Bits From The Booth: Oakland

One of the things I enjoy about my job is the homework (my 9-year-old son finds that hard to believe). In addition to spending time simply memorizing names and numbers each week, I am always looking for anecdotes and statistics that will help to make the broadcast both entertaining and informative.

But most of the material never gets used.

The number one priority during a game broadcast is to try to paint a vivid word picture of what’s happening on the field. As a result, much of the prep work gets left on the cutting room floor.

That’s why I’ve decided to write some of it in blog form. Each week I plan to plan to share some “Bits from the Booth” leading into that week’s matchup, beginning with Sunday’s game at Oakland.

Black Hole


As you have probably heard this week, the Bengals have never won a game in Oakland in franchise history. Their all-time record is 0-10. But that shouldn’t mean much to the current players. Seven of the 10 games took place before 1981, meaning no current Bengals were even born for 70% of the losing streak. The only game of the 10 that any of the current players appeared in was a 20-17 loss in 2009. Seven players (Leon Hall, Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga, Domata Peko, Pat Sims, Andrew Whitworth, and Kevin Huber) played in that game. Andre Smith was on the roster but inactive that day. The current Bengal who has played in the most games at Oakland is Wallace Gilberry, and he went 3-1 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Big Mack

The Raiders third preseason game was nationally televised on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, and if you tuned in you saw Khalil Mack put on an incredible show against the Arizona Cardinals. The fifth pick in last year’s draft tormented Carson Palmer in the first half, sacking him twice and hitting him four times. I asked Raiders radio voice Greg Papa about Mack’s performance when he joined us on “Bengals Game Plan” this Wednesday night.

“Last year he was unblockable at times in the run game,” said Papa. “He would just rag doll whoever was against him, and a lot of times they would put a tight end on him because he played strong-side linebacker. It was just amazing to me week after week after week. I remember Jordan Cameron of Cleveland trying to block him and that’s just not going to work. But he’s changed positions now. He’s not playing SAM linebacker, he’s playing defensive end. I was a little bit worried about it because he’s going up against bigger men now. He’s not going up against tight ends and backs chipping, he’s going up against 325 pound offensive lineman. But as you saw in the Arizona game, Jared Veldheer is a little top-heavy, and I think Mack’s low leverage – a lot like Elvis Dumerville who is able to be explosive as a pass rusher under six feet tall with those long arms – Khalil was getting under his pad level and showing him a variety of moves that I had never seen before. He was strictly a bull rusher last year as a rookie and he could do it because he’s so strong. But in that game he showed a spin move back to the inside, and he showed an edge rush to the outside. Now the Bengals have good tackles in Whitworth and Smith – I don’t know if he’ll be on Whitworth’s side as much come Sunday, but I think that’s going to be an area where Hue is possibly going to send help.”

Last year the Bengals were one of only four teams to hold J.J. Watt without a sack in their 22-13 win at Houston. We’ll see if the O-line can neutralize Mack on Sunday.

Carter vs Bucs

Carter on Culture

One of the biggest standouts during the Bengals’ four preseason games was linebacker Chris Carter who led the team with 3.5 sacks and earned a spot on the 53-man roster.

The four year veteran joined the team prior to Game 13 last year and told me he feels like he’s found a home.

“Since I walked into this building, everybody has treated me with nothing but courtesy and respect,” said Carter. “My teammates welcomed me in like a brother. As soon as I got here, Vontaze Burfict – a guy that I thought didn’t want to talk to anybody and was just doing his own thing – he was the first person to take me in and try to teach me the plays and he helped me get around the city. He talked to me and motivated me and I’m very grateful to him. Rey Maualuga, Domata Peko…all of those guys. It’s more like a family here than any environment that I have ever been in before. I’m happy and grateful to be here.”

Carter spent three years in Pittsburgh and part of last season in Indianapolis. His comment about the family environment in Cincinnati is indicative of the great culture Marvin Lewis has built in the Bengals locker room.

Dirty Dozen

Bengals fans remember all too well how much of a struggle it was for the team in the 1990s and early 2000s. In the 12 years before Marvin Lewis was hired as head coach, the Bengals went 55-137.

So we can sympathize with Raiders fans. Over the last 12 years, Oakland’s record is nearly identical: 56-136. Since a 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in the 2002 Super Bowl, the Raiders have lost at least 11 games in 10 out of the last 12 seasons.

