Cincinnati coach Butch Jones has the unenviable task of finding a replacement this offseason for Isaiah Pead. Last season, Pead led the conference with 1,259 rushing yards and earned 2011 Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors.
The Bearcats hope to replicate Pead's production by using a running back by committee. Three backs in particular -- senior George Winn and sophomores Jameel Poteat and Ralph David Abernathy IV -- are expected to receive the bulk of the carries. The position battle is one of several to keep an eye on throughout Cincinnati's preseason camp.
Running Back: Though Winn has the most experience of the trio, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound back only had 40 carries last season. Winn has big play potential as he illustrated in the 2011 Liberty Bowl with a 69-yard run for a touchdown against Vanderbilt. Winn averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the year.
Poteat runs with a style reminiscent of Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. Poteat followed McCoy in a long list of notable runners to graduate from Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pa. Like McCoy, Poteat is a diminutive runner who has a penchant for flashiness. McCoy has served as a mentor of sorts for the Bearcats runner.
At 5-7, 161 pounds, Abernathy is even smaller. After averaging 26.5 yards per kickoff return last season, Abernathy is one of the top kickoff returners in the conference. Jones is hopeful that Abernathy will add speed to the backfield.
Quarterback: Jones has been pleased with the play of junior Munchie Legaux and senior Brendon Kay early in camp. The Bearcats' coach hopes to name a starter before the week of the opener vs. Pittsburgh. Legaux may be the favorite because of his added experience.
Legaux relieved injured starter Zach Collaros last year vs. West Virginia and nearly rallied the Bearcats from a 10-point deficit in the narrow defeat. Legaux was less effective the following week against Rutgers when he went 12 of 31 for 158 yards and an interception. Kay (6-4, 233) has a strong, accurate arm, but didn't have an attempt in 2011.
Offensive Line: Three starters return in seniors Austen Bujnoch and Sean Hooey and sophomore Eric Lefeld. The Bearcats still have yet to name starters at center where Daniel Sprague is battling Sam Longo and at right guard where Kevin Schloemer is battling Andre Cureton. Cory Keebler, Daniel Murray and Justin Murray are also in the mix as swing linemen.
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