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The big Cincinnati Bearcats football guide: The 2015 AAC's safest bet?

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The 128-team countdown examines an American Athletic Conference contender that should have one of the country's best passing games.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. They improved

Over the previous nine years, Cincinnati's No. 47 F/+ ranking in 2014 was its third worst behind 2013 (64th) and 2010 (58th). That Tommy Tuberville has been in charge for two of those three seasons could be a sign of concern, if you're looking for one. The defense has yet to play at a top-50 level under Tuberville, and the running game, long a Tuberville staple, held the Bearcats back last year.

If you ignore context, you wonder about Cincinnati's trajectory moving forward. But you have to ignore a LOT of context, as few teams have been wrecked by injuries in the way Cincinnati was.

Ralph David Abernathy IV, a unique run-and-catch threat, played in two games and touched the ball four times. Hosey Williams, 2013's leading rusher, played in four games. Tion Green, an efficiency back in 2013, played in three. That's 1,488 yards of missing production. Oh, and Cincinnati started nine different offensive linemen.

On defense, the fact that the Bearcats improved at all (from 62nd in Def. S&P+ to 52nd) was impressive considering they had to replace every defensive tackle, lost likely starting cornerback Adrian Witty to injury, and got a combined four games out of what were supposed to be two contributing linebackers. UC was forced to become far more conservative than it wanted.

But after a slow start that featured blowout losses to Ohio State, Memphis, and Miami and a far-too-close win over Miami (Ohio), the Bearcats played like a legitimate top-25 team (we'll ignore the bowl loss to Virginia Tech, since it featured a walk-on quarterback because of injury) and finished 9-4. It was a second straight slow start for Cincy under Tuberville, but this one was far easier to understand.

Cincy enters 2015 with reason for severe optimism. Williams and Green join Mike Boone (who played quite well) in the backfield, and quarterback Gunner Kiel returns each of his top seven weapons from one of the nation's better passing attacks. Cincinnati must replace five offensive linemen (including an all-conference tackle) but returns four (including an all-conference tackle), and while the defensive front seven has some retooling, the secondary is in far healthier shape.

And after finishing 2014 strong, Tuberville inked what was deemed by the 247Sports Composite to be the best class in the AAC. Recruiting and last year's injuries have created what might be the strongest two-deep in the conference, and the schedule features visits from each of Cincy's primary division rivals (Temple and UCF).

If you're looking for reasons to set high expectations at Nippert Stadium, you've got them. Of course, good or bad, it's rarely a smart idea to set expectations for a Tuberville team. Regardless, the Bearcats should be fun as hell on offense, so even if they don't live up to the expectations I am setting for them (despite the fact that I know better), the entertainment factor should be high.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 10-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 47
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
12-Sep Toledo 59 58-34 W 92% 32.6 99%
20-Sep Miami (Ohio) 103 31-24 W 59% 5.1 86%
27-Sep at Ohio State 1 28-50 L 64% 8.2 24%
4-Oct Memphis 41 14-41 L 24% -16.6 1%
11-Oct at Miami 31 34-55 L 7% -34.4 0%
18-Oct at SMU 127 41-3 W 83% 22.5 100%
24-Oct South Florida 123 34-17 W 85% 24.2 100%
31-Oct at Tulane 93 38-14 W 74% 15.2 97%
13-Nov East Carolina 61 54-46 W 73% 14.4 66%
22-Nov at Connecticut 119 41-0 W 96% 42.3 100%
29-Nov at Temple 67 14-6 W 86% 25.0 96%
6-Dec Houston 73 38-31 W 71% 12.8 76%
27-Dec vs. Virginia Tech 33 17-33 L 44% -3.7 36%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 35.1 31 26.4 52
Points Per Game 34.0 30 27.2 69

2. Two acts

After a brilliant performance against Toledo, Cincinnati hit a tailspin before rallying.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 5 games): 49% (record: 2-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 7 games): 81% (record: 7-0)

With the way Cincinnati running backs were exploding like Spinal Tap drummers*, it would be easy to pin a lot of the early troubles on the running game. After all, after rushing for 148 yards in the season opener against Toledo, UC averaged 83 rushing yards per game over the next four games.

But opponents were still struggling to get a grasp of Gunner Kiel and the passing game, and the offense was only so much of a problem. The biggest early issue for the Bearcats during their back-to-back-to-back blowout losses was the other side.

