Tag:JK Schaffer
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:59 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Cincinnati



Posted by Chip Patterson


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Cincinnati.

Spring Practice Started: Thursday, March 1

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Three Things To Look For:

1. Munchie Legaux's encore. Junior quarterback Munchie Legaux had a chance to get comfortable under center in 2011, appearing in seven games and starting in the final three. When Zach Collaros went down with an ankle injury that kept him out for the remainder of the regular season, Legaux stepped in to help the Bearcats claim a share of the Big East title. At times, Legaux was brilliant on the field. He used his athleticism and creativity to keep plays alive, throwing for 749 yards and adding 185 on the ground. But there were also four interceptions in the last four games, and a 47.4 completion percentage on the season. Spring practice will be Legaux's first chance since then to prove he is ready for permanent starting job. Head coach Butch Jones has named Legaux the first-stringer to start workouts, but has described the competition as "wide open."

2. Looking for defensive playmakers. Even after Zach Collaros' ankle injury, the Bearcats' defense helped keep them in games by holding the opposition from reaching the end zone. Cincinnati ranked third in the Big East and No. 20 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 20.3 points per game. A big part in their defensive success came from fantastic individual playmaking from All-Big East talent like linebacker JK Schaffer and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. The Bearcats actually allowed an average of 356.4 yards per game, but thanks to playmaking and a Top 10 turnover margin (0.92/game) they were able to step up when it counts. Schaffer and Wolfe are gone now, and the unit will need more playmakers in 2012 to avoid paying the penalty for 300+ yards allowed per game.

3. Butch Jones back under the microscope. Jones' first two seasons as the Bearcats' head coach encompassed the entire spectrum of success. His arrival was accompanied with a drop from back-to-back conference titles to 4-8. The Big East free-fall had Cincinnati fans panicking until Jones delivered a 10-win season and share of the 2011 Big East title. The need for reloading talent is strong now as it has been since Brian Kelly's tenure, and the onus begins to fall on Jones now that "his guys" are starting to hit the field.

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Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:40 pm
 

Liberty Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Chip Patterson


A look at the key matchup that could determine the Liberty Bowl

Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt vs. Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati

Running back Zach Stacy has been the most consistent piece of the Vanderbilt offensive attack all season. Stacy has put together five different 100-yard performances thus far, and will be counted on to stabilize the offense against a stout Cincinnati rushing defense. But the junior running back enters the bowl game with a heightened sense for the goal line, scoring seven of his 13 touchdowns in the final three contests of the regular season.

Lining up opposite of Stacy on the defensive line will be Cincinnati's dominant tackle Derek Wolfe. Wolfe led the Big East with 19.5 tackles for loss and added 9.5 sacks to lead the top ranked defensive unit. With mobile quarterback Jordan Rodgers also in the Vanderbilt backfield, Wolfe and the rest of the Bearcats defensive line will need to get penetration through the offensive line to disrupt the rushing game.

The Commodores have taken after their first-year head coach with a hard-nosed attitude and their success this season has come thanks to a strong rushing attack and much-improved defense. The best way for Cincinnati to make life easy for Zach Collaros, making his first appearance since breaking his ankle on Nov. 14, is to shut down Vanderbilt's rushing attack early and give the senior quarterback plenty of early snaps to find his groove. In order to make that happen, they'll need a big-time performance from Derek Wolfe.

Keep up with all the latest on Vanderbilt and Cincinnati at the Liberty Bowl Pregame

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Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 10:37 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Liberty Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

VANDERBILT WILL WIN IF: Zac Stacy and Jordan Rodgers can find success on the ground. One way or another, the Commodores need pick up yards on the ground against a stout Cincinnati defense. The Bearcats rank in the Top 10 nationally in rushing defense, giving up just 92.67 yards per game. But they did not have to face many rushers as strong as Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy, the SEC's third-leading rusher with 1,136 yards this season. Stacy has been reliable all season, and quarterback Jordan Rodgers has shown an impressive ability to make plays with his feet since taking over as the starter midseason. Both Stacy and Rodgers need to get comfortable and produce early, or else the Bearcats will be able to key in on their attack with hopes of holding another opponent under 100 yards rushing.

