Monday, June 3, 2013
Weak and strong: Cincinnati
By Matt Fortuna
New faces, new places. Every team in the nation features turnover in one form or another each year. Starting today, we'll take a look at the biggest strength and weakness for each Big East team heading into the 2013 season.
We'll kick things off today with Cincinnati.
Strongest position: Offensive line
Cincinnati easily has the best offensive line in the Big East entering this fall. The Bearcats return all five starters up front from last season, including All-Big East guard Eric Lefeld, All-Big East tackle Austen Bujnoch and freshman All-American tackle Parker Ehinger. With both Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux returning, this unit will be protecting an experienced quarterback, too. The unit has a new coach in Darren Hiller, who in his lone season at Nevada last season saw the Wolf Pack rush for 271 yards per game, the nation's seventh-best mark. Bujnoch has said he wants the Bearcats' unit to become the best offensive line in the country. They can start by building off their 201.46 rushing yards per game from last season, which led the conference. Losing George Winn in the backfield will up the challenge a little bit, but the biggest room for improvement may be protecting the quarterback — both of whom are unafraid to take off on their feet, both of whom were sacked a combined 15 times last season, a mark that was still second-fewest in the conference.
Weakest position: Punter
Don't laugh. The is by far Cincinnati's biggest question mark heading into the fall. Why? Because punter Pat O'Donnell decided to leave the program and transfer to Miami, where he will be immediately eligible to play as a graduate student and was listed atop the Hurricanes' post-spring depth chart. The Palm Beach Central (Fla.) High graduate started the past three seasons for the Bearcats, averaging 42.6 yards per punt, booting 33 punts of 50 or more yards, recording 19 touchbacks and landing 65 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard-line. He was named first team All-Big East in 2011 and second-team all-conference in 2012, while also handling kickoff duties. O'Donnell's 41.8 yards per punt last season trailed only Temple's Brandon McManus. Two years ago the 6-foot-5, 222-pounder was ranked 10th on Bruce Feldman's annual "Freaks" list , with Feldman citing O'Donnell's 355-pound bench and 1.53-second 10-yard split. John Lloyd figures to have the No. 1 punter spot on Cincinnati's roster entering camp, but he has never punted in a game.