  • Yards per play (first 5 games): Opponent 7.05, Cincinnati 6.20 (-0.85)
  • Yards per play (next 7 games): Cincinnati 6.33, Opponent 5.23 (+1.10)

Mike Boone rushed 34 times for 325 yards against USF and Tulane in October, and UC found ways to stabilize the run. That allowed the Bearcats to improve offensively even as Kiel began to deal with injuries of his own.

But defensive improvement was the real story. After allowing at least a 151 passer rating in each of the first five games, even against Miami (Ohio), Cincy didn't allow anything higher than 137.4. And after allowing at least 5.9 yards per carry in three of the first five games, the Bearcats did so in just one of the final eight.

So what changed? The level of opponent, certainly. It's easy to look good when you're defending against SMU, USF, Tulane, UConn, and Temple. But Cincinnati's play took a clear step forward even when you adjust for opponent, and it's hard to figure out why. The personnel didn't change much, and while UC coaches began to use words like "simplify," that's what you always hear when a defense is struggling.

But SOMETHING changed, and the defense clicked.

Now, more change is afoot. Defensive co-coordinator Hank Hughes moved on to the same role at Nebraska, and Tuberville promoted Steve Clinkscale as the new co-coordinator with Robert Prunty. And while the secondary appears experienced, UC must replace four of its top six linemen and two fantastic linebackers (Jeff Luc and Nick Temple). If the Bearcats start slowly for the third straight season, defense will again most likely be the reason.

* I'm allowed to use the Spinal Tap drummer reference only once per annual preview series, and I've now played that card. Hold me to that.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.91 36 IsoPPP+ 130.0 15
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 45.0% 34 Succ. Rt. + 110.2 35
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.0 70 Def. FP+ 101.0 53
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.0 14 Redzone S&P+ 109.2 43
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 21.2 ACTUAL 22 +0.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 29 20 25 15
RUSHING 74 46 37 56
PASSING 13 10 22 8
Standard Downs 25 35 21
Passing Downs 12 15 9
Q1 Rk 27 1st Down Rk 19
Q2 Rk 7 2nd Down Rk 25
Q3 Rk 47 3rd Down Rk 19
Q4 Rk 24

3. An excellent offense despite exploding backs

Even with a new running back seemingly every series, Cincinnati produced a top-50 running game, lacking in big plays to a degree but efficient enough to take heat off of the pass.

And despite all the shuffling, UC had just about every stat that you want to see when you're starting a young quarterback: the Bearcats were explosive on passing downs (what I tend to call the play-maker downs), they improved as a half unfolded, and they adapted when a particular tactic stopped working.

If Kiel gets hurt again, all bets are off. Seniors Jarred Evans and Michael Colosimo combined to complete seven of 18 passes last year, and the next best options are either a redshirt freshman (Hayden Moore) or a true freshman (Ross Trail). But that goes for most teams. If Kiel's healthy, this offense will be phenomenal.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Gunner Kiel 6'4, 208 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9869 233 390 3254 31 13 59.7% 11 2.7% 7.8
Munchie Legaux
53 80 574 3 1 66.3% 4 4.8% 6.5
Jarred Evans 6'2, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8298 2 5 10 0 0 40.0% 2 28.6% 0.4
Michael Colosimo 6'2, 216 Sr. NR NR 5 13 78 1 0 38.5% 0 0.0% 6.0
Hayden Moore 6'3, 193 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8229








