Amidst all of the outrage and disappointment that swirled around the Cincinnati Bearcats last season, there was a small collection of positives. One of the most pronounced was the offensive line. The Bearcats did a solid job keeping opposing defenders out of the backfield, ranking second in the American Athletic Conference in tackles for loss allowed (70) and featured an all-conference talent in Parker Ehinger. The unit will once again be called on to be the unsung heroes of the prolific offense that runs and throws its way through Nippert Stadium.
Remember that Ehinger fellow I just mentioned? Well, after four great years with UC, not including his redshirt season in 2011, the 6-foot-7 leader of the offensive line finally made his way to the NFL, where he is now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. A team captain in 2015, Ehinger will certainly be missed.
Justin Murray may not have earned the accolades that Ehinger did, but he was a strong lineman for the cause all the same. He started in 12 games during his senior season. His spot at tackle is up for grabs.
Stalwarts like Ehinger and Murray are hard to come by but UC is lucky because Ryan Leahy and Deyshawn Bond give them another pair of first-team all-league candidates in the trenches. Leahy was an all-second team AAC selection last season after playing in 12 games. The 6’6" lineman slots in at guard. Bond was a second-teamer as well, and is the man in the middle at center. Both players have received some notoriety on watch lists as well as a prestigious spot on Down the Drive’s very own pre-season All-American team.
Joining Leahy and Bond as a returning starter is Idarius Ray, another guard. The 6’6" senior started in all nine games he played in 2015.
Of the non-returning starters, Korey Cunningham is the standout. He played in nine games a year ago and is a 6’6", 305-pound junior who can play at one of the tackle spots. Ryan Stout, although just a sophomore, played against Alabama A&M last season and will be in the mix to start as well. Delonte Murray, a former three-star prospect and JUCO transfer, enters his senior season ready to put his 6’5", 334-pound frame to the test. He played in five games last season. David Niehaus played in four games in 2015 and may see more time as a senior.
In addition to players returning with game experience, there are a number of redshirt freshman who will be in camp, including Reed Armagost (6’7", 285 pounds), Tyler McGarr (6’4", 284 pounds), Evan Mallory (6’5", 318 pounds), Chandler Marston (6’3", 322 pounds), Morgan James (6’6", 290 pounds) and Alex Heil (6’2", 250 pounds).
If you’re tired of hearing about staff changes, well then you’ve come to the wrong place. Darren Hiller, who was the offensive line coach for UC from 2013 to 2015, took a job as co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at USF in February. Tommy Tuberville brought in JB Grimes, who spent the last three seasons at Auburn, to take his place.
On the roster itself, junior-college transfer Kendall Calhoun and true freshmen Zach Bycznski and Mason Garrison are the newcomers. Calhoun participated in spring practice and has two years of eligibility left after joining UC from Lackawanna Community College as a three-star prospect. Bycznski also played in the spring and was a three-star recruit out of high school. Garrison is a walk-on from nearby Oak Hills.