- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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2012 record: 10-3
2012 conference record: 5-2
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 1
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Winn (1,334 yards, 13 TDs)
Passing: Legaux* (120-of-230 for 1,716 yards, 13 TDs, 9 INTs)
Receiving: Kelce (772 yards, 8 TDs)
Tackles: Blair* (138)
Sacks: Giordano, Stewart (5)
Interceptions: Cam Cheatham, Arryn Chenault* (3)
1. QB depth. Kay appeared to have the slight edge over Legaux this spring following a season in which he replaced him down the stretch. Regardless, the Bearcats look set for the future at this position, as they landed Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel and brought in three signal-callers during this recruiting cycle.
2. O-line. Cincinnati has far and away the best offensive line in the Big East, as it returns all five starters, including a pair of All-Big East selections in Bujnoch at guard and Lefeld at tackle. Throw in another year for freshman All-American Parker Ehinger at right tackle, and an experienced quarterback, and this unit will improve even more in 2013.
3. Linebacker. Blair is back for a sixth year, and he is joined by Nick Temple and his 54 tackles from last season and his clutch picks. FSU transfer Jeff Luc should be able to make an immediate impact and help minimize the loss of Bomar, giving the Bearcats one of the best linebacking groups in the conference.
1. RB depth. Winn did a brilliant job succeeding Isaiah Pead before him, but who is going to get the bulk of carries in his place this season? Abernathy has tons of playmaking experience but it remains to be seen if he is a 20-carry-per-game back. Tion Green is back, and the Bearcats inked a pair of juco transfers as well.
2. Receiving options. Kelce, Kay's favorite target, is off to the NFL. Thompkins and Damon Julian are gone as well. Anthony McClung is the likely No. 1 option right now after his strong Belk Bowl performance (three catches, 110 yards, three touchdowns), but there is little else in terms of experience.
3. D-line. Cincinnati loses its top two sack men in Giordano and Stewart, and it was second in the Big East last season with 31 sacks. But it had 46 a year before, and loses those two players and Brandon Mills (3.5 sacks in 2012). New defensive ends coach Robert Prunty is tasked with finding suitable pass-rushers, though they will get a great test against that O-line every day in practice.