Cincinnati Bearcats Football: 5 Game-Changing Seniors for 2011

Alex CallosCorrespondent IMay 13, 2011

Cincinnati Bearcats Football: 5 Game-Changing Seniors for 2011

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 15:  Isaiah Pead #23 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs with the ball during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 15, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy L
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Cincinnati Bearcats have a tremendous senior-laden class, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. 

    After only losing 13 seniors from last season's team, Cincinnati returns all 11 starters from the defensive side of the ball. 

    That senior leadership will certainly help Cincinnati improve on last season's disappointing 4-8 record. 

    These seniors have been to two BCS bowl games and been through two different head coaches. 

    Here are five seniors who will help carry the Bearcats back near the top of the Big East. 

5. Derek Wolfe, Defensive Tackle

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    RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 16:  Derek Wolfe #95 of the Cincinnati Bearcats tries to chase down Russell Wilson #16 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 16, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Str
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Derek Wolfe is the big man in the middle for Cincinnati on the defensive side of the ball. 

    After seeing playing time as a true freshman in 2008, Wolfe stepped into the starting role in 2009 and excelled last season as a big run-stopper. 

    Wolfe is a big body, and at 6'5" and over 300 pounds, he must control the line for Cincinnati to be successful. 

    Out of everybody on the team, Wolfe might have the most NFL potential and will be a force in the middle in his third season as a starter. 

4. D.J. Woods, Wide Receiver

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    CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 25:  D J Woods #3 of the Cincinnati Bearcats catches a pass during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Like Wolfe, D.J. Woods enters his third year in the starting lineup. 

    As a sophomore, Woods was the No. 3 receiver of a very talented group. He caught 51 passes for 640 yards and four touchdowns.

    Last season he was in the No. 2 role behind senior Armon Binns and totaled 57 receptions for 898 yards and eight touchdowns. 

    This season, Woods will be the Bearcats' go-to receiver.

    His speed and athleticism make him the perfect punt returner and he will be called upon on special teams once again for Cincinnati. 

    Woods is one of the most explosive players in the Big East and will do it all for Cincinnati next season. 

3. J.K. Schaffer, Linebacker

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Deonte Thompson #6 of the Florida Gators gets tackled by J.K. Schaffer #37 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    J.K. Schaffer is a local product and a tackling machine for the Bearcats. 

    After seeing action on special teams as a freshman, Schaffer stepped into the starting role at linebacker as a sophomore. 

    He recorded 100 tackles as a sophomore, good for second on the team, and led the team last season in tackles.

    Schaffer is one of many experienced players on a defense that should be much improved in 2011. 

2. Isaiah Pead, Running Back

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 15: Isaiah Pead #23 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs with the ball during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 15, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Ly
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Isaiah Pead is one of the most explosive players in all of the Big East. 

    Pead has been near the top of the country in yards per carry the past two seasons. 

    As a sophomore, Pead shared the running back duties and finished with 806 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry. 

    Last season, after missing a few games, Pead burst onto the scene with 1,029 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. 

    He has as much big-play ability as anybody in the country and will help lead a more balanced attack for Cincinnati in 2011. 

1. Zach Collaros, Quarterback

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04:  Zach Collaros #12 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs with the ball  during the Big East Conference game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh won 28-10.  (Photo b
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Even though he had a slightly disappointing season last year, Collaros was still a first team All-Big East selection. 

    Collaros passed for nearly 3,000 yards last season to go along with 26 touchdowns. 

    He was sacked 30 times and will need his offensive line to perform better in 2011 for the Bearcats to be successful.  

    Collaros can do it with both his legs and his arm. He has a chance to put up some gigantic numbers if the Bearcats can help give him some protection.