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Playing With The Notion That Tommy Tuberville Is The Problem On Defense

If you have spent any time over the last few weeks on twitter or, heaven forbid, on a message board you will probably have come across a Bearcat who shouts on high that the Bearcats biggest problem right now is the man in charge. Normally in this space I mock that person, today I will indulge them.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Lets proceed under the assumption that the biggest reason why a team picked by many to win the American Athletic Conference crown is sitting at 4-3 with effectively no chance to appear in the inaugural AAC title game. Ignore the fact that the three teams that UC has lost to in 2015 are currently sitting at a combined 20-2 with an average F/+ rank of 31st. Also ignore that two of the three losses went down to the final possession. Added to the list of things to be ignored; the franchise quarterback can't seem to stay healthy under any circumstances, the fact that UC has been without three of their most explosive players for large chunks of the season, a soul crushing season ending injury to the defenses's biggest and most vocal leader. None of that is relevant, this is all Tommy Tuberville's fault.

Extend out that theory, for all the bullshit reasons that get bandied about in the public forums.* Or alternatively you can still lay it at the feet of Tubs because he hired Steve Clinkscale to call his defense and he's hopeless ala Hank Hughes. So lets say that Mike Bohn gives into this strain of thought and he makes the decision to fire Tubs, or at the very least to force it on Tubs to make a change to his defensive staff.

* A sampling; "Tuberville can't get this team ready because he golf's too much" "This team lacks intensity, just like it's head coach" "why would the players care when their coaches obviously don't"

For the sake of the exorcise which thing happens is functionally irrelevant. Lets say that the Bearcats can Tubs and go back to their roots. Their roots being hiring young(ish)* up and comers from directional Michigan schools. Lets say that Mike Bohn beats everyone to the P.J. Fleck sweepstakes. So Fleck rows the boat down to Cincinnati and he brings his staff with him including defensive coordinator (Ed Pinkham).

*Brian Kelly circa Mount Pleasant wasn't young, but he was an up and comer.

Alternatively lets say that Tubs makes another change at defensive coordinator. Lets say he fires Steve Clinkscale and decides to bring in a hot group of five defensive coordinator. I will float Jon Heacock from Toledo out there, but pick a name any name from a hot group of five defense. So long as whoever they bring in keep's the basic structure of the defense unchanged they will probably see a much improved defense in 2016.

The fire Tubs crowd or the much smaller subset that is the fire Clink crowd, would then roar about how right they were in thinking that Tubs was the problem, or that Clink was the problem. All they needed to do was get rid of the head man or the play caller than things would get drastically better. What that tribe of Bearcat Nation either neglects or ignores is that this defense will be drastically better next year regardless of who is calling the plays on defense. So long as the new guy keeps the general 4-3 principals / position designations. Also provided that there are no square peg in a round hole situations* the defense will be drastically improved in 2016.

*Think Walter Stewart, 4-3 outside linebacker in 2010

I don't know how many times I have said it in this space, or elsewhere, but the Cincinnati Bearcats haven't fielded a defense this young in a decade. I will not rehash in depth why that's a big deal, or what it means for the future. The short version is that playing as many young guys* as UC is this season is generally bad for that season but good for the one's that follow.

*remember HALF the defense is playing college football for the first time in 2015

The reason I didn't join anyone in walking to the closest bridge after the BYU game was 1) I was out at a bar with co workers. So I stopped watching when it became obvious that I was totally bumming everyone out with my manic depressive approach to watching UC. 2) It is effectively impossible to pass judgement on the UC defense in 2015, they are simply too young to be good. That also goes for Steve Clinkscale and the rest of the defensive staff. Collectively these guys worked minor miracles the last two years to keep what were in retrospect incredibly thin teams winning at a really high clip.

I don't know with certainty that Tommy Tuberville is the right coach to keep leading the Bearcats into the future. Likewise I don't know with any certainty that Steve Clinkscale is the right coach to get the defense to perform with consistency at Brian Kelly era levels of efficiency. What I want is some time to see what Clink can do with this defense as they come of age next year and beyond. Now if the defensive leap I expect, with good reason and ample historical precedent, fails to materialize next year, then by all means fire the lot. For now firing a first year defensive coordinator who is also working through massive inexperience in the ranks is a bit like firing a CEO of a company for a bad quarter that is largely the product of the person they inherited the job from.