Additionally, during Marvin Lewis’s tenure in Cincinnati, Oakland has had nine head coaches: Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano, and Jack Del Rio.

Speaking of Hue

In the last 12 years, the only seasons where the Raiders managed to win more than five games were the two years that Hue Jackson was part of the coaching staff. He was dumped after going 8-8 in his one year as the head coach and Oakland has gone 11-37 in the three seasons since.

I asked Hue how emotional it will be to return to the Oakland sidelines on Sunday.

“I don’t know if it will be emotional, but there will be memories,” said Jackson. “I had a great run there in my opinion. I was the coordinator in 2010 for Tom Cable and we won eight games. I was the head coach the year after and we won eight games. The guy that gave me both of those opportunities, Al Davis, was like my mentor – he’s like what Mike Brown is to me now. Al gave me the opportunity to lead an organization and for that I will always be grateful. There are some old wounds there, but we’ll let those go really quickly because we have a game to win.”

My broadcast partner Dave Lapham expects the Bengals players to get added motivation on Sunday from their desire to ‘Win It For Hue.”

Black Hole Beckons

I’m excited to get my first-ever look at Oakland’s famed “Black Hole” on Sunday. The late Hunter S. Thompson once wrote that, “The massive Raider Nation is beyond a doubt, the sleaziest, rudest, and most sinister mob of thugs ever assembled.”

But Dre Kirkpatrick doesn’t sound concerned.

“I played in the SEC,” Dre told me. “LSU is crazy, Auburn is crazy, Florida is crazy, so every week was mayhem. Every week was chaotic. So it kind of prepared me.”

I’m guessing that a majority of Bengals players have been in a road environment that was every bit as rowdy as Oakland will be on Sunday.

Odell Thurman

Mike Brown on Odell Thurman

On this week’s radio pregame show, my weekly “Fun Facts” segment is with Bengals president Mike Brown as we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 team.

Here’s what Mike had to say about linebacker Odell Thurman who led the team in tackles and had five interceptions and five forced fumbles in his only NFL season before violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

“He was a great talent and it’s such a shame that we lost him and he lost his career to the off-field problems that he had,” said Brown. “I have real regrets about that. He’s a nice person – you’d like him if you knew him. He had the whole package – quickness, suddenness, and he was as decisive as you could be. He was a difference maker and I think he would have been a Hall of Fame player if he could have hung on to his career.”

The Mike Brown interview is scheduled to run at approximately 3:50 this Sunday on the Bengals Radio Network.

Talk to you from Oakland. Hope you’ll be listening.

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Jenkinson Chooses Bearcats, Home Over Ivy League

Bryce Jenkinson (#45) led the Bearcats with 5 tackles vs. Alabama A&M

Bryce Jenkinson (#45) led the Bearcats with 5 tackles vs. Alabama A&M

When freshman Bryce Jenkinson signed his letter of intent to play college football at Cincinnati last February, one of the schools that he turned down was Yale.

“To be honest with you, all of my friends back home wanted me to go there,” Jenkinson said with a laugh. “They said, ‘You’ll be a millionaire when you get out of school.’ But I wanted to be close to home and I love it here in Cincinnati. I couldn’t pass it up.

“Now my family can come and see me – my parents, my grandparents, and my friends. It’s a great place to be.”

The 6’1”, 235 pound linebacker is from Greenville, OH – about two hours north of Cincinnati.

“It’s a small little country town and I’m very proud of it,” Bryce told me. “I went to Greenville Senior High School with a graduating class of about 225 kids. We were a powerhouse in football and I loved playing there.”

Jenkinson began attracting interest from college programs after his sophomore year of high school. The attention skyrocketed when he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash.

“I didn’t know that I could do it, but out of the blue I started running fast times and jumping really high,” he said. “That’s what sparked the interest. Once I did that, the word got out. Being from a little country town, you never really think that you could get to the Division I level. So I came here to camp and they offered and I was ecstatic.”

Thanks to his excellent grades, Jenkinson was able to leave high school early and he enrolled at UC last January. That allowed him to take part in spring practice and gave him a head start going into his freshman season.

“Bryce is the epitome of hard work,” said linebackers coach Jeff Koonz. “He came in early and sacrificed part of his senior year of high school. He really progressed from the spring into fall camp and the reps added up and mattered. He’s a smart guy and he really works hard.”

“All he needed was one spring and he was equal to or beyond other guys that have been with us for two or three years,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “That’s the kind of football player he is mentally.”

