It's finally here! The season kicks off tomorrow at noon. Cincinnati hosts the Purdue Boilermakers to kick off the 2013 football season. It's the first game of Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati tenure. It's the first game for new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell. It's going to be one of the largest, if not the largest, crowds in Nippert Stadium history. All the pieces have come together to make tomorrow special. I can not wait. In fact, I'm not. Let's get to the preview.
Game Time: Noon
Line: Cincinnati -10.5
Series Record: Purdue 1-0
Last Meeting: Purdue 19 Cincinnati 14 September 2, 2001
Coach: Tommy Tuberville, 0-0 (130-77)
Quarterbacks: Brendon Kay is expected to start. He threw for 1,298 yards on 87-138 passing, with 10 touchdowns against 2 INTs. He hasn't officially been named the starter, but the writing appears to be on the wall.
Tuberville also indicated that Munchie Legaux would see time. Whether he does or doesn't remains to be seen. For his career, Legaux is 175-346, 2,465 yards, with 18 TDs against 13 INTs. Both QBs bring a lot to the table. Kay is more accurate than Legaux, Legaux can throw a better deep ball.
Get to know all the QBs on the roster by clicking the blue part of that sentence.
Running Backs: Ralph David Abernathy IV is the man to watch. He may not always be lined up at running back, but he's the back who will get the majority of the touches. He ran for 366 yards with TDs last year. He was just as deadly a receiver with 341 yards and 4 scores. If he gets the ball in space, he can make plays. We've heard getting him the ball is a priority this season.
The other backs are fighting for time. JUCO transfer Hosey Williams is listed second on the depth chart, but the rest of the playing time could probably go to anyone with the hot hand. That includes Tion Green, Rodriguez Moore and wild card Anthony King. Tuberville hasn't said how many backs we will see, but I imagine most will get a series at least.
Receivers: Receiver is a bit of a mystery for Cincinnati. There has been word that up to 10 guys will be out there tomorrow. The leading returning receiver is Anthony McClung. He's a senior with 105 catches, 1,439 yards and 10 TDs for his career. He took a step back as a junior with 539 yards and 2 scores. He's going to have to be closer to 1,000 yards than 700 yards if the passing attack is going to be a major problem for defenses.
Alex Chisum and Chris Moore are slated as the other two starting receivers. Both are pretty unproven. They have a combined 32 catches. What they do have are memorable touchdown catches. Chisum had his against USF, Moore had a huge catch against Duke. Both have been primarily deep threats. It's fair to wonder if they can do the little things. Shaq Washington, Max Morrison, Jeremy Graves, Nate Cole, those are 4 guys who haven't had a chance to produce. We really don't know what they can do.
As for the tight ends, Blake Annen is listed as the starter. He has just 3 catches and has mostly been a blocker. DJ Dowdy has not played a down. The drop from Travis Kelce to them seems big, but we don't know what the guys can do now that they have to perform.
Offensive Line: The biggest question is how does Deyshawn Bond handle being the new center? Eric Lefeld and Austen Bujnoch are a wall. Sam Longo and Parker Ehinger are nearly as solid on the right side. Bond is a freshman in one of the most important positions on the field. This is a major question that we will have to see play out.
Defensive Line: The big question about the defensive line is who steps up? Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart leave big shoes to fill. Silverberry Mouhon looks like he could be a player. The other 3 guys listed at end, Chad West, Brad Harrah and Terrell Hartsfield, have no significant experience. Elijah Shuler made some plays last year, but in very limited time. Jerrell Jordan is a JUCO, Dwight Jackson didn't play football last year and Josh Posley was a redshirt. Mark Wilson and Korey Cunningham are true freshmen. Pass rush was a big problem last year once Stewart went down. Opportunities will be given, who will step up?
As for the tackles, there are a couple of veterans back. Jordan Stepp was a key part of the rotation and started a majority of games. He has 9.5 career tackles for loss. Camaron Beard isn't listed on the chart above, but he had 5 tackles for loss last year. Marques Aiken was a solid player at Marshall the past two seasons. There is less to worry about in the middle. Mitch Meador is listed as a starter.
