The Tommy Tuberville era at Cincinnati is about to begin. The Bearcats check-in for training camp on Sunday, August 4 and hold their first practice the following day. Fans can meet the players and get autographs at the annual “Meet the Team” event at Kings Island on Sunday, August 18.
I had the opportunity to interview Coach Tuberville this week about some key topics going into camp:
Rumor has it that you were hanging out with the big stars at the ESPYS last week?
Every year I play in the V Foundation Golf Classic to raise money to fight cancer. I’ve been going for many years. Sometimes I go to the ESPYS along with it, but this year I didn’t have time so I just played in the golf tournament to help them raise money and then I flew back. I played with actor Chris Tucker, and Bruce Jenner played right in front of us. You get to meet a lot of people at that tournament, but I’m always excited to get back home and get ready for the football season.
You’ve been coaching for a long time, but when you’re in your first year at a program is training camp more challenging?
It’s more challenging because we’re still finding out about our players and they’re finding out about us. But I’m excited about our off-season. They’ve just gone through a very tough summer workout program and I think we’re in very good physical shape. They’ve gotten stronger and you’re always excited to get them back on the field to see where we’ve come since spring practice in terms of their physical and mental abilities.
Is the quarterback job Brendon Kay’s to lose at training camp?
Yes, because he had a very good spring and I thought that Munchie (Legaux) hit the wall in about the 10th or 11th practice. The guy that really played well and made a lot of headway was Bennie Coney. Bennie has a lot of talent – he can run, he can throw, and do all of those things. So we’re going to have some options. I tell you, it’s going to be a battle. I’ve told Brendon that we’re going to start him out with the first group, but anything can happen. We’ll have a couple of scrimmages and a lot of practices and remember, your quarterback not only runs the offense – he’s the leader of your entire team. Brendon is probably a little bit ahead, but that can change very quickly in two-a-days.
I ran into a member of your staff this week who told me that a few of the junior college additions are going to make an immediate impact this year. Can you tell us about a few of those guys?
We have on campus running backs Rod Moore and Hosea Williams who will battle it out with Tion Green and Ralph Abernathy. Going into the season, you have got to have two or three running backs that you can count on, so I think there is going to be a lot of competition there. Jerrell Jordan is a junior college defensive end that came in in January and broke his foot – the fifth metatarsal – and had a screw put in it so he didn’t get a lot of practice time. He’s in much better shape, and Terrell Hartsfield is another junior college defensive end that has been on campus for about two months and I think he is really going to help us. Those guys are going to be great additions to our football team mentally and physically. Then we have Howard Wilder, a junior college cornerback, that I really think is going to help this team get better. In those areas we need some help, and I think they’re going to provide it for us going into the opening game.
Is cornerback your biggest concern?
We have a lot of concerns. Every football team has concerns about experience and depth, but I would say right now that it’s the cornerback position just because of depth. I think we have some guys that can play, but you have to have six to eight guys on your team, and we’re going to have to count on a couple of high school players to come in and give us some help, along with junior college players like Howard Wilder. So corner has been a concern since we got here. I think we’ve helped ourselves in recruiting, but now we have to get them in shape and get them ready to play mentally.
People have read and heard about your Australian rugby player Lindsay Crook. Is he likely to redshirt in year one to learn American football?
I think that’s a big question mark. I know he’s a good athlete and he can really run. He had a setback – we had to scope his knee about a month ago because he had some loose cartilage in there that was giving him some pain. So we decided to go ahead and clean that up. He was down for about three weeks – he’s just now started running again. But I think he’ll be able to help us some. I’m not sure what position or it might just be on special teams, but you’ve got to remember that he’s not your average high school player. He’ll be 21 years old this year. He’s got a lot to learn about what we do and how we do it, but I think that he can pick it up. We’ll have to see how far he can come in the next few weeks. I’m not going to play him just to play him, but I think he has the ability to help the team this season.
What’s been the most pleasant surprise about the UC program since you arrived?
The enthusiasm of the players and the confidence that they have. The thing about the UC football program over the last six or seven years – it’s probably been one of the biggest surprises nationwide. For a long time, UC was one of the doormats of college football, but with the emergence of winning like UC has won over the past few years – every team has some ups and downs – but they’ve had some consistency. They’ve been to two BCS Bowl games, and most schools across the country haven’t been to one. I think the confidence that these players have in what they can do and how they can do it gives us an edge. I’m not here to change a whole lot; I just want to keep the ship going in the right direction.
You’ll begin your tenure here in The American – the new American Athletic Conference. As a head coach, would you rather be in a league where you potentially could dominate or a league like the Big 12 with traditional powers like Oklahoma and Texas?
I think there’s a fine line there. Everybody wants to win games and I think that’s a big question mark for where you want to be. But for us to have an opportunity to win national championships, something is eventually going to have to happen for us to get into the (power five conferences). But I like the conference we’re in. I like the teams that we’re playing and I think we can compete and be one of the stronger teams in the league year in and year out. That’s how we’re going to treat it. We’re going to recruit harder every year, and we’re going to try to beat whoever is on our schedule. We really don’t have control over that right now, so we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.
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