SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Cincinnati Bearcats

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Rick Minter (10th year, 48-56-1)
2002 record: 7-7 (Lost to North Texas 24-19 in New Orleans Bowl)
C-USA finish: T-1st
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 136.9 ypg
(4th in C-USA, 71st in nation)
Pass: 260.6 ypg (1st, 28th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 138.1 ypg (4th, 43rd)
Pass: 179.9 ypg (6th, 22nd)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
WR  22  Derick Ross  So. 
WR  George Murray  Jr. 
WR  19  Kevin Hazel  Jr. 
LT  77  Clint Stickdorn  Jr. 
LG   75   Kyle Takavitz   Jr.  
C   66   Josh Shneyderov   Sr.  
RG   68   Travis McGee   Sr.  
RT  76  Anthony Colton  Sr. 
TE   89   A.J. Lucius   Jr.  
QB   8   Gino Guidugli   Jr.  
RB  24  Richard Hall  Jr. 
RB  34  Booker Vann  Sr. 
Defense (4)
DE   90   Trent Cole   Jr.  
DT  96  Ka'Son Love  Sr. 
DT  93  Mike Wright  Jr. 
DE  91  Andre Frazier  Jr. 
WLB  30  Jason Russell  Sr. 
MLB  46  Jamar Enzor  Jr. 
SLB   42   Tyjuan Hagler   Sr.  
CB   29   Zach Norton   Sr.  
CB  18  Daven Holly  Jr. 
SS   45   Doug Monaghan   Jr.  
FS  Franklin Callicott  Sr. 
Special Teams
12  Chet Ervin  So. 
12  Chet Ervin  So. 
KR  25  Tedric Harwell  Sr. 
PR  10  Thaddeus Lewis  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Sept. 1  East Carolina 
Sept. 13  at West Virginia 
Sept. 20  Temple 
Sept. 27  at Miami (OH) 
Oct. 4  Southern Miss 
Oct. 11  at UAB 
Oct. 25  Army 
Nov. 1  at South Florida 
Nov. 8  Rhode Island 
Nov. 15  at TCU 
Nov. 22  at Memphis 
Nov. 29  Louisville 
Not since 1998 have the Bearcats entered a season after losing such an illustrious group of seniors. This fall, coach Rick Minter must replace 13 starters from a team that brought home the Conference USA crown. Not to worry: The Bearcats have restocked their program with impressive talent at every position.

"It's kind of refreshing," Minter said. "I've been here going on 10 years. To know that I just lost 15 fifth-year guys and half of my career was spent with some of the same guys, it's not all bad to have those guys move on, new blood come alive and be excited."

But Minter knows that the 2003 season will be difficult; league foes will be more geared up to play Cincinnati than ever. And while there's no Ohio State on this year's slate, the Bearcats do have a difficult trip to West Virginia in mid-September.

"I don't know if there's ever going to be what you would call an easy schedule here at the University of Cincinnati," Minter said. "So, we'll just take 'em as they spit 'em out and shoot 'em at us.

"No. 1, we're never afraid here to play anybody. No. 2, I think we've always risen to the challenge to play some of our better ball against some of the better teams."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Junior quarterback Gino Guidugli returns to lead the offense in 2003. Guidugli earned second-team All-Conference USA honors last year after passing for 3,543 yards, but his season ended on a sour note when he tossed five interceptions in UC's 24-19 loss to North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.

Guidugli will be throwing to a new corps of wide receivers, and two of his targets could be true freshmen Mike Daniels and Bill Poland. Daniels is only 5-foot-7, but he's very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He'll also be used on punt returns and could even takes some snaps under center.

Richard Hall assumes the role of starting running back, and he has three offensive linemen returning to help pave the way. Hall, a transfer from Ohio State, scored three touchdowns and averaged 4.5 yards per carry in limited duty last fall. UC can also turn to Terry Arnold, a highly touted true freshman tailback from Tallahassee, Fla.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Two players will anchor the Bearcat defense this year: end Trent Cole and linebacker Jamar Enzor. Cole (87 tackles, five sacks) moves to the outside after starting at tackle last season. With the loss of two-time all-conference pick Antwan Peek, Cole needs to elevate his play a notch -- and he needs to bring his teammates with him.

Enzor is expected to take over at middle linebacker after recording 91 tackles and 4.5 sacks in a reserve role. Tyjuan Hagler, a returning starter who contributed 18 tackles for a loss, should retain his strong-side spot. The other position is wide open; look for Jason Russell and Akanni Turner to fight it out.

The secondary welcomes back two quality starters in junior Doug Monaghan (strong safety) and senior Zach Norton (cornerback). Monaghan followed up his 101-tackle freshman season in 2001 with 88 stops last year. Norton is the best pass defender on the team. He had two interceptions and 17 pass break-ups last fall.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

It's no secret that losing Jonathan Ruffin will hurt Cincinnati, but Minter has confidence that punter Chet Ervin (38.0 yard-average in 2002) can handle both tasks.

"When we recruited Chet, I think he would claim his first love as the placement duties," Minter said. "But he needed to punt for us because of Ruffin and did a solid job."

Junior Kyle McDaniel is next in line to kick if Ervin can't handle both roles.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Cincinnati has the talent to contend for another conference title, but getting that skill to play up to its potential will be the Bearcats' biggest challenge. The new receivers need to adapt quickly, make some big plays and develop some consistency. And the running game must be able to move the ball while the passing attack develops. There will be pressure on the defense to play well early while the young offense matures.

If Guidugli relaxes and doesn't try to carry the weight of the program on his back, the Bearcats could be playing in a bowl game for the fourth straight season.

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