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August 2, 2012

Five To Ponder: Cincinnati

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HokieHaven.com will be catching up with the beat writers from each of Virginia Tech's opposing teams' Rivals.com network sites. For teams without a Rivals site, we'll be speaking with the team's daily newspaper. Third in our series, we look at the Hokies' neutral site game at FedEx Field, Sept. 29 against Cincinnati, with BearcatReport.com publisher Andrew Force.

1. Which loss, player or coach, from last season will be the toughest for Cincinnati to replace?

Force: It's Zach Collaros, the quarterback, because he leaves the biggest drop-off from one year to the next. Munchie Legaux is their quarterback now and Munchie's passing accuracy is dramatically worse. He's a scrambler and tough to contain, but when you keep him in the pocket, it's gonna be a disaster for Cincinnati some games.

Maybe one or two games, he could lose it by himself. At the same time, their offense is gonna be a little bit different because he's in there. They'll probably run more with the quarterback than they did in the past. Still, for what Zach could and couldn't do, he's gonna be missed the most.

If I did a second, it would be the defensive lineman, Derek Wolfe. Cincinnati's run-defense will be a lot worse this year too. They lost everyone in the middle of the field, the two inside tackles, the inside linebacker and their safety from a year ago.

So they're gonna be easier to run on and they're gonna be worse passing offensively making them more susceptible to a powerful team like I'd imagine Virginia Tech will be.

2. Which newcomers should make the biggest impact?

Force: There's a couple of guys on the defensive line who are new-ish. They're not gonna start any new players. They're just gonna be shifting up from their third and second to the second and first line I don't know that there's gonna be any newcomers of merit.

Defensive tackle Camaron Beard will start for the first time in his career, a redshirt sophomore. He might do something. Then they have a couple of linebackers who are young and who can do something, Nick Temple and Dwight Jackson. They will be true sophomores but they were in the two-deep last year as freshmen. But that's about it.

3. What, if anything, will change in playcalling, schemes, etc. this season?

Force: They lost their NFL-bound running back, Isaiah Pead. I don't think they will replace him with one guy which is weird for Cincinnati, because usually they're a feature back and that's it. I think they'll have two or three running backs that you'll have to look out for this year, for better or worse.

They have George Winn, a program player who's been around forever and who knows the system. They have a four-star running back in Jameel Poteat who committed to Pittsburgh and when they went through the troubles of head coaches, he went to Cincinnati. He's good enough to start but he's still trying to get accustomed to the system as a sophomore.

Then you have Ralph Abernathy who has the potential to hop in there every once in a while. He's like how Reggie Bush is in the NFL, where he can't do a whole game at running back but can pop in here and there with his small size and explosive running. They could have three or four guys running the ball, but system-wise, they'll be the same team.

4. Were there any surprises this spring and do you anticipate any more?

Force: I think their kicking game is slightly better. Last year, it was hit and miss. They have, in my opinion, the best punter in the conference, if not the country, but their kicker was a true freshman last year and can be better.

Special teams overall will be one of their strengths. That's different from two years ago and probably one of the biggest weaknesses when this coaching staff arrived.

They really have to get some skill players though. They have some skill players in the system, but none of them have ever done anything at Cincinnati yet. They could be a pretty drab team if these guys don't show up.

5. What are realistic expectations for Cincinnati this season?

Force: They've been picked fourth in the conference three or four years in a row and they've won it three of those four years. I would be shocked if they do it this year. Third place is a good goal.

Louisville is gonna be amazing this year and around the country people are gonna recognize them They've been recruiting at an unprecedented clip. You're gonna see some superstar players there.

I think someone else will take second, then Cincinnati will be fighting for third or fourth in the conference. It's kind of a turbulent year in the Big East with two teams leaving, Temple just arrived and then several teams on the way next year. It's not a stable conference, so there's some animosity.

People are playing for more than just bragging rights at this point. There's some hatred going on, so that'll be interesting. In terms of how high Cincinnati can go, I think if they get third and make any spot of merit then they should be pleased with themselves.

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