When head coach Butch Jones looked at the roster for the 2010 Cincinnati Bearcats, he noticed the junior class was deep, talented, and certainly the best group of any in the program.
It did not take Jones long to dub a few of these juniors as team leaders and give them extra responsibility.
While some have more playing experience than others, all five of these juniors are certain to have huge years for the 2010 Cincinnati Bearcats.
Isaiah Pead is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in the college football world.
Outside of Cincinnati, not many people have even heard the name Isaiah Pead, but in 2010 that is certain to change.
With more of a focus on the running attack under Butch Jones, Pead is in a position to be an All-Big East performer and possibly be one of the top running backs in the nation.
Last season Pead averaged over six yards per carry and is an extremely explosive player when he touches the ball.
His carries should double in 2010 and the numbers he produces with that amount of touches will be eye-popping.
The most important man on the Cincinnati defense in 2010 is defensive tackle Derek Wolfe.
Wolfe came into the program and immediately saw playing time as a true freshman in 2008.
Playing alongside future NFL Draft picks like Connor Barwin and Ricardo Mathews, Wolfe was never asked to do some of the things that will be required out of him this season.
In 2010, the defensive line and the defense as a whole begins with this big man in the middle.
Wolfe is a space eater and in the new Butch Jones defensive schemes should excel at stopping the run.
Without question the biggest name on this list is quarterback Zach Collaros, and without question he has the least playing experience of anybody on this list.
Collaros was magnificent last season taking over for the injured Tony Pike. Projecting his numbers for 2010 only leaves one question: Can this guy contend for a Heisman?
Without any uncertainty, Collaros will put up numbers equal to, if not better than, Pike's, who was a lock to be a Heisman finalist before the injury.
Collaros is a dual threat quarterback who will excel in the Butch Jones system, similar to Jones's last quarterback Dan LeFevour.
Local product J.K. Schaffer is one of the players Butch Jones singled out, challenging him to be a team leader.
Schaffer is the second-leading returning tackler for Cincinnati and is one of the most experienced players on the defensive side of the ball.
If there is a tackle to be made, Schaffer will be there. He leads a young group of linebackers who are looking to improve on a subpar 2009 season and help the Bearcats defense get back to what it was in 2008.
Cornerback Dominique Battle came to Cincinnati with a lot expected of him and so far the results have been so-so.
After two seasons of learning the system and playing behind future NFL Draft picks, Battle is set to have a breakout season for the Bearcats.
As a true freshman in 2008, Battle had the opportunity to play behind future NFL Draft picks Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, and E.J. Underwood in the secondary.
Last season Battle stepped into the starting role with mixed results.
His raw talent and nose for the ball along with another summer to improve will allow this extremely gifted defensive back to have a breakout year for Cincinnati.