Will Kahlil Lewis make good on his NFL-like athleticism? Can Brayden Beard become our Wes Welker? Will Lawrenceburg’s Chad Banschbach bulldoze his way into more carries?
Yesterday, Coach Tuberville held his first pregame press conference of the 2016 season. Tubs dropped some real gems on the assembled media. We were on the scene to provide you with some key takeaways to get you ready for Thursday and this season.
- We have answers on the starting wide receivers! JUCO transfer #21 Devin Gray and sophomore #1 Kahlil Lewis will be the starting outside receivers. Tubs is very impressed with Gray. Lewis has a lot of potential (maybe even NFL potential) and just needs to put it in action during games. Senior #84 Nate Cole is the leader of the WR bunch and will play the middle. Also be on the lookout for freshman #15 Brayden Beard who will earn plenty of time in the slot (think: Wes Welker in the red and black).
- Junior #5 Mike Boone and senior #7 Tion Green will share the starting role at running back. They will receive about 80% of the carries. For now, local star #25 Chad Banschbach will be 3rd in line, followed by senior #22 Deionte Buckley. All 4 will carry the rock this fall.
- Mike Boone and Tion Green will be responsible for kick returns because they work well together.
- Star kicker junior #16 Andrew Gantz will sit out week 1 as a precautionary measure. He pulled a muscle in his kicking leg and should be good to go next week at Purdue.
- Junior #26 Sam Geraci will be the punter. He is about 90% and looks a lot better than last year. This is the healthiest he’s been after knee surgery.
- The situation at punt returner remains unresolved. Both Mike Boone and Brayden Beard are in the running. Tubs is evaluating one thing, primarily – the ability to catch and secure the ball. In light of last year’s turnover issues, the ability to break a long return is not the most important factor. The punt returner must be focused and fearless; it’s not easy to try to catch a towering punt while 11 players streak down the field hoping to take your head off.
Reading between the lines, this year’s squad will rely heavily on what Tubs calls a “much-improved defense.” Obviously, last year’s defense had more holes than Swiss cheese, especially after it was devastated by injuries. Tubs believes the 1’s and 2’s this year have great athletic ability. The silver lining – due to the amount of injuries last season, plenty of young players have gained playing experience.
The ability for UC to churn out wins will also depend on whether Tion and Boone can successfully run the ball down our opponent’s throat, convert 3rd downs, and turn red zone field positioning into TDs, not field goal attempts. We only return 2 starters on the offensive line so it remains to be seen how the line will gel and be able to protect Hayden Moore and Co. In addition, whether the wide receivers will work well together remains to be seen.
While the media has been hard on this team (picked to finish 3rd in the AAC East Division), don’t be surprised if this team outperforms expectations. Last season’s win total was largely a byproduct of bad luck (injuries) and a minus-19 turnover margin. Of the first five games, four are at home. If the offensive line can hold up, the new-look Bearcats may sneak into the month of October fairly confident at 5-0 or 4-1.
By Andy Smith