The Cincinnati Bearcats are heading into the 2012 Football season without a clear identity and no readily available motif to put on and try out. Last years team was a run centric bunch, almost from the first game. That change was the result of a ton of self scouting in the off season. My assumption is that Mike Bajakian realized that the fatal flaw of the 2010 offense was that the most consistently explosive player in his arsenal, one Isaiah Pead, simply didn't get the ball enough.
That was rectified big time in 2011. Isaiah Pead turned in arguably the greatest season by a Bearcat runner, certainly the best since Reggie Taylor was a Bearcat. The question remains though. Are the Bearcats permanently a running team now? Or were the results of last year wrapped up entirely in the sway of Isaiah Pead's greatness and therefore not transferable to this season? If the first a 1,000 yard rusher is a foregone conclusion. If the second a 1,000 yard rusher is probably not in the cards. Robust cases for and against the statement after the jump.
The Case For
While there is not a headliner among them, not on a conference or national scale, this is a very deep and talented group of running backs. George Winn made a name for himself in the Liberty Bowl and is the presumed front runner for starting job. Behind him are a couple of
freshmen sophomores with a ton of talent in Jameel Poteat and Ralph Abernathy IV. Throw in some highly regarded true freshmen in Ti'on Green and Deionte Buckley and a JUCO running back in Aaron Harris. Safe to say that there is no shortage of talent in this group. Whoever fights their way to the top of the depth chart is likely to get enough carries to make a run at 1,000 yards. Particularly with the offensive line looking good.
Much of the pre spring practice talk about the offensive line has been about "replacing three starters," Alex Hoffman, Randy Martinez, and Evan Davis. That's true, those three guys have to be replaced. But at the same time no one is talking about how UC is bringing back three starters as well. Austen Bujnoch and Adam Lefeld are both going to be back and everyone acknowledges as much. But for some reason everyone has forgotten that Sean Hooey was a starter at the start of the year but was shelved due to injury after starting 6 games. The Bearcats will bring back 3/5ths of a starting offensive line in 2012.
What's more the overall talent level is going to be much higher this year compared to last. If everyone stays healthy this offensive line is capible of grinding out 2,000 yards on the group regardless of whats going on in the backfield
The Case Against
The worst case scenario is that none of the running backs manage to separate themselves or create a hierarchy that is basically required for a 1,000 yard rusher. Think of the running game in 2007 when Greg Moore, Butler Benton and Bradley Glattharr engaged in a season long Mexican Standoff in which nobody lived and the running game dies.
Complicating matters the offensive line could fall apart with a few crucial injuries. There doesn't appear to be much in the way of depth at the offensive tackle spots. That makes Hooey's recovery from ankle surgery of vital importance to the offensive line. If Hooey can't recover UC will be forced to play make due with the offensive line for another year which will almost certainly be bad news for a group of running backs that is talented, but not exactly awash in game experience.
So what's your say Down The Drive readers? Cast your vote now!.