2007 Bearcats Offensive Line Pre-Camp Preview

Digger Bujnoch

With summer football practice only a little more than five weeks away, Bearcat Insider doesn't think it's too early to preview the different positions. This week we look at the Bearcat offensive line.

We start our evaluation of the Bearcat offense by looking at the big guys up front.  Every football fan knows the offensive line either makes or breaks an offense. 

 

In 2005, the UC offensive line broke, and the Bearcats posted a 4-7 record.  The offensive line struggled especially with pass protection by giving up 40 sacks in those 11 contests.  The Bearcats ranked 6th in the Big East in rushing offense and 4th in passing offense.  Ironically, the loss of yardage for a sack comes off the rushing totals.

 

Last season saw the Bearcats' record improve to 8-5, and the UC offensive front improved by giving up only 33 sacks in 13 games, but once again Cincinnati finished 6th in rushing and 4th in passing, and the overall offensive average was up only slightly.  The 2006 Cincinnati offense averaged only 17 yards more a game than in 2005 and ranked 7th in the eight team conference.  Translation: the 2006 Bearcats won because of their defense, but that Bearcat defense has lost some key personnel including its top two tacklers and 1st team All Big-East performers (Kevin McCullough and Dominic Ross).  The UC offense will need to be more productive in 2007, and it all starts up front with these big hosses.

 

Three starters return for the Bearcats.  At right offensive tackle for his third season is Digger Bujnoch (Sr.).  The Elder grad has the experience and the size to be one of the better offensive tackles in the Big East next season.  Next to Bujnoch will be junior Trevor Canfield.  The Western Hills product rebounded from an injury in summer practice to earn 2nd Team All Big East honors.  Canfield is big and tough, but one of his bigger challenges is to control his emotions on the field and not to commit any stupid personal fouls.  The third returnee is left tackle Jeff Linkenbach.  The sophomore from Sandusky, Ohio has come a long way in a short amount of time.  As a true freshman, Jeff was one of the weakest players on the team, but Link returned as a redshirt freshman to claim the starting left tackle position and a spot on The Sporting News Big East All-Freshman squad.

 

After the three incumbents, it gets interesting and unpredictable.    The Bearcats seem to be looking for a center every year, and that will be the case again in 2007 as UC looks for someone to replace Jeff Reinstatler.  There is no shortage of candidates.  Sophomore Chris Jurek emerged as a candidate for the job with his performance in spring ball.  Jurek probably has more experience at the position than anyone on the roster, but he'll certainly be challenged by several others.  Senior Mario Duenas got some experience last season at both guard and center and will make a run at one of the vacant spots.  Senior Chris Flores is another player with some experience at center, but Chris didn't seem to impress the new coaches in spring practices.  The newest candidate, Jason Kelce (Fr.), was moved from linebacker to center in the spring, and the staff believes he could develop into an extremely athletic center.  But can Kelce be ready by August 30th?  That might be a stretch.  True freshman Frank Becker might also be a candidate, but Becker could also get a look at defensive tackle.  Becker did play some O-line at Moeller but not center.  Plenty of players got to make some snaps in the spring, and too many of those snaps ended up on the ground.  The battle at center will be one of the more interesting battles in summer practice, and I'm not sure there's a real favorite.

 

The left guard spot will also be wide open.  As mentioned earlier, Marion Duenas will be in the mix along with fellow JUCO transfer from a year ago, Ken Rodriquez (Sr.).  If I were to pick a favorite, I'd probably pick Khalil El-Amin (Jr.).  He's big and tough, and only an injury kept him off the field last season.  Senior Jeremy Bolton is another tough, strong kid with an iron will.  If a true freshman pushes for playing time, it could be Craig Parmenter although Alex Hoffman also looks the part despite his youth.  Most true freshmen offensive linemen benefit from a redshirt season, and I expect that will be the case for T. J. Franklin and Sam Griffin.  C. J. Cobb would be my darkhorse pick to crack the starting five.

 

Cincinnati offensive line coach, Jeff Quinn, is optimistic he can mold this group into a cohesive unit, and he'll need to if the Bearcats are to go bowling again in 2007.       

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