Towards the end of the 2009 season, the Bearcats defense began to deteriorate significantly and ultimately spelled doom for Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. Turn the page to the 2010 pre-season and new head coach Butch Jones is beginning to lay the foundation for what he hopes will become a National Championship contender.
In the last five games of last season, Cincinnati surrendered an average of 471 yards a game and nearly 40 points against them. Those numbers are simply not good enough to propel an “on the rise” program into a position to become a title contender.
Defensive coordinators, Tim Banks and John Jancek, have a good core of young players returning in 2010 and hope to teach principles of consistency and discipline. Banks will also be in his first year on the Bearcats coaching staff but brings an impressive track record with him to Nippert Stadium. Under coach Jones at the University of Central Michigan, Banks was the ring leader of a defense that held opponents to only 18.9 points per game.
That is a significant improvement and a point of optimism for a Bearcat team that is looking for their third consecutive Big East title.
Fortunately for the new Bearcat coaching regime, the failures and successes of the past will help shape the Cincinnati defense of the future. During the 2009 season, Cincinnati entered most games with a defensive mindset that incorporated containment and limiting penalties. Although the Bearcats were successful at defending the big play, they still could not keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
This new regime in Cincinnati knows how to come out successful at the end of a football game. In an interview with Cincinnati.com earlier this spring, Banks said “The guys we have right now are going to have to pick it up. We’re going to have to find a way. We have to play harder than anybody else we play. The sooner we understand that, the better we’ll be.”
Cincinnati’s offense in 2009 was the real strong point of the team. Now with the offense in slight uncertainty, the pressure on the defense to perform is greater than ever. The Bearcats will open this season on the first Saturday of September against Fresno State. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and fans will get their first glimpse of what could be a very defensive football team in 2010.
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