Bearcats Popping Pads at Higher Ground: Pasley, QB Battle and WR University Continue

This Sunday morning the sun scorched, the sweat dripped, the choir assembled, and the chorus of full contact football resounded throughout the Tabernacle of Camp Higher Ground in West Harrison, Indiana. 

Josh Pasley Might Be the Greatest. 

This morning’s practice featured just one savior – backup place kicker Josh Pasley. It was blistering hot on the turf Sunday. To borrow a Tuberville-ism, it was “hotter than a fox in a forest fire.”

Given that this was the first full pads experience in the heat, at the end of practice Tuberville offered the team a wager. If the field goal unit could rush onto the field within ten seconds and bury a field goal, then the whole team wouldn’t have to run sprints. Pasley’s unit hustled onto the field and the backup kicker clubbed it square, through the center of the uprights. 

The team exploded, rushed Pasley, and hoisted him onto their shoulders like he just kicked them into the Big 12 Conference. 

The Quarterback Battle Continues

Based on what I observed today, I would the say the race for the starting quarterback position is wide open. Gunner Kiel, Hayden Moore, and Ross Trail are a contrast in styles. 

Gunner, the presumptive starter according to most national media, has good mechanics. He combines both a soft touch and arm strength to throw to deep routes. Despite being the number one ranked pro style QB coming out of high school in 2012, he has decent mobility and escapability within the pocket. The knock on Gunner is that he’s inconsistent game to game. Each game he’s played under center, I’ve seen flashes of brilliance. In every important game, however, I’ve also seen him force throws and make critical mistakes. 

Hayden is a gunslinger. He whips the ball all over the field, usually on target – even in tight spaces.  His mechanics, however, are not superb. While his footwork is fine, his throwing motion is odd inasmuch as his release point is atypical for this level. The ball seems to rocket from beneath his shoulder pad. That said,  he’s an accurate passer that has proven to be the most reliable option given Gunner’s inconsistent past. 

To watch Ross Trail throw a football is like watching John Stockton shoot a free throw – his mechanics are perfect. Every time I’ve watched Ross throw during  drills, and even during the scrimmage Sunday, he routinely sits up nice and tall in the pocket and delivers crisp, precise balls to receivers. You can tell he had good high school coaches, and that he has a bright future with the Bearcats. However, he’s a red shirt freshman with two experienced quarterbacks ahead of him. He was picked off during the scrimmage today, and it seems as though he’s still catching up to the speed of this level. 

With camp just under way, I offer no predictions on what Offensive Coordinator Zac Taylor may ultimately decide.  I can say that I am glad it’s Zac making this decision – his fresh eyes and lack of history will probably net a better result for the offensive unit this fall.   

Brayden Beard and Avery Johnson Impress

Since the days of Mardy Gilyard and Armon Binns, the University of Cincinnati has been developing into a sort of Wide Receiver U.  If you recall back then, Brian Kelly tweaked Mark Dantonio’s offensive approach to spread the field, play fast, and throw the ball with greater frequency.  Because of that spread approach, more and more solid WR recruits have made their way to Clifton. 

However, the Bearcats lost a lot of WR talent from last year, with Shaq Washington, Chris Moore, Mekale McKay, and Johnny Holton all moving along to the next level.  This season, UC’s offense looks to reload with Nate Cole, Khalil Lewis, highly touted transfers Avery Johnson and Jamil Kamara, and a cast of younger players. 

Yesterday, Avery Johnson appeared to be a favored target. In addition, Tuberville said he was impressed with Fredericksburg, Texas product Brayden Beard. Even though he’s young, Tuberville said he plays very mature thanks in part to the great 7 on 7 leagues throughout Texas. 

For more Camp Higher Ground (and Big 12 Conference expansion) updates, be sure to follow Bearcats Sports Radio on Twitter – @bearcatsradio. 

By Brian Fox