Linebackers: The bread and butter of the defense is lead by All-Big East selection Greg Blair. All he did last year was throw down 138 tackles, 9 for loss. He had 2.5 sacks and 2 INTs. There was nothing he couldn't do. I'm glad he's back. Joining him is Nick Temple, who came on very strong late in the season, finishing with 54 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks and a pick. The interesting part is the newcomer, Jeff Luc. The Florida State transfer has a ton of talent and potential. He was highly recruited and highly regarded. He hasn't had the chance to break out in college. Until tomorrow. I really can't wait to see him, Blair and Temple raise hell.
Secondary: The UC secondary is a mix of seniors and guys who had small roles last year. Deven Drane is the senior at corner. He has 5 career INTs. Across from him is Trenier Orr, who played in just 8 games last season. He had 18 tackles in that time. He started a game that Drane missed. Look for Leviticus Payne, another sophomore who didn't get a ton of action, to be on the field a lot. JUCO Howard Wilder is listed as the 4th corner.
The senior at safety is Arryn Chenault. He had 64 tackles and 3 INTs last year. He showed a nose for the ball. He's in his second year of starting. Adrian Witty was a hell raiser when he saw action. He's got 41 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. There is a bit of concern if one of them goes down. The listed backups are freshman Zach Edwards and redshirt freshman Andre Jones.
Kicker: The Golden Toe Tony Miliano is back to kick. He is 34-47, 72.3%, on field goals and 98-103 on extra points. He is Mr. Groza. Be careful ladies, he might kick a ball into the stands with his number on it just for you. You don't want it to hit you in the face and go to another girl.
The long snapper is Kirk Willis. John Lloyd will do the holding.
Punter: There hasn't been a clear winner in the punting derby as you can see above. John Lloyd has been around longer, but this is a new coaching staff and they could think that Sam Geraci is the man. Going from Kevin Huber and Pat O'Donnell, one actual and one potential, NFL caliber punters to an unknown is kind of scary to think about. These are the hidden yards that UC has been winning for the last 7 years or so. Someone is going to have to step up.
Returners: The kick returner is set to be Ralph David Abernathy IV. He's popped one to the house in 2011 in the Liberty Bowl. He averaged a cool 25 yards a return last year.
The punt returner is slated to be Shaq Washington. He has not returned a punt as a Bearcat. We don't know what he can do. Maybe he's the next Peter Warrick. Florida State version, not Bengals version.
Coach: Darrell Hazzell, 0-0 (16-10)
Quarterbacks: Rob Henry played in 11 games last year. He was 21-38, 216 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. His longest pass went for 25 yards. If he's the only Rob Henry, he also played receiver. He caught 6 passes for 65 yards. Henry was the starter in 2011 before he blew out his knee. In 2010, he was the first Boilermaker to lead the team in passing and rushing in the same season Let's see our guys make his return under center hell for him.
Running Backs: Akeem Hunt was Purdue's second leading rusher last year. He had 335 yards and 2 TDs. He had a very solid 8 yard average. He can hit home runs. His longest run was 81 yards. He did it in the passing game was well. He caught 15 balls for 204 yards and 2 TDs. His longest catch was 55 yards.Hunt was named to the Paul Hournung Award list. He can be a play maker. Important to shut him down.
Brandon Cottom had 23 carries for 209 yards, a 9 yard average. He scored twice as well. He broke an 87 yard run. He had 7 catches for 79 yards and 2 TDs. The backs catch passes. Dalyn Dawkins is a freshman from Louisville who is listed as an OR with Cottom. Chances are we will see all 3. Sounds like they have some wheels back there.
Receivers: Gary Bush is the leading returning receiver for Purdue with 41 catches for 365 yards and 7 TDs. Believe it or not, he's not even slated to start. BJ Knauf is a redshirt freshman and the only clear starting receiver. They expect big things from him. Shane Mikesky and DeAngelo Yancey are listed as an OR. Mikesky had 2 catches for 5 yards in 6 games last year. Yancy is a freshman from Atlanta. Dolapo Macarthy has no catches to his name either. There is a lot of inexperience out wide.
As for the tight ends, Gabe Holmes was 5th on the team in catches and yards a year ago. He had 25 for 158. He scored a pair of TDs. He was mostly a short yardage target, his longest reception was of 15. Holmes is on the Mackey award list for best TE. Justin Sinz played in 12 games, but only caught 4 passes for 48 yards with a TD. He must be a blocker.
Offensive Line: Purdue average 4.6 yards a rush last season and 166 yards a game. They averaged 5.5 a play. They gave up 25 sacks. They recruit some big ass boys as you can see and most of them have been around the program for a while.
