This is the second part of the Bearcat Bloggers round table with Scott King from Bearcats Blog and Chris Bains from Bearcats Nation. Part one is on offer here. Today I take the reigns of the questioning and slipp in a bonus questions because I am terrible at following my own directions.
Me: who are the players that have really surprised you with their contribution so far to the offense and to the defense?
Chris Bains: On offense I've been really impressed with right guard Austin Bujnoch. The offensive line was an area with many questions coming into this season. I think Bujnoch has done his part in answering some of those questions. I can see why he beat out Andre Cureton for the RG position. If you look back at the Isaiah Pead touchdown run against the Volunteers, Bujnoch flat out hoisted a Tennessee defensive tackle off the ground and threw him 5 yards into the backfield on his keister. That's the kind of dominance I like to see out of offensive lineman. Bujnoch is big, has solid feet, understands leverage, and most importantly is only a sophomore. He'll have that position locked down until he graduates in two and half years, providing stability to a unit that will definitely need some going forward.
To the defense, I've really liked what I've seen out of Ben Pooler. Transfers can be hit or miss at times but I really think this coaching staff landed a good one in Pooler. They've done a good job cycling him in and out of games with Nick Temple to ensure his knees stay healthy and, like we've seen with the D-Line, a healthy starter is a dangerous starter. At 6'2" 232 lbs, the addition of Pooler automatically makes the entire linebacking corps larger which is something we haven't seen since 2008 or maybe 2009. He's also a veteran of the game and from what I've heard he's become a teacher to the younger linebackers like Temple, Dwight Jackson, Clemente Casseus, and Solomon Tentman. That'll pay dividends in 2012 when both Pooler and J.K. Schaffer will be gone.
Scott King: Offensively, I'm going to go with Anthony McClung. He came on strong to close last season, and has already surpassed those numbers this year. He's the leader in receptions, yards and TDs. With DJ Woods looking more and more like he's going to put up solid stats like in his sophomore season, McClung has been the main target. All the hype in the preseason was given to Kenbrell Thompkins, but it's been McClung who has taken over the Binns role for the most part in the first 4 games.
Taylor has been one of the most impressive players on the defensive line the past couple of games. He has 1 and 1.5 sacks the past 2 games, which puts him just behind Brandon Mills and Dan Giordano in that span. Taylor dominated Miami's line, leading the team with 2 hurries. On a line that already has pass rushers like Mills and Giordano, along with Derek Wolfe, that gives offenses nightmares.
me: Where do you stand on starting to work some of the more advanced Freshmen into the regular rotation
CB: I'm not so sure it's necessary to start rotating in the freshman running backs just yet. They've been getting a few snaps per game and I think it should stay that way. George Winn has been a stud behind Pead and it couldn't hurt the trio of Poteat, Teague- and RDA to do a little learning from the bench. Ditto for the freshman wide receivers who aren't being thrown into the fire but at the same time aren't riding pine for 60 minutes a game. The coaching staff has gotten them acclimated well. That being said, I would like to see more of Temple, Jackson, and Tentman. I've been high on Tentman since he signed with UC for the 2010 class and was heartbroken when his blew out his knee last Summer. Right now I think they are collectively getting around 20% of the snaps. As the year progresses I'd like to see them get closer to 40% as they will be key in building the LB unit from 2012 and beyond.
SK: I think it is. I'm surprised Washington hasn't gotten that much run. I liked when UC substituted different receiver sets in the first couple of games. Alex Chisum has shown a couple of flashes, and looks just enough like Armon Binns that he should start every Big East game just to scare the secondaries. Dyjuan Lewis hasn't really gotten a shot besides late kick returns. I'm pretty disappointed that Akise Teague hasn't done anything this year. They should have not played him the first game and given him a redshirt.
me: Is it time for everyone to cool out on the "Butch Jones is garbage fire him tomorrow" line of thought that is so popular with a select minority of UC fans.
CB: Yea that statement is going to go out of style faster than parachute pants (were those ever in style?). I kept telling myself two things during last year's forgettable season: 1.) transition years are tough and 2.) Coach Kelly left the cupboard bare (no matter how quickly that phrase got old). It turns out those statements seem to be true. The offense is really starting to understand Coach Jones' schemes and have really been clicking during the first month of play. I think we've also seen how the gap left by Kelly's 2009 class, who should be juniors now, are being filled in by freshman/redshirt freshman/sophomores from Coach Jones' first two classes. He's a great recruiter, runs a tight ship academically, and understands the mindsets of student athletes. I particularly liked his additions of the nutrition bars and player's lounge. The comparisons to Coach Kelly will never end but I think it's clear that while at Cincinnati Kelly built a football team while Coach Jones is building a football program.
SK: I saw your piece about this a couple weeks ago, and I totally agree. I'll admit to not being sold on Jones after the Tennessee game. But, this team did something that they wouldn't have done if they were bad, they responded and got better. I know the doubters aren't sold on beating a couple of MAC cellar dwellers and what looks like one of the bottom teams in the ACC, but I don't know how you can't be impressed. Remember the Indiana State game last year? Nothing like that has happened this year against better teams than that. It's like this team has used the soul crushingly awful end to last season as a springboard for this one. With home games against what appear to be the 2 worst teams in the league, UC should reach a bowl this season.
That is all for part two, part three will drop later.