Ross Trail 6'3, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8697








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Rod Moore RB
143 618 5 4.3 4.0 35.7% 1 1
Mike Boone RB 5'10, 205 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 101 650 9 6.4 6.7 40.6% 1 1
Gunner Kiel QB 6'4, 208 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9869 52 251 1 4.8 4.3 44.2% 7 3
Tion Green RB 6'0, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8590 28 118 1 4.2 3.1 28.6% 0 0
Hosey Williams RB 5'9, 199 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8138 26 140 0 5.4 5.9 34.6% 0 0
Jarred Evans QB 6'2, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8298 20 117 1 5.9 2.5 60.0% 1 0
Chad Banschbach RB 5'9, 185 So. NR NR 17 81 0 4.8 2.3 41.2% 0 0
Munchie Legaux QB
16 79 1 4.9 1.7 68.8% 0 0
Bobby Brown RB 6'0, 200 So. NR NR 11 80 0 7.3 6.8 45.5% 0 0
Shaq Washington WR 5'9, 174 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 8 23 0 2.9 2.3 25.0% 1 1
Michael Colosimo QB 6'2, 216 Sr. NR NR 4 54 0 13.5 6.5 100.0% 0 0
Joshuwa Holloman RB 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8497
Taylor Boose RB 6'0, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Shaq Washington WR 5'9, 174 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 99 66 761 66.7% 20.9% 62.6% 7.7 -31 7.6 119.3
Mekale McKay WR 6'6, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8522 77 44 725 57.1% 16.2% 67.5% 9.4 181 9.5 113.6
Max Morrison WR 6'1, 173 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) NR 64 45 458 70.3% 13.5% 59.4% 7.2 -77 7.2 71.8
Chris Moore WR 6'1, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8441 59 30 673 50.8% 12.4% 59.3% 11.4 292 11.4 105.5
Johnny Holton WR 6'3, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 50 29 431 58.0% 10.5% 56.0% 8.6 73 8.6 67.5
Alex Chisum WR 6'3, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8403 40 22 242 55.0% 8.4% 70.0% 6.1 -32 6.1 37.9
Nate Cole WR 6'1, 193 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8565 19 15 145 78.9% 4.0% 68.4% 7.6 -30 7.2 22.7
Rod Moore RB
19 9 137 47.4% 4.0% 42.1% 7.2 21 7.1 21.5
Casey Gladney WR
16 12 198 75.0% 3.4% 31.3% 12.4 57 14.9 31.0
Mike Boone RB 5'10, 205 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 9 6 62 66.7% 1.9% 66.7% 6.9 -10 6.7 9.7
DJ Dowdy TE 6'4, 241 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8484 8 5 36 62.5% 1.7% 62.5% 4.5 -25 4.6 5.6
Hosey Williams RB 5'9, 199 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8138 4 3 33 75.0% 0.8% 75.0% 8.3 -2 6.3 5.2
Tyler Cogswell TE 6'4, 248 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8475
Tshumbi Johnson WR 5'11, 175 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8522
Frank Labady WR 5'7, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8299
Daniel Cobb WR 5'10, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8202
Kahlil Lewis WR 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8529
Doug Bates TE 6'4, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8267

4. Loaded

Now that the dust has settled, UC boasts three running backs who have posted an Opportunity Rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards) of 39 percent in one of the last two seasons -- Boone (41 percent) in 2014 and Williams (42 percent) and Green (39 percent) in 2013. And if these three either struggle, there could be interesting options like walk-on sophomore Bobby Brown (7.3 yards per carry in limited action) and mid-three-star freshmen Joshuwa Holloman and Taylor Boose.

Cincinnati has rushing options, and goodness knows there are receiving options. Shaq Washington is a steady possession man -- of the 75 FBS players targeted with at least 95 passes in 2014, Washington was one of only 25 with a catch rate of at least 67 percent. He and Max Morrison are the camp-out-in-a-hole-in-the-zone guys, and Mekale McKay, Chris Moore, and Johnny Holton (combined: 17.8 yards per catch) are the field stretchers.

UC is loaded with exciting senior receivers, and if defenses have to keep an eye on the run, Cincinnati is going to do some bad things.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 110.2 3.07 3.12 40.3% 69.0% 14.8% 145.9 3.2% 5.3%
Rank 35 45 82 54 49 15 20 26 32
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Eric Lefeld LT 45 2014 1st All-AAC
Parker Ehinger RT 6'7, 315 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8042 38 2014 1st All-AAC
Deyshawn Bond C 6'2, 298 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8231 23
Justin Murray LT 6'5, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8331 12
Tyreek Burwell LG
5
Kevin Schloemer RG
5
Ryan Leahy LG 6'6, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438 3
Dominic Mainello C
3
Cory Keebler RT
1
Korey Cunningham LT 6'5, 254 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 0
Chad West RT 6'6, 292 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8073 0
Ja'Merez Bowen OL 6'4, 270 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8300
Luke Callahan OL 6'5, 278 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8238
Ryan Stout OL 6'5, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8017
Delonte Murray OL 6'5, 311 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7867
Idarius Ray OL 6'5, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7783
Evan Mallory OL 6'5, 302 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8463
Tyler McGarr OL 6'4, 275 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8054

5. No injuries, please

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, about whom I was a bit worried when he was first hired -- identity is an important thing, and his quotes reeked of "we're going to do everything!" -- proved his mettle, and with such depth at running back and receiver, he will have plenty of creative outlets.

But there is another area where injuries could wreck plans: offensive line.

