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Bigger Concern For Cincinnati: QB Or Defense?

by Jackson Wang
Jun 13, 2014 9:39 PM EDT



The Cincinnati Bearcats have two huge question marks punctuating the replacement of QB Brendon Kay and top tacklers Greg Blair and Nick Temple.

For the last seven years, the Bearcats have won at least eight games per season, including four conference titles and four bowl game victories. Head coach Tommy Tuberville plans to continue that streak, and so he wonders: Do I focus on the quarterback or the defense as the priority?

The Case For The Quarterback

Currently, the quarterback position is still up for grabs. Sophomore Gunner Kiel and junior Jared Evans are leading the charge, and according to gobearcats.com, Tuberville claimed that the quarterback battle will continue into the summer and fall camp.

Neither has had much opportunity to play; at best, they've had three years worth of college football practice.

Kiel had the first opportunity with the first-team offense in the spring game, going 17 of 22 with 300 yards and one rushing touchdown. But Evans was able to answer back, completing 17 of 30 for 166 yards and a touchdown for both the first- and second-team offenses.

But again, this is all based on statistics against players they've practiced with for months. It will be interesting to see how Kiel or Evans respond when their team is in need of a touchdown against an unfamiliar opponent with two minutes to go in the game before tens of thousands of screaming fans. Neither quarterback has faced that situation since high school, or ever if you consider the number of fans.

The good news is that, regardless of the pick, the future starting quarterback will have a strong receiving group in Shaq Washington and Chris Moore. Washington was the team’s leading receiver last year, while Moore led the team in receiving touchdowns.

The Case For The Defense

While Tuberville frets over the quarterback dilemma, his mind cannot help but drift back to the defense. Last season’s defense held opponents to a measly 21 points and 315 yards per game.

With veterans Blair and Temple leaving, other players will have to step up to help the young Bearcats defense. Senior Jeff Luc had a kind of highlight-reel day during the spring game with 11 tackles. He also got help from sophomore Mike Tyson and junior Kevin Hyland, who each marked down nine tackles in the game.

It appears the Bearcats will use a 4-3 base formation on defense again this fall. In that formation, the defensive linemen must contain the outside lanes and plug the inside gaps.

The coaches have work to do to make sure the young defensive linemen know what they're doing in the trenches as DE Brad Harrah and DL Silverberry Mouhon are the only two returning contributors. 

The first-team defense limited the second-team offense to just 10 points in the first half of the spring game. But the Cincinnati defense won’t be playing a second-team offense every week in the fall, which means they will have to correct the mistakes now, and not in Week Three against Ohio State.

The Winner

According to the famous cliché, offense wins ball games and defense wins championships.

The quarterback position will figure itself out. Both players have plenty of time to know the offense and their teammates heading into the season. As long as turnovers don’t become as issue, the offense will be fine, especially with veteran running backs who can give the Bearcats a balanced attack. 

On this team, defense is more important than who plays at quarterback. The defense makes stops and ends drives, which will shift momentum over to the offense.

The young Cincinnati defense that has very little experience. But the defense anchors the team, and will helped keep Cincinnati in games when the offense is stalling. Plus, the defense can easily get the offense moving with one turnover that can make the sidelines and stands erupt. 

The first two games of the season will test the Bearcats’ defense before the Buckeyes come into town. That game will define how Cincinnati plays in conference games, which starts immediately after the matchup with Ohio State. 

But the Bearcats have a pretty easy conference schedule and should be undefeated in the AAC when they take on Houston in the season finale. The only AAC team that could give Cincinnati a run for their money, prior to the Houston game, is South Florida.