Cincinnati and Miami square off this week in a matchup that could’ve featured two highly recruited quarterbacks, but the Bearcats’ Gunner Kiel could miss the game with bruised ribs. We caught up with Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville -- a one-time Miami assistant under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson -- to find out the latest.
David Hale: We'll start here: What’s the latest on your quarterback?
Tommy Tuberville: Gunner threw a few passes [at practice], but not a whole lot. He’s probably got 60 to 70 percent arm strength. He can’t throw an out route. It’s going to be tough for him. His forte is throwing the deep ball and the long out routes, and right now he’s a pretty good ways away from being the same Gunner for him to be successful.
Hale: How much does your offense change if Gunner can’t go?
Tuberville: Munchie Legaux and Jarred Evans both can run the entire offense. Jarred is more of a running guy out of the pocket. We want Munchie to be more of an in-the-pocket guy, but with [his knee] injury, we put him out there and he wouldn’t stay in the pocket. He needs to be a pocket passer. If Gunner does not play, we’ll probably go up to the end to decide who we’re going to play. It’ll be a toss-up between those guys because Munchie didn’t have a very good outing last week. He’s still tentative with that knee.
Hale: You’re 2-2 but have lost your last two. Are you still finding out how good your team is?
Tuberville: We’re still a work in progress for several reasons. No. 1 is we haven’t played a back-to-back game with the same offensive line. We need some consistency there. We lost our right tackle a couple weeks ago, our center in the first game, second game our left guard. We’ve been beat up, and we haven’t been consistent running the ball. Our pass protection has been pretty good. Losing two running backs is going to hurt us. We lost Tion Green for the year in the Ohio State game, and last week we lost Hosey Williams, our second-team running back. I like the guys we’ve got, but they don’t have a lot of experience. We’ll have to see how that works.
Hale: The Miami D has taken a lot of flack, particularly for its rushing defense. What have you seen on film?
Tuberville: I like what they’re doing on defense, using their speed. If you look at the games they played -- Nebraska has a great running back and a big offensive line. They’re going to have success running the ball. They could play the Seattle Seahawks and move the ball on the ground. Georgia Tech, same thing. If they can’t run the ball for 300 yards, they’ve had a bad day. So they’ve played two very powerful running games, and the rest of the time they’ve done very well. They have experience in the secondary, guys that make plays. It’s just been a tough year for stopping the run for everybody because those team that just pound you are totally different from these QB-attack offenses, so you have to really gear up to play a team like Nebraska or Georgia Tech.
Hale: Gunner is one of the top young QBs in the country, but Miami has another highly recruited guy in Brad Kaaya. What’s your take on his development from the film you’ve seen?
Tuberville: I’ve watched every game several times, and I watch them backwards in terms of their last game to their first. It’s a tribute to that kid how much better he’s gotten. Louisville is a very good team defensively, and they got after him, put a lot of pressure on him. He didn’t do too bad for it being the first game. But you can tell how much better he’s gotten each week, sitting in the pocket more, throwing to his receivers and taking what they give him. That’s a sign of a good quarterback is getting out of your offense what the defense gives you. And he’s got some weapons around him. You can tell how much more comfortable he’s gotten throwing the football down the field to those guys.
Hale: You mentioned Louisville. You got to see them firsthand last season when they were a part of the AAC. How good is that defense?
Tuberville: I saw them in the first game, and I don’t know whether they caught Miami by surprise, but they got after it. They lost a game, but they’re better on defense this year than they were last year. We played them and went to overtime with them the last game of the year. We weren’t as good as some of the teams they’ll play this year. But I like their front, the linebacker, they have a lot of speed at corner. Louisville’s a pretty good football team -- but they’re much better on defense than offense.
Hale: Cincinnati has won some big games over the years, but you’re currently on the outside of the Power 5 conferences. Does that make games like this one and Ohio State more significant both for the Bearcats and for the American Athletic Conference as a whole?
Tuberville: I think it’s important that we play. We had Ohio State and now we’ve got Miami. It’s important we play the so-called Power 5 if we’re going to throw our name into the hat to have an opportunity once every six or seven years to make the final four. A lot of teams are doing it. East Carolina, Houston’s played, we’ve played. We have Michigan scheduled down the road, BYU and Miami next year. It’s important to play those to show we can compete.