“It was so worth it now that I look back,” said Jenkinson. “There are a lot of kids that come in and they’re all stressed out over classes and I can say, ‘Guys, trust me – it’s going to get easier.’”

With senior Clemente Casseus under suspension to begin the season for breaking team rules, Jenkinson played an estimated 40 out of 63 defensive snaps at middle linebacker in the season opener as he shared time with starter Kevin Brown. Whichever of those two players was on the field called the defensive signals.

“From that standpoint, we didn’t lose much going from the first group to the second group,” said Koonz. “Bryce is a vocal guy in the huddle. It’s a fine line trying to talk to upper classmen like you’ve been there and done that before, while also conveying that they can have confidence that you’re going to get them into the right fronts and checks. For the most part he did that on Saturday night and I’m really proud of him. I’m happy to see that the work he’s put in really paid off.”

“I remember the first meeting at spring practice because my head was spinning,” Bryce told me. “Coach was drawing all these formations on the board and going 100 miles an hour and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to get a hold of this?’ But once we started to break it down at practice and I got some reps, it got a lot easier. I’ve got to give credit to the seniors and the coaches – including Coach (Luke) Goodwin the grad assistant. He’s spent a lot of extra time with me going over plays and formations late at night when he could have been home.”

“Linebackers are like your quarterbacks on offense – they have to know what everybody else does and Bryce has picked it up very quickly,” said Tuberville. “He reminds me of Michael Barrow who I coached at Miami. He absorbed everything that you told him and never forgot it. Well, Bryce is the same way. He’s a sure tackler because he takes shortcuts to the ball. That’s hard to explain, but when you understand the play and the formation you can take those shortcuts.”

“He’s a talented kid, but there are a lot of talented kids in college football,” said Koonz. “It’s what you do in the meeting rooms. He came in early and the things he’s done to prepare are leading to success.”

And while the decision to play football for Cincinnati means he won’t get a degree from Yale, Jenkinson intends to get multiple degrees at UC.

“I did a post-secondary program back at my high school which allowed me to take college and high school classes, so I actually came in here with 33 credit hours,” he said. “After this semester, I will be a true freshman on the field but a junior in college. I’m trying to get as much education as I can because I’m not going to rely on my football career to carry me. I’m trying to get my finance major and then I’ll probably double-major or get a Masters. We’ll see where it goes.”

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The Votes Are In. Are So Are My New Glasses

For most of my life I had freakishly good vision. We’re talking read the license plate on a moving car hundreds of feet away kind of stuff.

Then a few years ago when I was broadcasting baseball for the Pawtucket Red Sox, I began having trouble reading on our long bus rides. I assumed it had to be the dim light – after all, I had freakishly good vision – but I decided to have my eyes checked.

After a lengthy examination, an eye doctor gave me a stern look and informed me that I had presbyopia.

“Good lord, am I going blind?” I asked.

“No,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re 40 and you need reading glasses.”

After wearing them for several years and increasing the magnifying power a few times, I’ve decided to make the move to full-time prescription glasses.

And thanks to Frameri Eyewear in Over-the-Rhine it’s proving to be fun.

Frameri wall

Frameri is reinventing the eyewear industry by making stylish Italian frames with interchangeable lenses. In other words, you can change glasses as frequently as you change your shoes. Additionally, when your prescription changes your frames are no longer obsolete – you simply change the lenses.

I met the team at Frameri at their showroom at 1308 Race Street on Washington Park and tried on a wide variety of frames before turning to social media for feedback.

Frameri frames

Initially I asked for input on my two favorite frames and voters selected the ones on the top.

Then I asked for feedback on three different colors.

Frameri colors

The response has frankly been overwhelming. Between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram I received hundreds of votes (including one from my mother who added that I would look handsome in any of them. Thanks mom). Over the last few weeks, dozens of people have asked me what frames I picked and when I am getting my new glasses. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to write about it.

Frameri winner

Voters narrowly picked the middle pair, but thanks to Frameri I didn’t really have to choose one color thanks to the interchangeable lenses. I got the two darker frames for eyeglasses and the lighter frame for a hip pair of sunglasses.

If you live in the Cincinnati area and are looking for new glasses, I highly recommend visiting their showroom. If you don’t live here, you can use their virtual try-on tool and shop online at

I no longer have freakishly good vision. But I do have freakishly good glasses thanks to the #FrameChangers at Frameri Eyewear. #MadeToChange

Frameri box




Carter Making Case For Hybrid Role

In their 2010 season opener at Fresno State, the UC Bearcats were simply unable to protect Zach Collaros. The UC quarterback was sacked eight times, including three times by one of the Bulldogs defensive ends.