CINCINNATI WILL WIN IF: They take care of the ball on offense. One of Vanderbilt's strengths has been their ability to create turnovers at opportune times. Improving the turnover margin has been one of the biggest differences between the four-win 2010 squad and the Co-Big East champions this year. The Bearcats' best chance offensively is to stay multiple and stay productive, constantly keeping that Commodores defense on their heels. The unit needs to hit a rhythm and get quarterback Zach Collaros rolling in his first game back since breaking his ankle on Nov. 12. The fastest way to disrupt that rhythm is to end a drive by giving the ball away.

X-FACTOR: Zach Collaros' health. The biggest story heading into this year's Liberty Bowl is also the biggest unknown. Collaros clearly wants to play his final game in a Bearcat uniform, and the Cincinnati staff appears to believe he can give that injured ankle a run. The all-conference senior will likely be able to throw from the pocket, but one of Collaros' greatest strengths is his mobility. How his ankle is able to handle rolling out of the pocket, and possibly scrambling downfield will play a huge role in how aggressively the Vanderbilt defense can bring pressure. If Collaros is a sitting duck in the pocket, it will be a green light for an opportunistic defense to try and create a big play.

Keep up with all the latest on Vanderbilt and Cincinnati at the Liberty Bowl Pregame

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:18 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 10:48 am
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Big East Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Big East.

Awards


OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR


Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia

It's easy for a quarterback's numbers to get inflated in Dana Holgorsen's fast-paced offensive scheme, but Geno Smith was able to generate just enough in the win column to take the Mountaineers back to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2007. Smith is currently just 22 yards shy of 4,000 passing yards and has thrown a league-high 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Holgorsen has repeatedly praised Smith's work ethic, as he has continued to gain a better grasp of the wide-open system that requires the quarterback to make fast reads and distribute the ball to several different playmakers. With the rushing attack disappearing for large stretches of the season, Smith was able to carry the weight of offensive production and while it wasn't always petty - the Mountaineers were able to earn a share of their seventh (and possibly last) Big East title.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Khaseem Greene, linebacker, Rutgers

Rutgers' impressive turnaround from 2010's 4-8 campaign was thanks in large part to the Big East's top-ranked defensive unit. The Scarlet Knights held opponents to just 18.8 points and only 311.5 yards of total offense per game, and undoubtedly the star of the unit was junior Khaseem Greene. The former safety moved into a playmaking linebacker position, and his activity on the field increased the level of play for the whole unit. Greene finished the regular season with a league-leading 127 tackles, and if he and fellow junior Steve Beauharnais return to Rutgers for another season Greg Schiano can expect to be leading the conference with his defense once again in 2012.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Lyle McCombs, running back, Connecticut AND Teddy Bridgwater, quarterback, Louisville

It's the wimpy move for end-of-season awards, but there was too much back and forth to arrive on just one outstanding freshman for the Big East this season. Teddy Bridgewater's improvement across the season ignited enough offense at the right time to earn the Cardinals a share of the Big East title. His ability to evolve from a game-manager to a game-changer elevated Louisville's ceiling and changed the face of the offense. On the other hand, McCombs has been producing at a high level since Day One. Entering the season the biggest concern for the Huskies was how they would replace Big East Player of the Year Jordan Todman in the offensive backfield. The shifty freshman running back answered that question in the season opener with 141 yards rushing and four touchdowns. McCombs went on to log six 100-yard rushing games on his way to 1,151 yards and the Big East rushing crown, narrowly edging out Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Charlie Strong, Louisville

Strong was praised for his ability to take a struggling veteran team and rally them together for their first postseason trip since the 2006 season in 2010. But to turnaround with an inexperienced group and earn a share of the Big East title earns him the nod for Big East Coach of the Year. Early in the season, Strong would speak about having to "teach the game of football" to his young team as the depth chart shuffled on a week-to-week basis. The Cardinals were written off by many after a 2-4 start that included losses to Marshall and FIU, but teaching the game of football paid off as Louisville won 5 of their last 6 games to return to book back-to-back postseason trips for the first time since Bobby Petrino's tenure at the helm.

All-Big East Offense


QUARTERBACK


Geno Smith, West Virginia

My choice for Big East Offensive Player of the Year finds himself on the All-Big East first team. Funny how that works out.

