2018 Cincinnati Bearcats Preview

Coming off of back-to-back 4-8 seasons it might be hard to care or get excited for the 2018 Cincinnati Bearcats football season. In preparation for the 2018 season, here’s 18 reasons to be excited for this season of Cincinnati football.

Remember when Cincinnati was in the Big East and dominated Rutgers? Well now you can relive their 5 game winning streak from 2006-2010

  • Stable program, strong culture. These days, with all the scandals and controversy throughout the sport it’s important to note when a school has done things right (as far as we know).
  • Luke Fickell is entering his second season as head coach of the Bearcats. He has brought stability to the program. Only two coaches were replaced (neither fired) and were replaced with a former Cincy interim coach and assistant, Steve Stripling on the DL and former Cincy CB legend Mike Mickens to coach the DBs.
  • Luke Fickell is trustworthy and real. Of the last 5 head coaches – Mark Dantonio was always using Cincy as means to an end, he got the job at his alma mater MSU. Brian Kelly was a salesman. He was never long for UC. Burch Jones was full of cliches and slogans but that didnt translate well. Tommy Tuberville was boredline retired, kept turning over assistants, didnt recruit himself. wasnt involved in game planning. But Luke Fickell? He tells it like it is. He personally goes into every HS to form a relationship with coaches and staff. he personally recruits. he doesnt use silly catch phrases (or so he says ie TEAM). theres no gimmicks with Fickell He wants to build something real
  • Fun home schedule at Nippert Stadium. In non-conference action, the Bearcats host Ohio, one of the favorites to win the MAC, in what should be a fun in-state matchup. In conference, the two biggest games are USF, a team Cincy has struggled mightily with the last few seasons, including an embarrassing defeat in Tampa last year and for the first time, Navy comes to Nippert.
  • And if you want to get away from Nippert Stadium and from Cincinnati, there are some fun road trips. For the first time, the Bearcats play at the Rose Bowl against UCLA, with Chip Kelly making his head coaching debut. They also travel to Orlando to face defending national champs, UCF.
    • On a side/personal note – the Bearcats also play in Philly at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions against Temple, a game I plan to attend.
  • Hayden Moore’s senior season. Look, some people might consider it a positive that they only have 13 more games left of watching Moore. I personally think he’ll be much improved in 2018. No one will ever forget that amazing performance Moore had in one half against Memphis back in 2015 during his freshman season (557 yards). But also, no one will forget his miserable 3 interception Hawaii bowl that same year. Moore has thrown 40 TD, 27 INT for his career and while he has been inconsistent throughout, there are reasons he will be improved for his senior season, which brings us to our new reason to be excited for 2018…
  • Improved offensive line play. The OL might have has a bigger impact on Moore than was let on. Two seniors return – Garrett Campbell and Kyle Trout. The new starters should help bring consistecy and improved play, which in turn buys Moore time to pass and opens holes in the running game
  • A running game led by Gerrid Doaks and Mike Warren, a pair of sophomores. Both RBs combined for 837 yards and 3 TDs last year, playing behind Vikings star RB Mike Boone. With Boone now out of the picture, the door is wide open for both men to carry the load on offense. Both men should be fresh and eager to run.
  • Another sign of stability and reason for optimism is #1 WR Khalil Lewis. Lewis led the team with 61 catches and 7 TDs and has reportedly continued building chemistry with Moore throughout this summer.
  • It helps that Mike Denbrook returns for a second season as offensive coordinator and lead play caller. The former Notre Dame OC doesn’t run a very complex offense and that allows Moore, Lewis, and the RBs to continue to build on what they learned last year. Sometimes learning a new offense and learning a new coaching staff (and coaches learning about players) can be a chore, so getting the whole “newbie” vibes out of the way helps everyone stick to business.
  • The 2018 recruiting class was ranked #1 among Group of 5 schools. Malik Vann is the prized possession of this recruiting class and should see ample playing time as a true freshman. Offensive guys with a chance to have an impact include WRs Meechi Harris and Alec Pierce and TEs Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor. On the defensive side, in addition to Vann, look out for CB Arquon Bush, DEs Myjaj Sanders and Daeshon Martin, among others
    • Another exciting recruit, unlikely to make an impact in 2018 is QB Ben Bryant, who is considered the future.
  • The 2017 recruiting class was awesome too. Just months after taking the job at Cincinnati, Luke Fickell turned in the #63 overall recruiting class, 3rd in AAC (up from triple digits under the old coaching staff), In addition to the aforementioned RB Mike Warren, guys to watch in year 2 include safety RJ Potts, LB Jarell White, CB Coby Bryant, OT Blake Yager.
  • In addition to these young exciting players, the Bearcats defense is led by a strong, veteran filled front 7 – 4 seniors along the DL, Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland clogging the middle with Kevin Mouhon and Kimoni Fitz on the outside.
  • Behind the dline at LB – Perry Young (weak), senior Malik Clements (strong) and sophmore Joel Dublanko in the middle. Ty Sponsellor and Jarrell White, one of the prizes of the 2017 recruiting class are the depth behind them
  • Per Tom Groeschen – Cincinnati has 3rd youngest team in nation. 72 percent underclassmen (sophomores, redshirt freshmen and freshmen) – lots of room for growth and development and long term success
  • Australian sophmore punter James Smith was named to watch list for Ray Guy award. Now, ultimately the hope is Cincy wont have to punt much, but if and when they do, this is the guy you’d want punting
  • Improved secondary play. Last year the secondary was absolutely atrocious, and consistently got burned for big passing plays. With an experienced, strong front 7, it will put even more pressure on the secondary, and with some key returning players and young guys ready to step up (like Coby Bryant at CB). Tyrell Gilbert and Chris Murphy will both play big roles.
  • The Bearcats are going back to a bowl game for the first time since the previously mention 2015 Hawaii Bowl – we have the Bearcats going 6-6.
    • Wins – Will beat @UCLA OR home vs Ohio (not both) – we have them beating UCLA; Miami OH, Alabama A&M, UConn, Tulane, ECU
    • The thing about that, is that means Cincy starts 5-1, before going on a 5 game losing streak which is hard to imagine happening. It’s possible Cincy gets to 7-8 wins, which would require stealing a game from @ Temple, @ SMU, Navy, South Florida, @ UCF. Not impossible if this team plays up to their potential.

Follow me on twitter @msschneid or instagram @mikedropsports and tell me what you think.

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.

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