Chris Carter vs UC

His name was Chris Carter.

Five years later, Carter’s pass rushing skills are the biggest reason why he’s staging a strong bid to make the Bengals 53-man roster as a hybrid linebacker/rush end.

“I had some really crazy coaches when it came to pass rushing back in high school and college,” Carter told me. “It was all about repetition. Don’t get tired. Wear them out with your speed. And then wear them out again, and again, and again. Eventually they’re going to get tired and before you know it, you’ve got a sack.

“That’s a skill that I’m really trying to capitalize on, but at the same time, I have to keep throwing other things in there as well – playing in space, playing linebacker, and that’s something I’ve been improving on as well.”

Carter vs Bucs

The 26-year-old leads the Bengals in the preseason with 2.5 sacks, and would have had another in Saturday’s win over the Bears if not for a penalty in the secondary. Carter has also consistently flashed his speed rush off the edge throughout training camp.

“Any time you step on the practice field you want to make sure you get noticed by the coaches, scouts, and all of the staff,” said Carter. “I just come out here every day with my hard hat on ready to work.

“Fortunately, I’ve been able to come out and stack good days on top of good days. That’s the goal. To continue to be consistent with that and to show my worth on the practice field and in the games.”

“Chris Carter has done a nice job all training camp and this preseason,” said Marvin Lewis.

After recording 19.5 sacks and 38 tackles-for-loss in his four seasons at Fresno State, Carter was drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round in 2011. After battling hamstring and abdomen injuries in his first two seasons, Carter appeared in 13 games for Pittsburgh in 2013 including a start at outside linebacker.

But last year, the Steelers waived Carter just before the start of the season. He was quickly picked up by the Colts and spent several weeks with Indianapolis before being waived again. The Bengals signed him in early December and Chris played in the final three games of the regular season and the Wild Card playoff loss.

“A lot of guys can get discouraged when you kind of become a journeyman,” Carter told me. “I spent three years with Pittsburgh, a short time with Indy, and hope that I’ve found a home here.

“I respected the Bengals when I was in Pittsburgh. I don’t think many Steelers will say that until they get out of the program, but when I was there, any time we talked about the Bengals there was a great amount of respect because we knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew that we were going to be hurting on the Monday and Tuesday after that game. So I was excited to come here and when a lot of the Steelers guys found out that I signed here, they were excited for me because they have a lot of respect for the coaches and players here.”

While playing for Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Carter says he learned an important lesson that he is keeping in mind during his strong preseason showing with Cincinnati.

“They told me, ‘One day you’re drinking wine and the next day you’re crushing grapes,’” said Carter. “So don’t ever get too high on yourself. Just stay humble, keep your nose to the grindstone, and your eyes to the sky and you’ll be alright.”

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Clinkscale Ready To Make Calls

Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has known head coach Tommy Tuberville for roughly 25 years. The two are so close that Tuberville was the best man at Gran’s wedding.

But the Bearcats new co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale had no connection to the boss when he joined the UC coaching staff in 2013.

“I had never heard of him,” said Tuberville. “He got lost somewhere up in the snow around Toledo and Illinois. We were looking for a secondary coach and I wanted one that knew recruiting in Northern Ohio, Michigan, and Chicago and his name kept coming up.”


Clinkscale had just finished his first year on the Illinois staff after spending three years at Toledo.

“I told (Coach Tuberville) when I met him that it felt like I had known him for 10 to 15 years,” said Clinkscale. “We just kind of clicked right away.”

Tuberville gave Gran his first opportunity to be a coordinator two years ago and now he’s doing the same thing for Clinkscale who will call the defense for the first time in his 15-year coaching career.

“I couldn’t ask for a better situation than working under Coach Tuberville,” said Clinkscale. “He’s been a great defensive coordinator and he’s been a great mentor to me – teaching me what to call, when to call it, and understanding game situations. I’m super excited to get out there at Nippert Stadium and call the defense and let our guys go out there and play ball.”

Perhaps Tuberville’s most important piece of advice is to keep the defense simple.