Defensive Line: Ryan Russell had 8.5 tackles for loss last season to lead Purdue. He also led the team with 4 sacks. Might want to block him. Greg Latta saw a part time role with 12 tackles. Those are the main guys with experience at end.
Bruce Gaston stuffed the line with 5.5 tackles for loss. He forced 2 fumbles. He also recovered 2 fumbles. I don't think they were the same two fumbles. Ryan Isaac is listed at nose guard. He played in 12 games with 14 tackles. He broke up 2 passes. Probably by batting them down.
Linebackers: Will Lucas is the leading returning tackler at linebacker and was the second leading tackler on the team with 66. He had 6.5 tackles for loss. He also picked off a pass. He forced 3 fumbles in 2012. Joe Gilliam had 57 tackles, 2.5 for loss and a sack as year. Sean Robinson made 27 tackles, but was decent in coverage with 3 passes defended. Armstead Williams has a cool name.
Secondary: Ricardo Allen is one to watch. He was on the Jim Thorpe watch list as well as the Nagurski list. He made 46 tackles, 4 for loss. He had 1 sack. He picked off 1 pass, but he took it to the house. He defended 4 others and forced a fumble. Frankie Williams had 45 tackles with 1 tackle for loss. He picked off a pair of passes. He broke up 9 more.
Antonie Lewis and Normondo Harris are listed as the backup corners. Neither one of them has much game experience.
Landon Feichter was Purdue's leading tackler a year ago with 80. He had 2 tackles for loss. He lead the Boilers with 4 INTs. That was also tied for the Big 10 lead. He's a player. Taylor Richards had 51 tackles, which was 5th on the team. Probably not good that the safeties had so many tackles. He had half a sack. He broke up 6 passes. He also blocked a kick.
Evan Feichter and Anthony Brown also don't have a ton of game time, although Brown did play in 10 last year.
Kicker: Paul Griggs is your kicker. He was 4-7 last year, splitting time with Sam McCartney. Griggs was the long distance man. All of his kicks came from 30+. He was 2-3 from 30-39, 2-3 from 40-49 and 0-1 from 50+. He has a big leg it seems.
Jesse Schmitt is the long snapper, Cody Webster is the holder.
Punter: Cody Webster is a Ray Guy watch lister. He averaged 42.3 yards a punt last year. His long was 72. He put 29 of his 70 punts inside the 20.
Returners: Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert return kicks. Mostert led the FBS in return yards in 2011. Hunt had a return for a TD last year. Special teams needs to be ready.
BJ Knauf is set to return punts. The Boilers averaged 3.2 yards a punt return last year. You could probably fall down and pick up 3 yards.
UC has won 24 non-conference home games in a row at Nippert Stadium.
Purdue has never lost to a school currently in the American. They are 4-0-2.
Tommy Tuberville has not lost a season opener since 2005. Note: he did not coach in 2009.
The Purdue game in 2001 is the last home opener Cincinnati has lost.
The last time Cincinnati lost a season opening game was in 2010 at Fresno State.
2010 was also the last time Purdue opened a season with a loss. They lost at Notre Dame.
Purdue has not won their first road game since 2007 when they won at Toledo.
Gary Bush is the only returning player on offense to start all 13 games. The defense needs to take advantage of the youth and inexperience.
Purdue had 3 punts blocked last year. If there could be a swing somewhere, this is a good spot.
With a pair of new coordinators, it'll be really interesting to see how the game is called for the Bearcats. Eddie Gran mixed a lot of backs last year as their RB coach. Texas Tech's defense is something that improved, but also something that completely fell apart at the end of the season. They also played a 3-4 I believe. UC is staying with a 4-3.
Say what you want about Tommy Tuberville, but he has built a buzz around the team this season. Butch Jones did some great work, but he fan base never rallied around him like it has Tuberville. I've said here that I'm not really sure it was the best hire. I could be wrong. I hope that I am. I've been wrong before. Cincinnati football needed a salesman to go along with the success. Cincinnati has pre-sold out the home opener. There have only been 21 sellouts in Nippert history. There could and should be at least two this season. It's hard to keep more than 22,000 in the stadium if the team isn't the Brian Kelly flying offensive machine. Tubs is good to a good start. He's had the fan base buy in. We will see tomorrow if the has the players believing his message.
Cincinnati 31 Purdue 17