After a disappointing 2015, with a embarrassing 42-7 loss to San Diego State, the Cincinnati Bearcats look to see if they can firm up the defense and show progress at the quarterback position behind Gunner Kiel. This brings us to the 3 things to watch during the Spring Game:
The Bearcats without Gunner Kiel :
What will this offense look like without star quarterback Gunner Kiel? This could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Yes, it isn't as exciting without the starting quarterback out there, but it provides a first hand look at what the future of the position will be with Hayden Moore and Ross Trail. Coming out of high school as the No. 20 pro style quarterback in the country, Trail has provided much optimism for the position and should put on a show for the 1pm contest. Things to look out for would be the completion percentage for the two quarterbacks mentioned and the understanding of the offense for them.
Offensive Coordinator Zac Taylor:
Former University of Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor should provide a spark to this Cincinnati offense. Taylor spent last year in Miami and had a short stint as the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, gaining some important experience in the position. If you are able to watch, I suggest keeping an eye on the balance of the offense and see just how often the ball is being spread around. This is not just a spring game for the players. Watch for Coach Tuberville to put Taylor through various situations to see just how he handles them.
Taking the next step Defensively:
The Bearcats ranked 84th in run defense last season, giving up 191.6 yards per game and 54th in passing defense, giving up 217 yards per game, good for 78th in the country in overall defense. With the Bearcats posting an offense ranking 6th in the country overall last year, the defense needs to step it up in order to give this offense some justification. Cincinnati was 11th overall in experience in 2015 but that will not be the case in 2016. Cincinnati has some questions to answer in the front seven and the secondary does need work, as it was unable to force the opposition into tough situations last season.
Watch to see if Cincinnati is able to hold it's own offense to short runs and force them into their long down and distance packages. If UC can develop a good and consistent run defense, it opens up the defense to more blitz packages and allows them to be multiple with the secondary. The game is won in the trenches, let's see how the offseason is treating these young defensive linemen.
When/Where - Sheakley Athletics Center, Cincinnati, OH - 1 PM ET