COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
Brendon Kay was virtually unknown to University of Cincinnati football fans at this time last year. Today, Kay is the incumbent starter at quarterback. UC went 4–1 last year after Kay took over for Munchie Legaux, who was 6–2 as starter but was benched because of accuracy issues. Legaux (52.2 percent passing) and Kay (63.0 percent) both return for their final seasons, with Kay gaining a sixth year of eligibility via a medical hardship waiver.
UC must replace tailback George Winn, who rushed for 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior year. Returnees Ralph David Abernathy IV and Tion Green and junior college transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams will all get looks, with new coach Tommy Tuberville waiting to see who steps up.
The best news is that all five offensive line starters return, led by first-team All-Big East selections Eric Lefeld (left tackle) and Austen Bujnoch (left guard).
At receiver, Anthony McClung (34 catches, 539 yards, two TDs) is the top returnee. The passing game lacked flair in 2012, ranking 54th nationally. The top target was tight end Travis Kelce, who had 45 catches in his final season. Tuberville coached the nation’s No. 2 passing offense last year at Texas Tech, but he prefers a 50-50 balance of run/pass.
The Bearcats rather quietly posted the program’s best defensive scoring average since 1995. UC allowed 18.5 points per game, which ranked No. 14 nationally.
The Bearcats return six defensive starters and several others part-time starters. Middle linebacker Greg Blair was first team All-Big East and averaged 10.6 tackles per game. Outside linebacker Nick Temple and tackle Jordan Stepp are among other productive returnees.
Keep an eye on Florida State transfer Jeff Luc, rated as the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker out of high school. Luc will play outside linebacker. He is a high-energy player.
Senior defensive backs Deven Drane and Arryn Chenault will anchor the secondary. Drane is the son of former Buffalo Bills safety Dwight Drane. Chenault is the nephew of Paul Hogue, who helped lead UC to consecutive NCAA basketball championships in 1961 and ’62.
UC will use a 4-3 front, which also was its base defense last year. Tuberville says UC will play a gap control defense, with speed favored over size, especially on the edges.
The Bearcats’ special teams took a hit when punter Pat O’Donnell opted to transfer to Miami (Fla.) for his final season of eligibility. Tony Miliano, who hit 17-of-22 field goals in 2012, enters his third year as the placekicker. Abernathy has a strong 25.8-yard career average as kickoff returner, highlighted by a 90-yard return for a TD against Vanderbilt in the 2011 Liberty Bowl.
The 58-year-old Tuberville seems energized by his move to Cincinnati. Tuberville went 20–17 at Texas Tech and was never truly embraced by the fans, but Cincinnati boosters are thrilled to have him. UC never has had a coach with anything resembling Tuberville’s national pedigree, which includes an 85–40 record at Auburn from 1999-2008.
There is a solid core of returnees, but the unknown is how much impact to expect from several transfers. Moore (all-purpose back) and Luc (linebacker), at one point or another, were rated No. 1 nationally at their positions by various recruiting services.
The Bearcats had 10-win seasons in both 2011 and 2012 under Butch Jones, who parlayed his success into the Tennessee job. With a relatively kind schedule, Cincinnati fans could see another season of double-digit wins.