By Ryan Roberts
On Saturday afternoon the Cincinnati Bearcats returned to Nippert Stadium for their final practice of the spring. It was the first opportunity for the Satterfield led Bearcats to give the fans a glimpse of what the team may look like during the first season of the transition to the Big 12.
A few of the biggest storylines coming in to the game included a quarterback battle between two 6th year seniors in Ben Bryant and Arizona State transfer, Emory Jones. The Bearcats are also looking to replace experience and depth at offensive line, tight end, wide receiver, and defensive back. With so much inexperience and unknown, this spring game was an opportunity for several different guys to insert themselves in to a bigger role.
The day got started with individual work and then transitioned in to the team portion of the scrimmage.
Here are my takeaways from Offense:
Jones, Bryant, Drogosh Shine
Ben Bryant got the start and and first team reps to begin the game and while the first snap of the game ended up being a strip sack by Daniel Grzesiak, Bryant responded nicely on his second drive that led to a touchdown. The key play of the drive was an absolute dime on a deep out to Sterling Berkhalter. Two plays later, walk on Viktor Dawson took in from 4 yards out.
Emory Jones showed flashes in the passing game and made some nice throws with what the coaches were asking him to do in the short to intermediate range. After ba ck to back long gains by Ryan Montgomery on a screen and run, Jones would find tight end Payten Singletary over the middle on a crossing pattern for a 16 yard score for the first touchdown of the day. Still hard to gauge how effective Jones can be since he was in a green jersey with no contact, but it was encouraging to see him lead the offense down the field multiple times and play turnover free football.
Brady Drogosh looked very good for an early enrollee freshman. He had several throws to fellow freshman Barry Jackson where he put the ball in a tight window for long gains. The biggest was a 34 yard go route to Jackson where he found him over the top for a touchdown. Drogosh has put on 21 lbs since arriving on campus and his arm strength and athleticism was on full display today during his opportunities to lead the offense.
Brady Lichtenberg threw an interception to Jah-Mal Williams but responded with a 24 yard touchdown strike to JiaIr Thomas, who made a great catch over the middle through contact.
Red Zone Success
The Bearcats went 4 for 4 to end practice with touchdown throws from Jones, Bryant, and Jacob Hoying, as well as a rushing touchdown from running back Corey Kiner.
Wide Receiver Emerges
While Chamon Metayer and Payten Singletary showed an ability to be effective in the passing game from the tight end position , it was true freshman Barry Jackson that stole the show and had everyone talking. The early enrollee made plays both outside inside from the slot position and showed great burst and playmaking ability on jet sweeps. He had two great catches on a drive orchestrated by Brady Drogosh where he caught a ball on the sideline in a tight window and then made an over the shoulder catch in the end zone for a 34 yard touchdown. He was used in check down situations as well as on outs for short gains.
Coach Satterfield said in his post game presser that they would have used a running back by committee approach if today were a real game but there were several nice runs and plays by Corey Kiner and Myles Montgomery. Those two, along with Ryan Montgomery and Ethan Wright showed that they can be effective catching the ball out of the backfield and that they have an ability a catch a screen and get up field in a hurry.
While the offense is probably still behind the defense, there were things to be encouraged about today, starting with the QB play and red zone offense. Last year's offense seemed to be big play dependent, whereas today's approach was more uptempo with a short to intermediate approach in the passing game and using screens to get the running backs involved out of the backfield. Offensive line showed flashes of a unit that can be balanced in both the run and pass game but still a long way to go before the first true test against Pitt on September 5th.
Let's now take a look at the defensive side of the ball and what was seen from that unit:
Briggs, Grzesiak Control the Edge
Jowon Briggs opted to come back for one final season and is adjusting to a new role playing outside in the 4-2-5 scheme. Briggs showed great burst, physicality, and speed throughout the day from his edge spot and made plays sideline to sideline as well as in the backfield for several tackles for loss.
Grzesiak was all over the field and in the backfield all day as well. The Utah State transfer had several tackles for loss and made big hits in space on running backs coming out of the backfield. With the loss of Ivan Pace Jr to the NFL, Grzesiak has the potential to have similar success if he continues to develop and play with the same energy and speed that we saw today.
With the loss of so many db's to the NFL and graduation over the past two years, it was going to be extremely important for Coach Satterfield to address the secondary through the transfer portal and high school recruiting. Enter Florida transfer and redshirt sophomore Jordan Young. The cornerback made plays both in run support and in the passing game. He has big hit ability and had several stops in space on wheel routes to running backs out of the backfield. Young also showed a willingness to come off the edge and pressure the quarterback.
Other standouts included DJ Taylor and Sammy Anderson. Jah-Mal Williams also had an interception and pass break up in coverage.
The defense has playmakers all over the field at all three levels. This is going to be a very fast and physical group that flies around the field and makes plays sideline to sideline with their pressure. Still some work to do but having guys like Deshawn Pace, Dorian Jones, and Daniel Grzesiak coming off the edge and dropping in to coverage gives defensive coordinator Bryan Brown a lot of different options.
First Team Defense:
- Jowon Briggs, Dontay Coreleone, Malik Vann , Eric Philips, Dorian Jones, Jordan Young, Daniel Grzesiak, Tahj Ward, Jack Dingle, Bryon Threats, Sammy Anderson
First Team Offense:
- Ben Bryant , Ethan Wright, Donovan Ollie, Dee Wiggins, Trevor Radosevich, Dartnyan Tinsley, Philip Wilder, Gavin Gerhardt, John Williams, Lesley Andoh, Peyton Singletary
- Tyler Gillison and CJ Doggette both made plays today with the second and third units
- Lesley Andoh, Sterling Berkhalter, and Donovan Ollie showed nice hands and an ability to get open in the intermediate passing game.
- A lot of screens and short check downs today. Not sure if that was by design or just trying to get the QB's some confidence, but it resulted in several nice gains
- Deshawn Pace blocked the only field goal attempt today...a 43 yard try by Carter Brown
With Spring Practice coming to an end, Coach Satterfield and his staff will now go back and review the field and have individual meetings with positions groups and players to discuss strengths and weaknesses as well as what the future looks like. Stay locked in with 48 minutes network, as well as At Large Bid leading up to the beginning of fall camp in July as we continue to track the progress of the 2023 Bearcats.