In lieu of possibly sending back the podcasting system another 1000 years, we are back for another version of Bulls Recon this week. Matt Opper from our friends at Down The Drive was nice enough answer a few questions for us on Isiah Pead, UC basketball, and of course, conference expansion.
1. I should apologize to Butch Jones on calling him the next Steve Kragthorpe multiple times last year. What's been the difference this year?
The biggest thing is that the players have bought into what Jones is trying to do. The easy meme for Jones is to call him a Kelly clone. To see the offense, to see where he came from, and say he is Kelly 2.0. The truth of the matter is that Jones and Kelly approached running the program from diametrically opposed angles. Kelly was the CEO of UC Football and he approached everything from that perspective. He really didn't care what the guys did away from the field, so long as they went to class, practiced hard and performed during games. Kelly ran everything from the top on down. Jones builds from the bottom. He doesn't want to have to be the guy to kick someone in the ass. The key point is that he wants the players to be accountable not necessarily to him, but to each other. That is a massive change in culture, and it made for an awkward locker room in 2010. Going into his second year the players get "it" in a way that they didn't last season. That has had a huge difference on the mindset of the team. UC is doing basically the same things in terms of schemes, but the players just have so much more confidence in the way things are being done.
2. The defense is almost like night and day compared to last year. Who should USF fans keep an eye on Saturday?
is the man to watch without question. He leads all Big East defensive linemen in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. He has always had a ton of potential standing 6'5" 300 and possessing his athleticism but a combination of injuries, and yearly scheme changes have prevented him from fully tapping his potential. This year he is tapping the hell out of it. At this point he knows that he is going to get drafted, so he is paying for that bonus.
3. Most people should know that Isaiah Pead is the best back in the conference, but after seeing his Keg of Nails Stand did he jump up to one of your favorite Bearcats of all time?
Close, he is ascending into the pantheon. Isaiah Pead
, or for those who follow him on twitter iPead (no. seriously. iPead
) has been one of those under the radar guys. He was the most talented back on the roster pretty much since the day he stepped foot on campus. But Kelly didn't know what to do with him so he quietly averaged 7 yards a touch on his 10 or so touches a game. Even last year it took Jones and co about a month to figure out that the offense works much better when run through Isaiah. This year he is the focal point of the offense and Jones will feed the beast.
4. As being one of the few schools who might end up screwed when this is all said and done, how nervous are you with conference expansion?
I am over it. Obviously I would prefer if UC had an easy out from the Big East but it doesn't appear to be an option for the Big 12. I want whatever is going to happen to happen so I can stop having weird visions of mutated conference logos floating over a background that calls to mind an M.C. Escher drawing.
5. Oh look, basketball is starting up soon. Can you give us a quick rundown of Mick Cronin's squad this year?
Basically everyone is back. The only contributors that are gone are four-year starter Rashad Bishop and two guys who now ply their trade with the Harlem Globetrotters. I don't think the team will be nearly as good defensively without Bishops ability to guard 1-4. But the offense should be dynamite with Sean Kilpatrick, Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon and that should, in theory, offset the difference from a slightly less domineering defense. The biggest question mark in my eyes is Cash. He played down the stretch with basically one functioning knee. If he is 100 percent UC has the horses to make a run at the top spot.
6. How do you see this one going on Saturday?
I am thinking it is going to be a pretty sloppy game. The UC offense has put up yards and points in bunches this year. However they have only put together one complete game, and that was against N.C. State. Since then the offense has been hit and miss. IMO first team to 25 wins.
Thanks again to Matt for helping us out this week. Make sure to head over to Down The Drive for my answers to his questions, and give Matt a follow on Twitter as well.