By: Ryan Roberts
It has been a long 10 months. On November 27th, 2022, Luke Fickell finalized a deal to become the next head coach at Wisconsin. On December 5th, former Louisville head coach Scott Sattefield agreed to a deal to become the successor of the most prominent coach in Cincinnati football history.
Since December 5th, Scott Satterfield has had to assemble a coaching staff, re-shape a new roster that included more than 20 incoming transfers, as well as finalize a 2022 recruiting class and get started on the 2023 recruiting class. Winter workouts, spring ball, summer workouts, and fall camp have finally led us to the beginning of a new era. The Scott Satterfield, Big 12 Era.
On Saturday September 2nd at 3:30 pm, the Bearcats will kick off the season against FCS Eastern Kentucky Colonels in historic Nippert Stadium. Coming off a seven win 2022 season that resulted in an Atlantic Sun regular season championship, the team's first conference title since 2011, and first playoff appearance since 2014, the EKU football team was picked to win the United Athletic Conference in the preseason coaches poll.
EKU's offense starts with quarterback Parker McKinney, a Third-Team FCS Preseason All-American and UAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. McKinney ranked in the top five in the FCS for passing yards (3,956), passing yards per game (329.7), points responsible for (258), points responsible for game (21.5), total offense per game (359.2), and passing touchdowns (33) last season.
Photo Credit: EKU Athletics
Along with McKinney, running back Braedon Sloan, offensive lineman Josiah Ezirim, and defensive back Franky West all earned Preseason All-American honors.
EKU primarily runs a spread offense and likes to get the ball out quick so it will be interesting to see what type of pressure defensive coordinator Bryan Brown draws up to stop the quick game across the middle. Whether the defensive backs are in press man coverage or playing 8-10 yards off the ball will be interesting. One thing's for sure, the Cincinnati DB'S will be tested early and often against one of the best quarterbacks at the FCS level.
Offensively, the Colonels return 6 out of 11 starters. The losses were big, especially in the passing game. EKU lost Jayden Higgins (WR, 58 rec, 757 yrds, 10 TD), Joeseph Sewell (TE, 25 rec, 279 yrds, 1 TD), and Cornelius McCoy (WR, 51 att, 768 yrds, 8 TD) from last season's potent passing attack.
Defensively, EKU returns 3 out of 11 starters so there will be new faces looking to solidify their role in game 1 against the Bearcats. One of those new faces is Cincinnati LB transfer Cam Junior (Middletown, OH). EKU also added FBS defensive transfers Tony Davis (Duke) , Kyle Kelly (Ohio) , and Gabe Stanley (North Carolina).
EKU is a solid FCS team and should present some challenges with their potent passing attack. They have two solid tackles on the offensive line in Ohio natives Josiah Ezrim and Payton Collins, who is making his 33rd consecutive start, but I'm not sure this line can hold up for 4 quarters against the talent, size, and depth that Cincinnati will show with their front 7.
Defensively, EKU gave up 35 points per game last season. I would expect the Emory Jones led offense to match that average plus some. Scott Satterfield mentioned there are still some inconsistencies with the offensive line so I would expect Corey Kiney and Myles Montgomery to be utilized early and often as the offense likely doesn't show much with Pitt in week 2. Cincinnati has outscored EKU by a combined score of 71-7 in the only two meetings between the two programs.
Cincinnati 48 EKU 10