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September 6, 2011Quarterbacks: Zach Collaros played good, not great. He finished 12-19 for 134 yards against a terrible defense. Cornerbacks literally fell down in coverage situations.
Collaros connected on four touchdown passes, several demonstrated remarkable touch.
The most encouraging sign was Collaros' newfound connection with Kenbrell Thompkins. KT's assimilation is mandatory to offensive success.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian was able to get four quarterbacks onto the field Saturday.
Sophomore Munchie Legaux mounted a third quarter charge, concluding with a five yard touchdown run.
Legaux's legs have always been a threat. More impressive were his two completions in three throwing attempts.
When Jordan Luallen hits the field the Bearcats shift into Wing-T offense. Luallen shoved three successful rushes into the heart of AP's defense.
Providing a third quarter changeup Luallen ran for eight yards, nine yards, and eight yards in seconds. He set up Collaros for a short 8-yard TD pass to Anthony McClung.
Luallen's UC debut was a rousing success. Legaux's QB debut provided some encouraging thoughts and Collaros did decent.
The quarterbacks receive a B+ for week one.
Wide Receivers: Everyone knows what D.J. Woods can do. Concerns hovered around freshmen Shaq Washington, Alex Chisum, and sophomore Anthony McClung.
Their strong showings Saturday alleviated those worries.
Shaq looked fast. Chisum looked steady, and McClung proved dynamic.
For a position that has a lot of turnover WR might become a welcome surprise.
Thompkins, Woods, and McClung (2) caught touchdowns. Three freshmen linked up with UC quarterbacks. From Washington and Chisum to WR/RB Abernathy the young bloods showed out.
Every route-runner seperated dramatically from their assigned corners. McClung caught a pass ten yards removed from his nearest defender.
With Woods as the mainstay McClung could become the electric slot man.
Freshmen routes still need refinement, but considering the lack of experience UC fans and coaches must be pleased with their receiving corps.
Grade them a B.
Running Backs: Isaiah Pead was fabulous. Even better than expected.
As the defenses get tougher expect Pead to overpower, outwork, and elude. Pead's skills are constant and unwavering. While Collaros can be affected by the defensive scheme, Pead dashes past everyone.
His prowess in the open field showed the tremendous gap in athleticism between Pead and the AP linebackers. They stood virtually no chance of bringing him down.
Tight Ends: An injured Travis Kelce handcuffed the tight end versatility. Starter Blake Annen blocked well, but caught no passes. The spread offensive attack does not demand TE usage, but the Bearcats purported to have more TE weapons this season.
Will they get more balls thrown their way? Unlikely.
Backup Adrien Robinson is much stronger this season, but his hands are still questionable. Kelce returns against Tennessee potentially leading the position back to relevance. The only reason for the "B" here is the dearth of receptions.
Offensive Line: QB Collaros was flushed from the pocket only once or twice. In 2010 he found himself on the run repeatedly.
Much of this hinges on the DE skill, and it was admittedly poor from Austin Peay. Nevertheless UC' offensive linemen did their job well.
With just one player (Randy Martinez) returning at the same position the consistent play was a bit of a shock.
Against TN their communication will be strained and integral to offensive success.
Great first game for a oft-weary unit. "A" for the day.
Great launching pad.
Defensive Line: Linebacker J.K. Schaffer credited the defensive line with many of the turnovers created.
"Pass rush was the biggest thing with the turnovers tonight because they couldn't even throw a deep pass because our front four was getting there so fast," said Schaffer. "We didn't even need to do fire zones. That is a great improvement for us is getting a rush out of just four guys."
Senior John Hughes made a couple of encouraging rushes. His improvement gives the line balance.
Linebackers: J.K. Schaffer played very well. His pass coverage improved from 2010.
Maalik Bomar, Nick Temple, and Dwight Jackson caused troubles and caused turnovers.
It was great to see freshmen ready for the college speed of play, albeit Austin Peay's speed.
Coach Jones wants to see his linebackers get more reps. The heat and weakness of the opponent affected substitution patterns. Going forward expect Schaffer and Bomar to play much, much more obviously.
Right now Coach Jones is still unsure how their fitness compares to 2010.
Defensive Backs: The corners and safeties did not have the instant impact they were hoping for. The passing yards against was very, very low. However, this figure absorbs the yards loss (sacks) conributed by the DL.
The first quarter revealed some holes in the defense. Safeties Drew Frey and Wesley Richardson were significantly bigger than their marks. This will not always be the case. Against Austin Peay they were in the right spots quite often.
Chris Williams did well from the nickel spot.
The second and third teams were nowhere near game-ready. Unforunately it looks like many of the DB starters are going to be forced into heavy workloads again in 2011.
Tony Miliano disturbingly missed his first PAT. Forunately he settled by hitting the next seven PAT's and one 39-yard field goal.
Future opponents are more likely to stop UC before the endzone so Miliano will see more FGA's. Coach Jones has to be happy with the groove his first-year kicker found though.
Transfer Shane Popham nailed two PAT's in the fourth quarter. An "A" is given to this previously unsettled group.