Cincinnati finished with nine players having started at least one game, but five are now gone. All-conference tackle Parker Ehinger is back, as are two other established starters, but any injuries will likely lead to newcomers playing large roles. Maybe that will work -- Cincy boasts three three-star redshirt freshmen, two JUCO transfers, and two three-star true freshmen, and upside doesn't seem to be a problem -- but counting on freshman linemen to keep your offense moving is scary.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.81 37 IsoPPP+ 97.2 74
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.6% 89 Succ. Rt. + 91.4 103
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 28.6 101 Off. FP+ 98.0 88
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.0 29 Redzone S&P+ 100.4 62
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.8 ACTUAL 24.0 +0.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 98 89 107 74
RUSHING 87 92 102 84
PASSING 100 87 99 71
Standard Downs 75 98 56
Passing Downs 109 108 108
Q1 Rk 96 1st Down Rk 114
Q2 Rk 64 2nd Down Rk 74
Q3 Rk 109 3rd Down Rk 56
Q4 Rk 84

6. Speeding up while tapping the brakes

It's hard to know what to make of a defense that was so bad in the first five games that its overall ratings were pretty terrible despite two months of quality play.

On paper, Cincinnati's defense was a bend-don't-break defense with a strong backbone -- tackles Brad Harrah, Camaron Beard, and Brandon Mitchell, middle linebacker Jeff Luc, safeties Zach Edwards and Andre Jones -- and not quite enough play-making ability on the edges. The Bearcats appeared to ease up and become more of a read-and-react machine over their long hot streak. It also made them really shaky on passing downs.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 89.3 3.19 3.18 43.0% 56.8% 17.7% 109.5 7.6% 5.4%
Rank 107 101 51 110 12 91 42 11 102
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Silverberry Mouhon DE 6'4, 252 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8026 13 33.0 4.3% 5.0 4.0 0 1 1 0
Terrell Hartsfield DE
13 30.0 3.9% 12.0 9.0 0 2 1 1
Brad Harrah DT
13 24.0 3.1% 6.0 3.5 0 2 1 0
Camaron Beard DT
13 22.5 2.9% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Mitchell DT 6'2, 290 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8423 13 17.5 2.3% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Jerrell Jordan DE
12 14.5 1.9% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Alex Pace DT 6'2, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8478 12 12.0 1.6% 3.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Chris Burton DT 6'3, 272 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8131 13 6.0 0.8% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Mark Wilson DE 6'3, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966 9 2.5 0.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Hakeem Allonce DT 6'5, 290 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8454
Landon Brazile DE 6'6, 230 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8032
Kimoni Fitz DE 6'4, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8135
Lyndon Johnson DE 6'6, 270 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7694
Bryan Wright DE 6'4, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8228
Marquise Copeland DE 6'3, 230 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519
Norman Oglesby DT 6'0, 265 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220
Caleb Ashworth DE 6'3, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8066







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jeff Luc MLB
13 98.5 12.8% 9.0 6.5 0 4 5 0
Nick Temple WLB
13 90.0 11.7% 10.5 3.0 0 2 0 1
Kevin Brown SLB 6'1, 206 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8292 13 21.5 2.8% 2.0 1.0 0 5 0 0
Eric Wilson WLB 6'2, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438 13 20.5 2.7% 2.5 0.0 0 0 1 1
Clemente Casseus LB 6'1, 227 Sr. NR NR 4 10.5 1.4% 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Kevin Hyland MLB 6'2, 230 Sr. NR NR 13 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Mouhon LB 6'2, 225 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8784
Antonio Kinard LB 6'3, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8364
Jaylyin Minor LB 6'1, 240 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744
Bryce Jenkinson LB 6'2, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8361
Matthew Draper LB 6'2, 214 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8488








7. Got a pass rush?

Defensively, we've changed a little bit of things that we do with our front. We've probably worked more on blitz this spring than we did last year, because we're going to be a pretty good man coverage team.

It was more or less a throwaway line within a short "How'd the spring go?" piece, but this quote was a nice reminder of how Tuberville adapts to his personnel.

The 60-year-old has been around -- he took his first defensive coordinator job at Miami 22 years ago, and this will be his 20th season as the head coach of a major-conference program. His defenses are strong as often as not, and while that has a lot to do with recruiting, it also has to do with adaptation.

Confident in their secondary, Tuberville and his co-coordinators will likely go further down the blitzing road, which could lead to more big plays for both the other offense and UC's defense. End Silverberry Mouton is a decent weapon, but unless a young end like Mark Wilson, Landon Brazile or Marquise Copeland surprises, Cincy will probably need blitzes.

