Cincinnati opens spring practice Thursday, the first Big East team to hit the field. Here is a little breakdown on what to expect:
Spring changes: The Bearcats are transitioning in a few areas -- they lost several of their key senior leaders, along with co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks. John Jancek takes over as defensive coordinator, and will now call the plays. As for a few changes on the personnel front, watch for linebacker Nick Temple to get some reps in the middle. He is going to be trained to play both inside and outside. Speedy Ralph David Abernathy IV will be working at punt returner and as a jack-of-all trades on offense. The goal is to make him as versatile as Isaiah Pead.
Position battles to watch:
Middle linebacker. Losing JK Schaffer means the Bearcats are in search of a new middle linebacker. Solomon Tentman goes into the spring as No. 1 on the depth chart, but he will get some serious competition from Greg Blair, Temple and Kevin Hyland. Tentman played sparingly last year, but Jancek has seen a renewed sense of commitment from him. Blair, a junior college transfer, got to school late and then hurt his knee and underwent surgery. But he is healthy now and hopes are high for him.
Defensive line. Co-Big East defensive players of the year Derek Wolfe and John Hughes are both gone from the tackle spot, but this is where the Bearcats benefit from the depth they developed last year. Jordan Stepp and Camaron Beard are penciled in to replace Wolfe and Hughes. Jancek also mentioned Roney Lozano and Brad Harrah as two young players he is looking forward to watching this spring to see what they can bring inside.
Quarterback. Munchie Legaux may have started when Zach Collaros got hurt last year, but coach Butch Jones maintains this is an open competition going into the spring. Legaux will be challenged by Jordan Luallen. Early enrollees Bennie Coney and Trenton Norvell are also going to be getting reps.
Running back. Pead is gone, so this could very well be a running-back by committee approach. George Winn has the experience to step right in, but there are roles for Jameel Poteat and Abernathy IV. Another player to watch this summer is junior college transfer Aaron Harris. He had 1,148 all-purpose yards at Southwestern Community College last season.
Injury report: Cornerback Dominique Battle is out as he continues to rehab his torn ACL. He is expected back for the start of fall practice. Offensive lineman Austen Bujnoch defensive lineman Chad Hannah are also out for spring.