“The thing that you can’t do is try to do too much,” said Tuberville. “It’s better to do less than more. You tend to think that doing more will help you, but players win games – coaches don’t. Don’t screw ‘em up. Don’t put ‘em in a position where they can’t have success and don’t put ‘em in a position where they have to think. If they’ve got to think about what they’re doing then they are going to play slow. Get them in situations where they feel comfortable, get them lined up, and turn them loose and let them play.”

The 37-year-old Clinkscale is a very animated, energetic, and hands-on coach and the defense displayed more outward enthusiasm during training camp than it has in recent seasons.

“He brings the juice man,” said defensive end Silverberry Mouhon. “Whenever practice may seem down, he’s up there going crazy and slapping helmets. We all respect him a lot. He brings the energy when we need it.”

“He’s tough,” said safety Zach Edwards. “I want to say he’s like a father figure, but I feel like he’s a big brother. He’s going to protect you and have your back, but he’s also going to get on you and push you to do better.”

“You have to push them because they can go a lot harder than they think,” said Clinkscale. “I’ve been there as a player where I thought I was done and couldn’t do any more and I was pushed and motivated to work harder. That’s what I do with our players and they respond well. I strongly believe as a coach that you can’t go out there and be mild-mannered. If you want them to be enthusiastic and you want them to work hard, then you have to do the same thing.”

“We’re really practicing well on the defensive side of the ball,” said Tuberville. “We are more fundamentally sound than what we’ve been. He gets into their heads a little more and I think he understands the little things about defensive football.”

Clinkscale grew up as a police officer’s son in Youngstown, OH and hopes the Bearcats defense reflects his upbringing.

“My father told me to, ‘Always be the hardest worker in whatever you do.’” said Clinkscale. “That’s how I’ve always been as a player, coach, and human being.

“And people in Youngstown are kind of in survival mode. The economics there are very low. But the people there believe in one another, count on one another, and root for one another. It molded me as a young man to always have a bit of a chip on my shoulder and to out-work and prove people wrong.”

His chance to prove himself as a defensive coordinator begins on Saturday night.

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A Familiar Name Returns To Tampa

In Cincinnati, James Wilder is the name of a young Bengals running back fighting to make the roster.

In Tampa, that name is football royalty.

James Wilder Sr.

James Wilder Sr. is the leading rusher in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history (5,957 yards) and the former NFL record holder for most rushing attempts in a game (43) and in a season (407).

“People always tell me great things about him,” said James Jr. “They say if I’m half of what he was, then I’m pretty darn good. To follow in his footsteps and do the kinds of things that he did in his career is my goal.

“I grew up watching him all the time on tape. He retired before I was born, but that’s who I idolized and modeled my game after. Same size, same height, same playing style.”

“He’s a very determined kid,” said James Sr. “Ever since he’s been playing ball with the Boys and Girls Club he’s been very determined and that continued in high school and college. He’s a hard worker. I’m saying he’ll be better than I was if he gets the opportunity.

“Gosh, his athleticism and preparation are a whole lot better. The game is faster; the guys are a lot stronger, so physically he’s ahead of me. It’s just the mental aspect of getting to know the game.”

James Jr. was a member of Florida State’s 2013 National Championship team and averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his three years with the Seminoles. The Bengals signed the 6’3”, 232 pound running back as a college free agent last year and Wilder spent his rookie season on their practice squad.

“It took a toll on me mentally,” said James Jr. “I’ve never been in a position where I was toward the bottom of the depth chart trying to work my way up. I’ve always started out near the top of the depth chart. But talking with the coaches and talking to my dad, you just have to be unselfish and control what you can control. Every time your number is called, go out and do what you’re supposed to do and handle your business.”

“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” said James Sr. “I’ve seen him adapt and see what it takes to prepare himself now that he has that year under his belt.”

James Wilder Jr.

In Cincinnati’s preseason opener against the New York Giants, Wilder led the Bengals with 14 carries for 53 yards, including a two-yard touchdown.

“I thought I did well,” he said. “Watching the film, there were a lot of things I can polish up – I left a few yards out there and things like that. There are a few things that I can fix. That’s what the film is for and that’s what practice is for.”

“He’s got to have the confidence that every time he touches the ball he’s going to make something happen,” said James Sr.

This coming Monday night, James Jr. says it will be a dream come true when he plays in the same NFL stadium where his father spent the final two seasons of his nine years with the Buccanneers.

“Growing up always being around it and the fact that Pops played there, it was definitely a dream of mine to be able to play there,” said James Jr.

And he’ll do it with his father in attendance.

