not sure if its the Enqurier or if was the previous beat writers (Bill Koch and then Tom Groeschen)-- probably a little of both. Page is writing at the level that we have seen other papers cover the teams in their cities (or alternatively how we saw the Enquirer cover XU when Shannon Russell and Pat Brennan were covering the beat). Makes one wonder if Koch and Groeschen had been here for so many years they just went through the motions.

As to the position battles, I am excited to see how the WR position shakes out. We need to get someone who can stretch the field- I think Alec Pierce can be that guy, but things will get really interesting if Blue Smith becomes eligible (hopefully we'll know this week).
 
08-05-2019 07:34 AM
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-05-2019 07:18 AM)UCGrad1992 Wrote:  
(08-04-2019 08:50 PM)bearcatlawjd2 Wrote:  I am only one nervous about all four groups especially the Defense Line and Kicker. The schedule is extremely difficult in front six that it basically makes UCLA, Miami OH, Marshall, and UCF must wins. Any issues with the kicking game could be costly. If the lines can’t hold up the other groups can only do much.

IMO, all those games SHOULD be wins. I really believe this team is chompin' at the bit to improve over last year, and in particular, their play against UCF. One thing I really appreciate about Coach Fick is the level of physicality and toughness that he has brought to the program. The ability to run the ball effectively is a wonderful arrow to have in the quiver. It takes pressure off the passing game and the defense, wears down the opposing defense, and it moves the clock. What I love the most about Fick's philosophy...he doesn't ABANDON the run. Keep grinding and going back to it. It will remain a point of emphasis this year with the thoroughbreds in the stable. Heck, put two tight ends in the game at times for extra blocking or one TE can flare out for a pass. Also, ROY Dez Ridder will take it to another level in the passing game.

In two short insightful posts, a great point/counterpoint on the coming season. I'll only add that since we first knew the schedule, I've felt the UCLA game might be the most critical opener in recent program history. Win that one and let the chips fall where they may in Columbus. Take care of business the rest of the season and we'll have a positive outcome. Conversely, lose to UCLA, go to Columbus and drop that one and the air is out of the balloon. It could still be an AAC championship season, but would be discredited by those who don't take Bearcat football seriously.
 
08-05-2019 08:32 AM
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Helicopter Offline
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
This team will be in every game this year because they commit to running the football and value possessions. Their ceiling is Dez Ridder and whether the D Line steps up. I regret their Achilles heal is going to be kicking, again.
 
08-05-2019 09:11 AM
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-05-2019 08:32 AM)OKIcat Wrote:  
(08-05-2019 07:18 AM)UCGrad1992 Wrote:  
(08-04-2019 08:50 PM)bearcatlawjd2 Wrote:  I am only one nervous about all four groups especially the Defense Line and Kicker. The schedule is extremely difficult in front six that it basically makes UCLA, Miami OH, Marshall, and UCF must wins. Any issues with the kicking game could be costly. If the lines can’t hold up the other groups can only do much.

IMO, all those games SHOULD be wins. I really believe this team is chompin' at the bit to improve over last year, and in particular, their play against UCF. One thing I really appreciate about Coach Fick is the level of physicality and toughness that he has brought to the program. The ability to run the ball effectively is a wonderful arrow to have in the quiver. It takes pressure off the passing game and the defense, wears down the opposing defense, and it moves the clock. What I love the most about Fick's philosophy...he doesn't ABANDON the run. Keep grinding and going back to it. It will remain a point of emphasis this year with the thoroughbreds in the stable. Heck, put two tight ends in the game at times for extra blocking or one TE can flare out for a pass. Also, ROY Dez Ridder will take it to another level in the passing game.

In two short insightful posts, a great point/counterpoint on the coming season. I'll only add that since we first knew the schedule, I've felt the UCLA game might be the most critical opener in recent program history. Win that one and let the chips fall where they may in Columbus. Take care of business the rest of the season and we'll have a positive outcome. Conversely, lose to UCLA, go to Columbus and drop that one and the air is out of the balloon. It could still be an AAC championship season, but would be discredited by those who don't take Bearcat football seriously.

Games at Houston and at Memphis will be extremely tough. At Marshall is no gimme. Temple is always tough because they have tough guys on both their offensive and defensive lines and their defensive secondary is always good. UC could be a much better team this year and still finish 8-4 or 7-5. On the other hand, we could win 11 games once again against a much tougher schedule.
 
08-05-2019 04:21 PM
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bearcatlawjd2 Offline
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-05-2019 04:21 PM)vabearcat Wrote:  
(08-05-2019 08:32 AM)OKIcat Wrote:  
(08-05-2019 07:18 AM)UCGrad1992 Wrote:  
(08-04-2019 08:50 PM)bearcatlawjd2 Wrote:  I am only one nervous about all four groups especially the Defense Line and Kicker. The schedule is extremely difficult in front six that it basically makes UCLA, Miami OH, Marshall, and UCF must wins. Any issues with the kicking game could be costly. If the lines can’t hold up the other groups can only do much.

IMO, all those games SHOULD be wins. I really believe this team is chompin' at the bit to improve over last year, and in particular, their play against UCF. One thing I really appreciate about Coach Fick is the level of physicality and toughness that he has brought to the program. The ability to run the ball effectively is a wonderful arrow to have in the quiver. It takes pressure off the passing game and the defense, wears down the opposing defense, and it moves the clock. What I love the most about Fick's philosophy...he doesn't ABANDON the run. Keep grinding and going back to it. It will remain a point of emphasis this year with the thoroughbreds in the stable. Heck, put two tight ends in the game at times for extra blocking or one TE can flare out for a pass. Also, ROY Dez Ridder will take it to another level in the passing game.

In two short insightful posts, a great point/counterpoint on the coming season. I'll only add that since we first knew the schedule, I've felt the UCLA game might be the most critical opener in recent program history. Win that one and let the chips fall where they may in Columbus. Take care of business the rest of the season and we'll have a positive outcome. Conversely, lose to UCLA, go to Columbus and drop that one and the air is out of the balloon. It could still be an AAC championship season, but would be discredited by those who don't take Bearcat football seriously.

Games at Houston and at Memphis will be extremely tough. At Marshall is no gimme. Temple is always tough because they have tough guys on both their offensive and defensive lines and their defensive secondary is always good. UC could be a much better team this year and still finish 8-4 or 7-5. On the other hand, we could win 11 games once again against a much tougher schedule.

Defending Nippert is key . Beating Marshall and Miami is needed. Do that you get to 7 wins. Then you to winsfive figure out how get at least two more roads wins to have chance at a conference championship.
 
08-05-2019 05:06 PM
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
(08-05-2019 05:06 PM)bearcatlawjd2 Wrote:  Defending Nippert is key . Beating Marshall and Miami is needed. Do that you get to 7 wins. Then you to winsfive figure out how get at least two more roads wins to have chance at a conference championship.

Cats won all their home games last year and I don't see that changing for this year. THEY. WILL. DEFEND. HOME. FIELD. 6 wins in the books right there. I believe we beat Marshall and ECU on the road. 8 wins. We take 2 of 4 on the road against tOSU, Houston, USF, and Memphis. 10 wins and we take the East Crown.
 
(This post was last modified: 08-05-2019 09:59 PM by UCGrad1992.)
08-05-2019 09:58 PM
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground
You mean 15 wins.
 
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RE: Four position battles that should shake out at Higher Ground




Bearcats' Coach Luke Fickell's Comments on Blue Smith's Eligibility to Play This Season
 
(This post was last modified: 08-07-2019 03:34 PM by cpawstoney.)
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