RUNNING BACKS

Lyle McCombs, Connecticut and Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

McCombs and Pead stood out from day one in a down year for running backs in the Big East. Both backs carried the primary rushing load for their team all season, and both delivered with 1,000-yard performances. Pead's numbers dipped a bit when starting quarterback Zach Collaros went down with a season-ending ankle injury, but he made up for it by contributing catches out of the backfield and fielding punts. The senior put up 246 all-purpose yards in a crucial late-season win over Syracuse that helped the Bearcats earn a share of their third Big East title in the last four years.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers and Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

Sanu set a Big East single-season record with 109 receptions this season, and he did it with a revolving door at quarterback. Chas Dodd, Gary Nova; no matter for Sanu. Just toss it up and the 6-foot-2 receiver from South Brunswick, NJ will figure out a way to come down with the ball. Bailey's big plays with his high school teammate Geno Smith helped him finish with a league-leading 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns.

TIGHT END

Nick Provo, Syracuse

this position, but Provo's proficiency inside the red zone made him the best tight end in the league this season. Getting to the red zone was an issue for Syracuse, but when they did Provo was a matchup problem and excelled with seven touchdowns on the season - the most of any Big East tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Mike Ryan, Connecticut; Alex Hoffman, Cincinnati; Justin Pugh, Syracuse; Jeremiah Warren, USF; Don Barclay, West Virginia

There were not many offensive lines that were great this season, but these players were certainly the most reliable pieces of good units. West Virginia's offensive line dealt with a faster pace on offense, occasionally guilty of costly holding penalties late into the game, but Barclay was arguably the strength of that group. Pugh is an NFL-caliber talent, while Ryan and Hoffman provided redshirt senior leadership and experience for their league leading rushing attacks.

All-Big East Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh; Trevardo Williams, Connecticut; Bruce Irvin, West Virginia; Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati

Perhaps the reason offensive lineman struggled in the Big East this season had to do with the wealth of talent along the defensive lines in the conference. Williams and Wolfe caused havoc in the trenches, while Bruce Irvin commanded attention from offensive lines coming off the edge. Sophomore Aaron Donald was a beast for Pittsburgh, and Todd Graham has to be happy knowing his defense will have him next season after losing Brandon Lindsey to graduation.


LINEBACKERS


Khaseem Greene, Rutgers; Dexter Heyman, Louisville, JK Schaffer, Cincinnati

Schaffer played the quarterback role, and took advantage of Wolfe's presence along the line to become the primary playmaker for the Bearcats. Schaffer ranked third in the conference with 105 tackles on the season, but also added 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. Heyman, Schaffer, and Connecticut's Sio Moore (who could have been on this list as well) all recorded three picks this season - the most among linebackers.

SECONDARY

Hakeem Smith, Louisville; Phillip Thomas, Syracuse; Keith Tandy, West Virginia; Logan Ryan, Rutgers

Phillip Thomas was phenomenal for Syracuse before being suspended for a year for violating team rules, likely ending his career with the Orange. Still, his six interceptions and 82 tackles through ten games earn him a spot on this list. Smith and Tandy were both the best defensive backs in conference title units, while sophomore Logan Ryan is just getting started on a promising career for the Scarlet Knights.

SPECIALISTS

PK Dave Teggart, Connecticut; P Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati; KR/PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

The Huskies' red zone woes played to Teggart's advantage as the senior built his NFL resume on a league-high 22 made field goals on 28 attempts. Tavon Austin is a home run threat anytime the ball is in his hands, and his play in the special teams not only earned him All-Big East honors but CBSSports.com All-American honors earlier this week.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 3:19 pm
 

Eye On College Football Midseason Report Big East



Posted by Chip Patterson


Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, West Virginia. In Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense, the quarterback's communication with the head coach and on-field decision making is pertinent to the system's success. Smith has been a victim of a few slow starts, but has finished every game with an impressive offensive output. Smith is averaging 359.8 yards per game through the air, and completing 64.0 percent of his passes. His ability to find receivers in space has been crucial for the Mountaineers, who only recently found their running game. With 16 touchdowns and 3 interceptions there have been few mistakes for the talented junior, who's next challenge will be leading this team to a conference title. Also considered: Mohammed Sanu, Rutgers; Ray Graham, Pittsburgh; Tavon Austin, West Virginia.

Defensive Player of the Year: Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have jumped out to a fast start despite only recently finding certain answers at the quarterback and running back position. A huge part of that has been stout play on the defensive side of the ball, led by linebacker Steve Beauhamais. Rutgers' leads the Big East in scoring and total defense, with Beauhamais contributing 32 tackles and ranking 4th in the conference in tackles for loss. Beauhamais also has added 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions to cap off a well-rounded defensive stat line for the leader of one the league's best defensive units. Also considered: JK Schaffer, Cincinnati; Sio Moore, Connecticut; Terence Garvin, West Virginia.