“He definitely informed me that he’ll be on the Bucs side in a Bengals jersey,” said James Jr. with a grin. “I’m sure he’s going to hear about it a little bit if he does that.”

“Hopefully he can do what he does best,” said James Sr. “I’m behind him 100 percent.”

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True Freshman Copeland Making Bid To Start

One of the most enjoyable things about watching a college football training camp is seeing a newcomer emerge that you’ve barely heard of.

In the first week of Bearcats camp it’s been true freshman Marquise Copeland.

Marquise Copeland

“He just keeps climbing and climbing,” said co-defensive coordinator Robert Prunty. “It’s to the point where if we played a game tomorrow, he would be starting at defensive end with Silverberry Mouhon. Honestly, I’m shocked.”

Copeland started at right defensive end in Saturday’s scrimmage as Mark Wilson and Landon Brazile were kept off the field for precautionary reasons with minor injuries. That meant that Copeland was matched-up against First Team All-AAC offensive lineman Parker Ehinger.

“I looked at that match-up and I said, ‘If I start him against Parker, how is he going to handle it?’” said Prunty. “I kept looking at his eyes when we were doing pregame warmups and he didn’t have those ‘wide eyes.’ That let me know how poised he was.

“He made the first three plays of the scrimmage. He’s just an impressive young man. Great leverage, unbelievable hand placement for a kid coming out of high school, and he’s physically ready to play Division I football.”

“He really stepped it up,” said Mouhon. “Marquise went out there under pressure as a true freshman and kept his composure. He did everything Coach Prunty taught us to do and his play spoke for itself.”

“It was a good accomplishment but I’m capable of doing more,” Copeland told me. “There’s more to come.”

Copeland is from Bedford, OH, a suburb of Cleveland, and chose UC from a long list of college suitors including Kentucky and Wisconsin. He frequently lined up in a two-point stance during Saturday’s scrimmage and showed a burst of speed in rushing the quarterback.

“You can clearly see the level of speed that we’ve got now on the outside,” said Prunty. “We’ll play some hybrid guys that are defensive end-slash-linebackers.”

Copeland looked like a linebacker when he signed with Cincinnati, but at 6’3”, 260 pounds that is no longer the case.

“In my senior year of high school I was 230 pounds so I’ve gained about 30,” said Copeland. “I’ve been eating right and lifting every day. It was a long process, but I got bigger.”

I asked Mouhon how quickly Copeland caught his eye in training camp.

“It wasn’t even in camp – he caught my eye over the summer with the way he was able to pick things up,” Silverberry told me. “He’s a quick learner and he’s able to keep fighting. More power to him for coming out here and proving himself.”

“He’s mature beyond his age,” said Prunty. “I’ll be honest with you; I know that we’ve only been in camp for a week, but I’m shocked by his performance so far. But you know how this game is; you’ve got to get better every day. He’s a freshman – let’s see if he hits the wall or knocks the wall down.”

The last two defensive players to start the season opener as true freshman for the Bearcats were Mike Mickens and Terrill Byrd in 2005. Copeland is hoping to change that.

“I’m trying to work every day to get that spot,” said Copeland.

“He’s a real quiet guy but his play speaks loudly,” said Mouhon. “I’m really excited for him this year.”

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An Impressive Debut For “Baby Geno”

Leave it to Lap.

A couple of hours before kickoff on Friday night as we discussed some of the players we were looking forward to seeing in the preseason opener, my broadcast partner Dave Lapham brought up defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, the undrafted rookie out of Clemson.

“He’s going to kill them if he’s in there against the third string,” said Lapham.

Good call.

DeShawn Williams

Williams (#69) entered the game with 9:33 remaining in the fourth quarter and quickly got to quarterback Ricky Stanzi as he released an incomplete pass on third down and seven.

“He was right there in my lap,” said Williams. “I wish he would have held the ball a little longer – then I would have had two sacks.”

On the play, Williams was double-teamed by center Brett Jones and guard Michael Bamiro, but kept fighting until he got to Stanzi as the quarterback rolled to his left.

“There’s a young man I noticed right away in camp,” said analyst Anthony Munoz on the TV broadcast. “The thing that I noticed was his speed, his quickness, and he goes 100% the whole time. He never stops.”

“On that play, he rolled out and I just gave great effort,” said Williams. “Things might not always go good as a rookie, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving effort.”

