You might have noticed that a very important day is on the horizon for the Bearcats. Fall practice starts this Wednesday with the players reporting tomorrow. In order to get everyone up to speed on the Bearcats each day this week I will be posting something on the five biggest questions facing the Bearcats this year starting today with the offensive line.
Every single pre season publication has it wrong. Thats my view on the matter. One of the things that I really despise about most pre season publications is that they only put effort into scouting the same 20 or so schools every year and do little more than break out the game notes from the final contest to count starters and see how much of the previous seasons statistical leaders are coming back. Thats the basis for their projections. Its a flawed method, and one that leads to wildly ill informed drivel like this.
Its a method without nuance or context and its lazy. A great example of this is present with the Bearcats offensive line this year. By common reckoning the Bearcats have to replace three starters this year, and they do. Alex Hoffman, Randy Martinez and Evan Davis have all departed. But the Cats also bring back three starters, Sean Hooey, Eric LeFeld and Austen Bujnoch. Everyone acknowledges LeFeld and Bujnoch but Hooey, apparently fell into a black hole and no longer exists in math form.
Those three form a very sound foundation for the rest of the line this year. With LeFeld at LT and Hooey at RT the Bearcats have two legit offensive tackles for the first time in a long time. Alex Hoffman played OK at LT last year, but he was a guard playing tackle, and it showed at times, like the USF game. Beyond Hooey and LeFeld is Bujnoch who was at times the best linemen on the field last season, in fact he was until injuries curtailed his effectiveness down the stretch. Those three guys coming back and Don Mahoney appearing to have gotten everyone's positions right for a change (see: Cobb C.J. for an example of getting positional evaluations wrong) gives me a lot of confidence in this group.
And here is the other thing to consider about the offensive line last year. It wasn't that great. Don't get me wrong, it was functional. But the line as a group had to really overachieve to be above average, which is what the Bearcats were nationally. Davis and Martinez in particular wildly exceeded everyone's expectations last year, particularly Davis who was the big question mark up front heading into last year.
From where I am sitting there are fewer question marks about this offensive line compared to last years. There are ostensibly two open spots this season. One are guard opposite Bujnoch and one at Center. Kevin Schlomer appears to have locked down the RG spot while Dan Sprauge has the leg up at Center. Both have the ability to be quality starters, Schloemer in particular has All Big East potential.
One other point that has been brushed aside by the prognosticators is that for the first time since 2008 the Bearcats have real live depth up front. Sam Longo is battling hard for a spot in the starting lineup at Center or possibly guard. Andre Cureton is pushing Schloemer hard for the right guard spot. Both those guys have seen game action and are physically read to perform. Add that with promising youngsters like Cody Keebler, Justin Murray, Daniel Muarry and the depth looks solid, certainly an improvement on each of the last two years.
Simply put there is no reason why this offensive line can't exceed the above average bar that last years group set. in terms of talent this is probably the best UC offensive line since 2009 if not before. Hooey, LeFeld and Bujnoch all have chances to be NFL linemen and there is solid, if not spectacular depth across the board.