An offensive position that is well stocked for the Bearcats in 2007 is
tight end. The old staff recruited
a number of players at the position, and with the change in offensive
philosophy, four players changed positions in the spring to become tight ends in
Coach Kelly's system.
The leader according to the recently released depth chart is Doug Jones. The senior from
School came to the Bearcats as a tight end but was
moved to fullback out of necessity.
Jones was recruited to UC by Coach Minter, but when Coach Dantonio took
over the program a year later, Dantonio needed fullbacks and Jones was
moved. Last summer, Doug spent time
at offensive guard but returned to fullback just before the season began. Jones has shown the ability to catch the
football and looks to be in great shape as he heads into his final season at
Although Connor Barwin begins the 2007 season listed as the 4-th
tight end, he's probably the favorite to win the job after serving as Brent Celek's back-up for the last two seasons.
After all, he is the most experienced at the position, but Barwin has not
helped his cause by playing basketball the last two offseasons. To make matters worse, Connor suffered
an injury during spring football while playing pick-up basketball and missed
most of spring practice. The 6' 4"
Barwin makes a nice target, but there are plenty of contenders for his job, and
he'll need to stay healthy and focus entirely on football if he wants to become
the starter in 2007.
Another veteran not listed on the depth chart is sophomore Kazeem Alli. Like Barwin, Alli was injured
during the spring and got little on-field experience with Coach Kelly's new
system, but Alli is very talented.
At his listed weight of 260 pounds, Alli brings a very nice blend of size
and speed. Kazeem must prove he's
again healthy, but this guy could vault to the front of the group this summer
and have that breakout year Bearcat fans are waiting for.
One of the surprise position changes last spring was moving veteran wide
receiver, Earnest Jackson, to tight end.
The ex-high school quarterback made a big splash as a freshman receiver
when he caught 24 passes and was voted UC's "Newcomer of the Year." But Jackson's career took a bit of a nose dive last
season when he caught only 17 balls and disappeared in six of the Bearcats'
thirteen games by not catching a pass.
The position change could be just what's needed to rejuvenate the veteran
into having a big senior season.
The beneficiary of Barwin's and Alli's spring injuries was redshirt
freshman Ben Guidugli. The injuries
to the frontrunners allowed the Highlands'
receiver to get more reps, and he spent considerable time with the #1 unit this
spring. At a very strong 6' 2" and 230 pounds,
Guidugli would seem to offer the versatility needed for this hybrid tight end
spot, but I think Ben is probably still a year away from seeing a lot of playing
time on offense.
Another redshirt freshman at the position is Reggie Fugett, but unlike
Guidugli, Reggie was injured for much of the spring and missed a lot of valuable
practice time. The 6' 6"/240
pounder, who's father played in the NFL, is probably too far down the depth
chart to contribute much in 2007, but he could very well be a force at the
position in the future.
The final player listed at tight end is walk-on Nick DeFilippo. The London, Ohio product has
played a couple of defensive positions at Cincinnati, but this will be his first stint on
the offensive side of the ball. The
enthusiastic DeFilippo (6' 2"/230) will be a junior and did play some tight end
in high school. He looked very
rusty after originally making the position change from linebacker, but his play
improved as he got more practice time.
Nick put on an impressive display of strength during a recent workout
session I attended, but it's tough to think he'll contribute much outside
special teams' play.
Although not listed as a tight end, Adrien Robinson (WR) may eventually
be perfect for the spot. As a 6'
5'/225 pound true freshman, the Warren Central wide receiver projects as a very
interesting candidate to eventually make the position switch. Natural maturation coupled with Paul
Longo's weigh room workouts could turn Robinson into an NFL caliber tight end
candidate, but I don't see that happening in 2007.
Next week, Bearcat Insider starts to look at the 2007
This week Bearcat Insider concludes its look at the 2007 Bearcat offense by focusing on the tight ends.
The battle will be tight for who gets the starting spot with so many quality tight ends on the team.