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The Quiet Dominance Of The Cincinnati Bearcats Offensive Line

When people talk about how good the Bearcats offense is they usually start with the receivers and end with Gunner Kiel. They might work in the running backs at some place in between, but that is generally as far as the conversation goes.

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That is all well and good, but as a Bearcat fan you need to know just how good this offensive line has been this season, and in the last five games in particular. UC is the best team in the country at preventing negative plays, allowing just 3.1 tackles for loss per game, a figure that is the best in recent UC history by a laughably huge margin. UC isn't quite as good at preventing sacks, they are only 18th allowing 1.1 sacks per game. The Bearcats are second in the AAC in yards per carry, and 4th in yards per game playing the majority of the season with backs that were, in August, third and fourth on the depth chart. That's good, but what has happened since the Miami game has been ridiculous. To see that you need to know how bad the running game was before you can appreciate how good it is now.

In the first five games of the season the Bearcats ran the ball, on average 27 times a game, for about 96 yards per game, good for 3.5 yards per carry. Since that Miami game everything has changed. In those five games the Bearcats have averaged about 42 attempts, 235 yards and 5.6 yards per carry. Looking at the game log its like the Monstars inhabited the Bearcats at some point during the SMU game, and it hasn't been the same since. The rate the Bearcats a running at now would be good for a top 25 rushing attack if it was extrapolated over an entire season.

Much of that credit for the transformation has been flowing in the general direction of Rod Moore and Mike Boone, as well it should because they have both been outstanding. In the past four games Boone and Moore have had more 100 yard rushing games (4) than incumbent starters Tion Green and Hosey Williams had (2) in the prior 18 games of the Tuberville era. Rod Moore and Mike Boone have been tremendous surprises for the ground game, but it has to be noted just how good the offensive line has been over that same stretch.

They have been dominant up front, and they are doing it starting two guys in Ryan Leahy and Justin Murray who were expected to be reserves this year. They were just supposed to be part of the rotation, playing maybe 20 or 30 snaps a game behind Kevin Schloemer and Cory Keebler respectively. Instead when Schloemer and Keebler went down for the year to injuries the young guys stepped in, and the line got better. Leahy and Murray changed the complexion of the line for the better this year, but they also put the Bearcats in a better position for next season and beyond.

The Bearcats don't just return all their receivers, Green, Boone and Gunner Kiel. They also bring back four of five offensive line starters with a couple of really good young guys who can be rotation players next year, like Jamerez Bowen. There is the matter of replacing Eric Lefeld, simply the most decorated offensive lineman in UC history. But the Bearcats will have plenty of talent and experience coming back up front and the line will be a strength even with Lefeld moving on to the NFL. The only question is can the Bearcats hold on to Hiller. What he has done with this group won't go unnoticed, and he is likely to be a hot name come December and January. That is the only dark cloud on the horizon for this stellar group.