The Cincinnati Bearcats football program is riding high and mighty right now.
Last season, the Bearcats had their finest season ever. 11-3 overall, 6-1 in conference play, ranked #17 at the end of the year, and the school's first ever BCS bowl bid ever. Sure, they lost the Orange Bowl to the Virginia Tech Hokies, but even a couple years ago, no one expected them to ever get that far. The great thing is though, the future is bright for the school, and all of its faithful followers.
First, the bad news. The vaunted UC defense loses 10 of 11 starters. Only Aaron Webster, the hard hitting safety returns from this year's starters. That does not mean there will be a void of talent however. Brian Kelly, UC's coach, has a "next man in" policy. Basically, he does his best to make sure when one player is replaced, there will be no drop off at all. And has Brian Kelly ever let us down before? I think not.
There is talent returning on the defense however. Aaron Webster, as previously mentioned returns along with Alex Daniels who had substantial time on the defensive line this year. Drew Frey, a safety who was in competition to start during the summer suffered a broken arm early in the season also returns next year. Linebacker Andre Revels, and defensive lineman Ricardo Matthews also return. So all is not lost for the defense in 2009.
Now, the good news for 2009, the offense. The same dynamic UC offense that produced 25.9 points per game, and led the Big East in passing yardage loses only two significant players. Those two players are standout offensive lineman Trevor Canfield, and the ever reliable Dominick Goodman. These two guys have worked wonders for this UC offense the past two seasons, but they are not irreplaceable.
The "next man in" policy applies to the offense too. UC has a ton of depth at receiver, with Mardy Gilyard, Marcus Barnett, Charley Howard, DJ Woods, etc. still there. Not to mention the recruits coming in! Jamar Howard, a four star junior college receiver (according to rivals.com) is coming in, along with three star Josh Jones from local Elder High School. There is depth in the offensive line too! The Bearcats return all the lineman but Canfield, and one man can be replaced. Not to undermine Canfield's contributions to the team, as they were huge, but he can be replaced.
The offense will once again be explosive in 2009, featuring the offense Brian Kelly adorns the "Cat Attack". Up and coming quarterback Tony Pike returns, along with Jacob Ramsey, Mardy Gilyard, Marcus Barnett, freshmen standouts Isiah Pead and DJ Woods, tight end Ben Guduigli, and 4 of 5 starting offensive lineman.
There are other things to think about for the Big East in 2009 that may help the Bearcats chances. Pat White is gone, as is LeSean McCoy, Kenny Britt, Mike Teel, hopefully George Selvie, and Pitt has yet to find a decent quarterback.
So expect big things in 2009 for the Cincinnati Bearcats. A Big East title repeat perhaps? I won't predict anything, but it sure seems possible.
Thoughts on the Bearcats future?