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Win Obscures Poor Offensive Line Play For Bearcats

Coming into the 2013 season everyone, myself included, was touting the Bearcats front as one of the best in the country. With four games under their belt it might be time to revise those expectations. Doubly so after today's performance in Oxford.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

I generally despise the rush to judgment that comes to writing about football. With basketball there are 30 games full of data to parse for meaning. With football you have 12 games, maybe more. So each data point takes on greater significance, and there is a general favoring of recent events compared to season long averages. That is why I don't like to make expansive judgments early in the year. But I do feel comfortable with this.

Cincinnati's offensive line is not as good as anyone thought it was. At least not yet. The statistics so far aren't pretty. In three games against FBS defenses UC has run the ball 131 times for 567 yards. Thats can average of 4.3 yards per carry. The Bearcats are simultaneously running more than at any point since the Minter era, and being less effective doing it. Thats what the stats say, but there are caveats to that.

For a start the Bearcats scheme is complex up front. There are a lot of moving pieces and techniques to master. My hope from the start of the season was that the Eddie Gran would pick a handful of his favorite schemes and stick with them. That hasn't really happened, or that isn't what it looks like to me. UC's protection schemes are expansive, there are about a dozen of them at the least, possibly as many as 15 or 16. That is a massive change from the Jones, Bajakian scheme which had three run schemes and two or three pass protections. Its an overlooked facet of the game, but it is clearly having an impact with the Bearcats performances this year.

The other factor is that Dan Sprague's absence has been huge. Deyshawn Bond has looked great at times, and like the red shirt freshman that he is the rest of it. Bond really struggled against Miami nose tackle Austin Brown today. So much of the Bearcats running game depends on UC getting vertical push on the interior of the offensive line. Brown was often left one on one with Bond and he was very disruptive for the Redhawks. He really keyed their performance today. The thing about Bond is that he is still just a young buck playing the most mentally demanding position in the sport outside of quarterback. The learning curve is steep, but he is clearly ahead of it.

UC will take the bye week to do some self scouting. They will go over every single frame of film they have and make decisions about what works for the offense and what does not. I would expect that the playbook will be whittled down substantially. The Bearcats under Gran strive to be a multiple offense, and a bye week isn't going to change that. But its clear at this point that they need to refine their focus to put the big guys up front in a position to succeed. Particularly with Aaron Lynch and South Florida being next on the docket.

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