Coach of the Year: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia.
After Bill Stewart's unplanned early exit, Dana Holgorsen deserves credit for stepping in and quickly taking ownership of the program. Much of the staff is still in place, including defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, but there has been no apparent dissension within the program since Holgorsen's promotion. The most conflict Morgantown has seen was the head coach's shot at the fan base after a home game played before a well-below-capacity crowd. Also considered: Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Butch Jones, Cincinnati.

Surprise: Rutgers. With a 5-1 start and two conference victories under their belt, head coach Greg Schiano has all but erased the horrid memories of the 2010 season. While they've shuffled the quarterback and running back positions, arriving on Gary Nova and Jawan Jamison as the apparent starters, the defense ranks 12th nationally only allowing 16.0 points per game. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Scarlet Knights are finding ways to win. Also considered: Cincinnati

Disappointment: Pittsburgh. After promises of "high-octane football," head coach Todd Graham has very little to show from his no-octane Pittsburgh Panthers. There is very little consistency on either side of the ball, with the offense riding running back Ray Graham to stellar performances at times (South Florida) and failing to find the end zone in other contests (Utah). With the talent returning from last season's squad, the Panthers were projected to challenge their backyard rivals for the Big East title. After losing four of their last five, a return to the postseason is even in doubt. Also considered: Louisville.

Game of the Year So Far: Wake Forest at Syracuse. The Orange overcame a 20-7 halftime deficit to knock off Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime on the first night of the college football season. Quarterback Ryan Nassib picked apart a Wake Forest back seven for 15 fourth-quarter points to kick off a "win by any means"-type season for the Orange. Also considered: Maryland at West Virgina.

Game of the Year (To Come): West Virginia at Cincinnati. Three teams poised to race for the Big East title down the stretch seem to be these two teams along with Rutgers. The only way to ensure a championship is to go undefeated in conference play and this is the best chance for someone to knock off the Mountaineers. The Bearcats have an offense that can keep up with West Virginia in a shootout, and their defense is one of the best in the nation at forcing turnovers. Look for Paul Brown Stadium to be lubed up and rocking when West Virginia comes to town on Nov. 12.

CHAMPION: West Virgina. It will take at least one upset or a furious charge from Cincinnati or Rutgers to keep the Mountaineers from claiming the Big East title and returning to a BCS bowl.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 2, 2011 6:13 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Cincinnati LB calling for a shutout in opener

Posted by Chip Patterson

Cincinnati's defense was horrendous last year. The Bearcats gave up 369.4 yards and 28.0 points per game, finishing near the bottom of the conference in most defensive rankings. It was particularly frustrating considering the offense, led by All-Big East quarterback Zach Collaros was putting up 27.1 points per game and leading the conference. The defensive woes combined with a -15 turnover margin - faulting both sides of the ball - resulted in a 4-8 record for Butch Jones' first year at the helm and the first bowl-less postseason since 2005.

Improving both the defense and turnovers have been at the top of Cincinnati's list since the beginning of spring practice. With all 11 starters returning, the unit has reportedly used their experience to make great strides in the offseason and fall camp. After all the talk, it is now time for the unit to show results. Their first chance will be on Saturday against Austin Peay.

"We need to go out and get a shutout," senior linebacker JK Schaffer told reporters. "That's what we 're going for and that's our goal. I really don't want to settle for anything less. We have a lot of things to prove. The whole defense understands that."

Schaffer was an all-conference second team selection in 2010, and was named to the CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big East Team earlier this month. The senior middle linebacker is not only one of the few heralded individuals on the unit, but he is also expected to make his teammates better as they try to fix many of last season's mistakes. The players have spoken during the offseason about "a different attitude" and "buying in" to Butch Jones with one year in the can.

But the time for recycled football phrases is over as the Bearcats prepare for a new season. With Collaros, running back Isaiah Pead (1,063 yards, 6 TDs), and wide receiver DJ Woods (57 catches, 898 yards, 8 TDs) all returning, Cincinnati's offense should be able to put up comparable numbers to 2010. An improved defense should put Cincinnati in a position to make the postseason once again and possibly be a long-shot conference title contender. With a trip to Knoxville awaiting them in Week 2, Saturday would be a great time to make a statement.

A shutout, as Schaffer is suggesting, would be quite the statement. The Bearcats kick off against Austin Peay at 7 p.m. in Nippert Stadium.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com