This will be coach Tubbs’ third season in Clifton, and quarterback Gunner Kiel will be a junior, having a year of experience under his belt after putting up a near-record breaking season in year one. So what can we expect?
Out of Conference: The Cats are slated to open the year in the renovated Nippert Stadium (yes, get VERY EXCITED!) against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, and no, I haven’t heard of them either. We will also play at Miami (OH) on September 19th, home against Miami (FL) on October 3rd, and away at BYU on October 17th.
AAC Slate: With the new AAC divisions we know UC will play everyone in the East division, including UCF, UConn, East Carolina, USF, and Temple. The Cats will also play three games against the West division, including the possibilities of Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane, or Tulsa. On paper this will be a much more difficult schedule and provides the football team a platform to make some noise and join the top-25 rankings with a few early wins.
The Cats should be favored in most games, with the exceptions of BYU and Miami (FL), but the Miami game will be at home this time around, and UC will be thirsty for revenge.
Seniors: The Cats lose running back Rod Moore, QB Munchie Legaux, offensive lineman Kevin Schloemer and Cory Keebler, and the best all-time UC offensive lineman to ever play Eric Lefeld.
O-Line: Needless to say the offensive line will need some work and learn to gel. Due to a number of injuries at the position, new role players stepped up and gained experience, but this will be by far the most fragile position group next year.
Quarterback: Gunner Kiel is back. Enough said……. Cannot wait to see what he does in year two. My only fear is the backup role in case of cramps or injury. Traditionally, UC does not have the best of luck and has not used one QB for all 12 games from start to finish since before 2007. Junior Jarred Evans was used sparingly, including the OSU game, but will be the most experienced QB behind Gunner.
Backfield: Running back Tion Green will be back from injury, and Mike Boone had an unexpected breakout season as a freshman due to all the other position injuries. This should create a “thunder and lightning” backfield.
Receivers: The receiving corps is back as well, including Shaq Washington, Mekale McKay, Johnny Holton, Chris Moore, Max Morrison, Alex Chisum, Casey Gladney, and Nate Cole. On paper this is by far the best returning arsenal of weapons in the AAC. What a toy box for Kiel to use.
Seniors: UC loses cornerback Howard Wilder, defensive tackle Camaron Beard, star defensive end Terrell Hartsfield, and stud linebackers Jeff Luc and Nick Temple.
Defensive Line: With the loss of AAC sack-leader and all-AAC player Hartsfield, Silverberry Mouhon must step up and play as well as he did in his sophomore campaign.
Linebackers: Due to the losses of Luc and Temple, this will be a HUGE hole to fill. Guys like Kevin Brown and Kevin Mouhon must step up.
Secondary: We lose cornerback Wilder, but the rest of the cast is back, including cornerback #9 Leviticus Payne, who will be a senior. The secondary finished strong this year, and we expect them to continue the progress into next year.
Overall, we expect the offense to be even better next year, assuming the offensive line can protect Kiel. The defense will need work at the linebacker level. Our fantastic kicker Andrew Gantz will also be back. We can’t wait to see the Cats face BYU and Miami (FL) next year!
By Andy Smith