Bearcats QB position up for grabs in spring practice

BY foxsports • March 30, 2012

QB position up for grabs in spring practice

Last spring the Bearcats were coming off a disappointing 4-8 season, and they began spring practice with a collective chip on their shoulder.

Now, after going 10-3, finishing as co-champions of the Big East Conference and beating Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl, there's a different atmosphere surrounding spring practice. Even so, coach Butch Jones insists his players aren't satisfied.

"I feel a great sense of momentum coming into spring football," Jones said. "But I have not sensed any entitlement, or any lack of hunger. I really like the effort this team has given so far."

The Bearcats will conclude this year's spring practice with their annual spring game and fan fest at Nippert Stadium on April 14.

The competition for starting quarterback is at the forefront of spring practice, and it took an interesting twist early in camp when it was revealed that junior Jordan Luallen would split time at quarterback and wide receiver this season.

It would be easy to assume that Munchie Legaux, who started five games in place of the injured Zach Collaros, would be the starter now that Luallen will be in the slot. Not so, says Jones.

"It's wide open," Jones said. "I like where our quarterbacks are going (in the spring). We're still turning the ball over too much."

Jones has been impressed by redshirt freshman Patrick Coyne and senior Brendon Kay. However, the odds still favor Legaux, who passed for 749 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 185 yards and two TDs last season.

"The big thing for us is our maturity," Jones said. "We're going to need to have some young players grow up, particularly at quarterback."

Morrison takes over as DBs coach

--Shannon Morrison was named defensive backs coach on March 27. Morrison replaces Kerry Coombs, who left Cincinnati to join Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State. Morrison, a 16-year coaching veteran, has served as defensive coordinator at five schools, including Holy Cross and Bowling Green. Morrison is a four-time letter-winner at Marshall, where he ranks sixth on the school's all-time interceptions list.

"Shannon brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our football staff," Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones said. "He known as an effective communicator who has the knack for getting the most out of his players. He has also established himself as a top recruiter."

--Cincinnati announced its 2012 regular-season schedule, which kicks off with a nationally televised game against Big East Conference rival Pittsburgh on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Nippert Stadium. The Bearcats will play seven home games, all at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati plays at new Big East member Temple on Nov. 10. The Bearcats host Fordham on Oct. 13, a game that replaces one against West Virginia, which has left for the Big 12.

SPRING MOVERS:

RB George Winn has had an impressive spring. Winn was Cincinnati's third-leading rusher last season with 219 yards and two TDs. Winn, along with sophomore Jameel Poteat and junior Ralph David Abernathy IV, will help the Bearcats replace Isaiah Pead.

DB Trenier Orr, a redshirt freshman, has put himself in line to start at defensive back. "We knew he was gifted when we recruited him," coach Butch Jones said.

DL Camaron Beard, a sophomore, is among the young defensive lineman who have stood out this spring. He's shown mental intensity and an increase in confidence, Jones said.

WR Kenbrell Thompkins has responded well to the challenge from coaches to improve his overall endurance this spring. Thompkins, the Bearcats' second-leading receiver last year, will start along with junior Anthony McClung, who led Cincinnati with 683 receiving yards and six TDs last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They laid the foundation for what the expectation is for senior classes here. Now I can see some other individuals growing and stepping up. They learned what it means to be a senior from them." -- Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, on replacing the program's most successful senior class.

Strategy And Personnel

2012 OUTLOOK: Optimism abounds for the Bearcats, who finished 10-3, co-champions of the Big East Conference and Liberty Bowl champs with a 31-24 victory over Vanderbilt. Coach Butch Jones hopes to carry the momentum from last season into his third season at the helm, but there are questions to be answered this spring, particularly at quarterback.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Munchie Legaux is the likely starter at quarterback, with Jordan Luallen assuming a dual role at receiver and QB. The Bearcats lost leading rusher Isaiah Pead, but they'll be deep at running back with George Winn, Ralph David Abernathy IV and Jameel Poteat. The receiving corps is strong, led by junior Anthony McClung.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense was much improved last season, bolstered by its pass rush. Senior DL Walter Stewart and LB Maalik Bomar will step into leadership roles with the departure of captain J.K. Schaffer. The Bearcats have a young but deep secondary.

SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Ralph David Abernathy IV has the potential to be an explosive kickoff returner. He had a 26.5-yard average last season. Sophomore PK Tony Miliano hopes to build off his freshman season, when he went 17-for-25 on field goals, including 8-for-12 from 40 to 49 yards. Junior Pat O'Donnell averaged 43.8 yards per punt and placed 26 punts inside the 20-yard line last season.

TOP NEWCOMERS:

RB Deionte Buckley was named the 5A running back of the year in Indiana after rushing for 1,610 yards and 27 touchdowns. He earned Associated Press first-team Class 5A all-state honors. While the Bearcats are deep at running back, Buckley could contribute early.

QB Bennie Coney enrolled at Cincinnati in January. Graded as a four-star recruit by 247sports.com, Coney is a dual-threat QB who could fit well into the Bearcats' spread system. He passed for 1,159 yards and ran for 360 as a junior.

TE DeShawn Dowdy has speed for his size. At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, Dowdy is an adept pass catcher who was ranked as the No. 27 tight end by Rivals.com. He also had six sacks as a junior.

RB Aaron Harris, one of the nation's top junior-college backs, missed the 2010 season with a knee injury, but he recovered to rush for 870 yards and eight TDs in 2011. He compiled 164 all-purpose yards per game last season.

OL Caleb Stacey ranked among Cincinnati's top local recruits. Stacey, a 6-foot-4, 280 pound lineman from Cincinnati's Oak Hills High School, chose the Bearcats over Boston College, Illinois and Michigan.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Junior QB Jordan Luallen will split time at receiver this season. Head coach Butch Jones has spent time this spring installing a package of plays for Luallen who is working on the fine details of the receiver position, including his speed off the ball. "He's one of our best athletes and one of our most competitive guys," Jones said. "We needed to get him on the field."

--Redshirt freshman DB Trenier Orr's strong spring likely has earned him a starting position.

--Sophomore QB Nick West and sophomore DB Torrey Nibbs have left the team.


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