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The cabinet wasn’t left utterly naked, however Luke Fickell had some main restocking to do.
The sixth-year Cincinnati coach is tasked with following up a historic 2021 season that noticed the Bearcats change into the primary workforce outdoors a Energy 5 convention to crack the School Soccer Playoff.
The dream season ended with a 27-6 loss to Alabama in a semifinal, after which Cincinnati (13-1) watched a school-record 9 gamers get chosen within the NFL draft, led by cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, taken fourth general by the New York Jets.
After dropping the core of his greatest gamers, the pressure is on Fickell to show that the No. 23 Bearcats are built to last, particularly as they put together to make the leap from the middling American Athletic Convention to the Massive 12 in 2023.
“Going into camp, it is definitely different,” Fickell stated. “Not that you’re not battling every year and there are competitions in all different things. But this is a year where there’s definitely more of an edge. Definitely some unique battles, and it’s not just at the quarterback position.”
There may be positively a way of urgency for Cincinnati main up to the season opener Sept. 3 at No. 19 Arkansas.
“Camp is different knowing that those guys maybe haven’t played as many snaps, and you’re going to be walking into Fayetteville, Arkansas, and need to be playing your best,” Fickell stated. “There’s definitely a different feel and will be a different feel, I think, for our entire camp.”
Searching for QB1?
The best-profile battle can be at quarterback as Fickell tries to substitute flashy four-year starter Desmond Ridder. It has created an uncommon scenario made potential by the switch portal.
Sophomore Evan Prater, who threw simply 11 passes in mop-up obligation final yr, is competing in opposition to Ben Bryant, who spent three years at Cincinnati earlier than escaping Ridder’s lengthy shadow and transferring to Jap Michigan final season.
With Ridder gone, Bryant jumped again to the Bearcats as a fifth-year participant, and he is in all probability received the sting simply by advantage of expertise. He handed for greater than 3,000 yards and 13 touchdowns for a Mid-American Convention squad that completed 7-6 final season.
NFL DRAFT PROSPECT SAUCE GARDNER BELIEVES HE’S THE ‘BEST’ IN THIS YEAR’S CLASS: ‘I’M THE CHOSEN ONE’
“We haven’t had a true quarterback battle in quite a while,” Fickell stated.
Jobs for the Taking
One other competitors taking part in out in camp is to substitute 1,300-yard working again Jerome Ford. The returning candidates are senior Ryan Montgomery, who’s been a top-notch punt returner for the Bearcats for 3 years, and senior Charles McClelland, who has had some unhealthy luck with accidents.
A wildcard in within the combine is Corey Kiner, the 2020 Ohio Mr. Soccer winner who has transferred residence to Cincinnati after one season at LSU, the place his 324 yards made him the workforce’s second-leading rusher.
Cincinnati has an enviable scenario on the offensive line, with all 5 of final yr’s starters returning. The stout entrance helped the Bearcats common 37 factors per sport final season. Middle Jake Renfro, guard Lorenz Metz and deal with Dylan O’Quinn all had been 2021 first-team All-AAC picks.
The Again Finish
Cincinnati misplaced one of the best cornerback tandem within the nation when Gardner and Coby Bryant went to the NFL. With senior Arquon Bush moving into one of the cornerback spots and a returning starter in senior security Ja’Von Hicks, the Bearcats secondary ought to nonetheless be robust.
“We’ve got plenty of guys who are hungry. Simple as that,” stated sixth-year participant Jabari Taylor, a pacesetter on the Bearcats’ defensive position. “You got all these guys, we’re reloading, they’re just as ready as anyone who was here before and is up next.”
After opening on the highway in opposition to Arkansas, Cincinnati will play FCS squad Kennesaw State within the residence opener and host Indiana in non-conference play. Then comes a slog by means of an AAC schedule one final time. The regular-season slate would not embrace No. 24 Houston, which was picked in a preseason media ballot to end forward of the Bearcats within the convention.