The 22-year-old got his first sack on the Giants’ next offensive snap when he nailed Stanzi for a nine yard loss.

“The guy’s got a motor and when he separates he can accelerate,” said Lapham. “He’s always penetrating, showing up, and making plays.”

Williams was on the field for 11 plays and hit the quarterback twice.

“I just waited for my opportunity,” DeShawn told me. “Even though I didn’t get that many reps, I prepared like I was a starter. Then when my number got called, I tried to just go out and play ball and have fun. That’s what Coach Guenther and Coach Hayes told me to do. Just go out there and attack.”

On his sack, Williams again beat two blockers to get to the quarterback, using an inside move to blow by right guard Eric Herman before brushing aside running back Akeem Hunt as he tried to help.

“I knew that my reps would be limited so I had to give it my all,” said Williams. “And that’s true whether it’s one rep, two reps, or 70 reps. Give it your all because coaches are looking for guys that are going to give effort. Nobody can measure your effort – that’s on you. That’s the man in the mirror. I never want a coach to say, ‘He’s not an effort guy.’ That speaks a lot about you. I want to give it my all so that they can count on me when I get in the game.”

“They’re teaching them right down at Clemson,” said Lapham. “They’ve got something like six or seven guys from last year’s defense in NFL camps.”

Williams appeared in 53 games for the Tigers during his college career to tie for fourth-most in school history, but still wasn’t drafted. According to his draft profile, DeShawn is “shorter than desired checking in at under 6-foot-1 and a little top heavy.”

Three-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins received a similar scouting report before the Bengals selected him in the fourth round in 2010.

“They call me ‘Baby Geno’ in the locker room, but I haven’t done anything yet to reach that status,” said Williams. “I try to learn from him each and every day. Just to have an All-Pro in your room – you get star struck and I’ve got nothing but praise for him. He’s a wonderful teammate.

“I’ve never met a guy like Geno. He’s just a freak of nature man. One day I hope I can reach his status but it’s going to take some work.”

Williams isn’t likely to be as great as Atkins, but his NFL career and the Bengals season got off to a good start against the Giants.

“This is something to build on, but we haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “We still have to work but it feels good.”

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A Long Shot From “Slap Shot”

Morgan James is the only player in college football who can be seen on

James is a 25-year-old former minor league hockey player who has joined the UC football team as a preferred walk-on.

Morgan James with Bujnoch

“I’ve never played a down of football in my life,” said James. “I’ve been an ice hockey player since day one. But I’ve always been a football fan and it’s always been a dream of mine to play. Even though I’m further along in my life than most of these guys, I’m coming back to fulfil that.”

James says he began training to make the transition from hockey to football about a year ago. Video of him lifting weights and doing football drills can be seen on YouTube.

“That was part of what I did to get my name out there,” he said. “I made a couple of workout videos to show what I’m doing and show what I’ve got and I sent that around to some colleges. I had a lot of Division II interest and Division I-AA (FCS), but I’m confident that I can be a football player so I wanted to come to a great school like Cincinnati.”

But how did he wind up at UC?

“A high school coach that (Co-Defensive Coordinator) Steve Clinkscale knows brought him and another young man down to one of our camps,” said offensive line coach Darren Hiller. “He worked out with the defensive lineman during the camp and then toward the end of the camp I put him through some offensive line drills. We filmed it and after we got done with camp, we watched all of the guys that we thought were possible prospects. We looked at him because of his sheer size and athletic ability.”

“He’s got a body that you would go out and recruit,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville.

James is 6’6”, 295 pounds, and has been timed at 4.9 in the 40-yard dash.

Morgan James at right tackle

At Camp Higher Ground on Sunday, James lined up with the third string offense at right tackle.

“Today was the first day that we put him in a team setting,” said Hiller. “Before today we just had him in individual drills teaching him what a zone block was, what a down block was, what a double-team block was, and what a pass block was. When he was pointed in the right direction it was pretty good.”

“It’s a lot of information at once and I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t confusing,” said James. “But I’m doing my best to learn and I’m thankful to have great coaches like Coach Hiller and Coach (Austen) Bujnoch to help me.”

“He is starting from scratch when it comes to football knowledge,” said Hiller. “We actually had to explain where the quarterback was and that he called the plays. It was kind of comical, but it’s really unique because he has great athletic ability.”

So why didn’t he ever play football?

“I started playing hockey at a very young age and invested everything in playing hockey every single day,” said James. “That’s all I did.”

