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August 6, 2012
This year could be the weakest Big East Conference season for the next decade. And the media selected University of Cincinnati fourth. Without the vibrant, new additions (save Temple) around the bunch looks like a hodge podge.
There are two teams leaving as soon as they can in Pittsburgh and Syracuse. There are three teams that want out badly in Connecticut, Cincinnati and Louisville.
Nothing is settled in the league and nothing is settled on the UC depth chart.
Unlike the Big East Conference struggles to find quality replacements the Bearcats believe they have done just that.
"Each team has its own identity and the challenge for us is replacing leadership and production," said Head Football Coach Butch Jones. "Every one in our football team has a new role whether it is from a leadership standpoint, whether it is from a playmaking standpoint, or being a role player on our football team. As of today I think most players have embraced those roles so far."
Of course there are plenty of eager and happy players during the summer months. The competition for playing time and coveted two deep spots starts Wednesday afternoon with the first practice.
Incidently BearcatReport.com will cover every football practice allowed by the Athletic Department, which essentially amounts to one practice every day for the next month.
Coach Jones has offered Winton Woods graduate [db]Maalik Bomar[/db] as his new defensive leader alongside [db]Walter Stewart[/db].
"We are looking at replacing some guys that moved in," said Bomar.
The first name that comes to mind defensively has to be J.K. Schaffer. Though Derek Wolfe landed high in the NFL Draft, Schaffer started for three years and really brought Maalik along under his wing.
Bomar also will be starting for his third straight year, but this one will be different. For the first time linebackers will not have Schaffer leading them into drills. For the first time J.K. will not be giving invigorating LB pregame speeches.
That falls on the shoulders of Bomar now.
"We have to get our interior defense back in line and the most important thing right now is leadership," said Bomar. "We have to control what we can control."
Bomar and friends can control the tasks in front of them like defeating Pittsburgh and challenging Virginia Tech in Washington D.C.
They definitely were taught by some great teammates.
"As a coach I don't think you are ever satisfied," said Coach Jones. "I think the senior class really led the foundation for what we expect as a program."
UC greats like Zach Collaros, Derek Wolfe, JK Schaffer, Isaiah Pead, Adrien Robinson, and Alex Hoffman all set an amazing example.
"We trust in our guys, young or not," said Bomar. "We know it is their time. We have a new quarterback, [db]Munchie Legaux[/db], possibly [db]Brendon Kay[/db]."
Coach Jones firmly believes his team needs two healthy, prepared quarterbacks at all times. For this reason Kay will not be labeled a backup until late in camp. Look for Coach Jones to embrace the competition between the pair of passers.
Bomar will work to calm their hurried minds.
"We have to make them comfortable," said Bomar. "We are behind them. That is the most important thing. They are going to be out there touching the ball every snap. We have to make them feel comfortable. We are there for them guys."
"We have young guys that have to step up and fill that role," said Bomar. "We have guys that can do it. As leaders we have to have them feeling comfortable that they can do it."
Very, very thin on the defensive line are the Bearcats. With Walter Stewart the Cats are blessed with a disruptive, mobile end. They can also lean on Dan Giordano. Between the beasts it gets a little uneasy.
During 2011 Jordan Stepp proved he can compete with the league's best pass blockers. The Indianapolis-native has great feet and an uncommon work ethic.
Look for Stepp to get first crack at DT with Camaron Beard serving as the other. Beard is still adjusting to tremendous weight gain. He has a very positive attitude and willingness to learn, but no single entity could replace Wolfe's 21.5 TFL's.
Beard will be a step down. How far a step remains to be seen. And in time Beard could become a dynamic presence worthy of filling Wolfe's spot.
"The torch has been passed down from the guys that have moved on," said Bomar. "It is our job now to keep the tradition alive. Bearcat football, tough football. We have to just keep rolling."