CINCINNATI (AP) — New coach Tommy Tuberville watched his Bearcats finish their final spring workout on Wednesday morning, walked over to the sideline and gave his assessment of practice.
“Well, they’re all boring, they’re all about the same,” he said. “Kind of like watching paint dry.”
His predecessor would never have said such a thing, a sign of how things have changed for Cincinnati.
Tuberville takes over for Butch Jones, who left for Tennessee after last season. He’s got a more laid-back style than Jones, who would walk around the practice field with a microphone and had his comments about everything amplified over a loudspeaker system.
No microphone for Tuberville. Not nearly as much talk, either.
“It’s not constant all the time,” quarterback Brendon Kay said after practice. “He’s going to oversee and when he wants something changed, he’s going to step in and make sure it is. He oversees and sits back. I’m a fan of it.”
Tuberville left Texas Tech to join a football program that’s in transition in many ways. The Bearcats tried to join the wave of schools leaving the original Big East, but wound up left behind. Seven break-away schools formed a basketball-centric conference with the Big East name. Cincinnati will be part of a 10-team American Athletic Conference next season.
Louisville and Rutgers are in the 10-team field, but are slated to leave after next season. Cincinnati hasn’t ruled out a move to another conference if an opening occurs.
For now, Tuberville needs to figure out how to win with a team that lacks depth at several important spots, most notably the defensive secondary.
He has the advantage of an experienced starting quarterback. Kay took over for Munchie Legaux last season and led the Bearcats to a 3-1 finish in the regular season and a share of the Big East title. He set a Belk Bowl record with four touchdown passes, including an 83-yarder with 44 seconds to go that set up a 48-34 win over Duke.
Kay missed parts of the 2008 and 2011 seasons because of injuries and was granted another year — his sixth — by the NCAA.
“He’s older than some of my coaches,” Tuberville joked. “You can’t put a price tag on quarterback experience. All the other guys, you can kind of teach them what to do. But to have a quarterback that’s been beat out and had to earn his spot back and has learned a new offense, just to see the intensity of a sixth-year quarterback and a guy that really wants to get it done, that’s been fun to watch.”
Kay becomes the leader of an offense that returns its line but will be in transition at running back, tight end and receiver.
“I’ve been thankful I can step out here every day,” Kay said. “After the injuries and everything, you’ve got to be appreciative of the opportunities you get.”
The Bearcats might have landed his successor for 2014. Former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel told his hometown paper in Indiana, The Columbus Republic, on Wednesday that he plans to enroll at Cincinnati.
Kiel originally committed to Indiana, then changed his mind and chose LSU. He changed his mind again and went to Notre Dame for his freshman season, but wound up low on the depth chart and decided to switch schools.
He would have to sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules. Cincinnati declined comment on the report Wednesday.
Tuberville’s offense will put more of an emphasis on the running game this season behind its experienced line.
“We’re trying to be more of a physical team,” he said. “Not that what they did in the past — I did what they did in the past my last few years where I was at. But we’ve got the type of team that can be more of a physical team than a finesse team on both sides. We want to be a little more balanced in the run and pass. That’s pretty much it.”
Tuberville has settled in comfortably — for the most part. Cincinnati had below-normal temperatures for much of the winter, which was an adjustment for the new coach.
Temperatures warmed in the last week and were in the upper 70s for the final practice Wednesday on a field that features a protective bubble during the winter months.
“I feel like I’m home now, especially with the sun out and a little warmer weather,” Tuberville said. “I haven’t been really fired up the last month. When we took the bubble down, it got a little cold.”