There are plenty of athletic linebackers -- undersized senior Kevin Brown, Clemente Casseus, four-star redshirt freshman Kevin Mouhon, JUCO transfer Antonio Kinard -- but we'll see if it's effective. The secondary won't need a ton of help from the pass rush, but it will need a little.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Zach Edwards S 5'11, 186 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8175 13 94.0 12.3% 3.5 0 2 6 1 0
Leviticus Payne CB 5'10, 192 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8372 13 48.5 6.3% 6.5 2.0 1 7 1 1
Grant Coleman CB 6'0, 176 Jr. NR NR 13 45.5 5.9% 1 0 0 2 1 0
Howard Wilder CB
13 39.5 5.1% 2.5 1 2 4 0 0
Andre Jones S 6'1, 197 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8369 13 36.5 4.8% 3 0 1 6 0 0
Adrian Witty (2013) CB 5'10, 187 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7778 13 36.5 5.4% 2 0 1 4 0 0
Mike Tyson S 6'2, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7983 13 27.5 3.6% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Linden Stephens CB 6'0, 185 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8014 13 14.0 1.8% 0 0 1 4 0 0
Aaron Brown CB 5'11, 172 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8000 12 9.0 1.2% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Carter Jacobs S 6'1, 193 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7806 13 7.5 1.0% 0 0 0 1 0 1
Chris Murphy CB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8593
JJ Pinckney CB 6'3, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8447
Tyrell Gilbert S 6'1, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893
Malik Clements S 6'2, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8395
Jhavonte Dean CB 6'1, 168 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8184








8. If the front holds up, the back will hold up

Leviticus Payne played both linebacker and cornerback; he is a unique weapon and basically a perfect nickelback candidate. If Adrian Witty returns to form, he and Payne could give safeties Zach Edwards and Andre Jones some lovely security blankets on the edge. And if someone gets hurt, the second string will be made up of players with either experience, upside, or both. The ceiling's awfully high.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Sam Geraci 6'4, 217 So. 51 39.4 5 13 15 54.9%
John Lloyd 11 36.3 0 2 5 63.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Tony Miliano 83 62.6 34 1 41.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Andrew Gantz 5'9, 158 So. 52-54 11-12 91.7% 5-8 62.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Johnny Holton KR 6'3, 190 Sr. 35 20.6 0
Casey Gladney KR 7 20.9 0
Shaq Washington PR 5'9, 174 Sr. 13 6.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 30
Field Goal Efficiency 20
Punt Return Efficiency 11
Kick Return Efficiency 120
Punt Efficiency 51
Kickoff Efficiency 60
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 67

9. Young legs save the day

Special teams added a helping hand for the injured Bearcats. They improved from 123rd to 30th in Special Teams Efficiency, and with freshmen at kicker and punter, no less.

Andrew Gantz was solid inside of 40 yards and strong outside of it, and while Sam Geraci didn't have the longest punts, he had some of the highest. Kick returns were still a weakness, but Cincinnati ranked in the nation's top 60 in each special teams category.

There will be a new kickoffs guy in place, but Gantz and Geraci could be the anchors of a teams unit for the next three years. (Or not. Kickers are flaky.)

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep Alabama A&M NR
12-Sep Temple 67
19-Sep at Miami (Ohio) 103
24-Sep at Memphis 41
1-Oct Miami 31
17-Oct at BYU 46
24-Oct Connecticut 119
31-Oct Central Florida 60
7-Nov at Houston 73
14-Nov Tulsa 117
20-Nov at South Florida 123
28-Nov at East Carolina 61
Five-Year F/+ Rk 8.1% (47)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 68 / 57
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 2 / 2.6
2014 TO Luck/Game -0.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (8, 4)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 8.8 (0.2)

10. If injury karma has been paid ...

... this will probably be the best team in the AAC. Cincy will be the safest bet, anyway. The Bearcats return almost every important piece of last year's massively improved offense and special teams units, plus a few more return from injury.

And if a new defense waits until October to find its footing again, it might not be as damaging. Cincinnati gets Temple and UCF at home, and when the Bearcats go to Memphis on September 24, they'll be taking on another team that is trying to find its defensive footing.

That Cincinnati improved and nearly won 10 games despite every reason not to was encouraging. The injury bug could bite just as hard, but if it doesn't, the Bearcats will have the best offense in the league and a defense that is in the more defense-friendly division. (Sorry, UConn. And USF. And UConn. And Temple.) If the right players are able to remain suited up, Cincinnati could do some awfully fun things.