The Michigan native played professionally for two years and admits that his role was often to be the team enforcer.

“I played for the Louisiana IceGators and the Columbus Cottonmouths for the majority of my time,” said James. “In the minor leagues I did play the role of an enforcer. There’s been a lot of talk about that in the locker room here and a lot of jokes. The videos have been floating around – that’s for sure.”

Despite his age, James has four years of football eligibility remaining at Cincinnati.

“He’s like a ball of clay that we’re going to try to mold,” said Hiller.

“We’ve started from ground zero with him,” said Tuberville. “It will be interesting to see how much he develops in a couple of years.

“He’s a good kid. He doesn’t say anything. He just wants to play football and it’s going to be fun to watch him.”

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Bearcats Feature Wide Variety At Wide Receiver

The 2015 UC football team features a “Noah’s Ark” wide receiving corps: The Bearcats seemingly have two of everything.

“They are so scary it’s unbelievable,” Memphis coach Justin Fuente told me at AAC media days. “They threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game against us and we didn’t have anybody that could come close to the kid. They have some awfully dangerous weapons.”

“When we went undefeated at Auburn (2004) we had an unbelievable receiving corps, and it kind of reminds me of that group,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “They were tall and lanky and they were fast and physical.”

Gunner Kiel’s top seven targets from last season are back. Here’s a scouting report on each receiver from UC’s junior quarterback (listed in order of receptions last season).

Shaq Washington

Shaq Washington (66 catches, 761 yards, 4 touchdowns):

“A captain of the wide receivers and a guy that can get open at any time. A reliable target that I love to throw to on short and intermediate passes.”

Max Morrison, Obi Melifonwu

Max Morrison (45 catches, 458 yards, 4 touchdowns):

“Crisp, crisp routes. Out of everyone, I think he’s our best route runner. A deadly slot guy with really good feet.”

McKay TD vs Rutgers

Mekale McKay (44 catches, 725 yards, 8 touchdowns):

“A big tall target that can jump out of the sky. With those long strides you thing he’s not moving, but he’s moving really fast.”

Chris Moore 1-handed TD

Chris Moore (30 catches, 673 yards, 8 touchdowns):

“Super-fast, quick feet, and a great route runner. He really can do it all.”

Johnny Holton

Johnny Holton (29 catches, 431 yards, 5 touchdowns):

“Deadly athletic and the fastest guy on our team. Crazy fast with great hands. Goodness sakes.”

Cincinnati Bearcats at Ohio State football

Alex Chisum (22 catches, 242 yards, 2 touchdowns):

“I love Chis. First guy out there, last to leave, and loves to work. He does whatever I ask him to do and is a great route runner.”

Nate Cole, Obi Melifonwu

Nate Cole (15 catches, 145 yards, 2 touchdowns):

“Quick and elusive. He can confuse a lot of DBs because he looks like he’s moving slow, but he’s moving fast. And he’s got great hands.”

But there’s only one football. How can the Bearcats keep everybody happy?

“Honestly, I think I do a pretty good job of spreading the wealth,” said Kiel.

“Your wide receivers are always your worst guys to keep under control,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “They’re prima donnas – not just our guys but all of them. They want the football.

“I’ll have to bring them into the office and say, ‘You’re going to get your share.’”

“One of our core values is being selfless,” said Gran. “It’s trust, it’s being selfless, it’s having unity, and it’s toughness – those are our four core values as an offense. If you can’t be selfless, and you can’t be humble, and it’s not team-first, then you won’t play here. I’ve been a part of championship teams with a lot of great players and it’s not about the touches. It’s about your productivity. If you get the ball three times and do something right with it, NFL scouts will see it.”

Washington, who needs 55 catches in 2015 to become Cincinnati’s all-time career leader, says that battling to get the ball is great motivation.

“We’re very competitive, but at the same time we push each other more than anything,” Shaq told me. “If you watch us, there’s no arguing or anything like that. We stay on top of each other about little things in order to get better.”

“They’re very coachable – that’s what I like about them – we don’t have any that go out there and think that they’ve got their job won,” said Tuberville. “They come out to work every day, put their nose to the grindstone, put that hard hat on and get after it.”

It should be a fun group to watch – and a frightening group to try to defend.

“You’re talking size, speed, and the ability to stretch the field vertically,” said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill. “When you watch them on film you say, ‘Those are some NFL guys right there.’ Big cats that can run.”

Make that Bearcats that can run.

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