Today I begin a new series called home run summer, where I present a player or players who must knock it out of the park with their preparations for the start of training camp in August.
First up: Cincinnati.
Who needs to step it up? I asked coach Butch Jones that very question. He gave me a list:
Receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Anthony McClung. This is a spot where the Bearcats are hoping for much better production compared to one year ago. Eliminating dropped balls would be a good first step. McClung (683 yards) and Thompkins (536 yards) return as the top two receivers from a year ago, so Jones is expecting much more out of these two players.
Defensive tackles Jordan Stepp and Camaron Beard. These are the two new starters inside, replacing Derek Wolfe and John Hughes. Stepp and Beard are smaller than Wolfe and Hughes -- both are around 275 pounds -- so the Bearcats are losing some girth inside. But that is not a major issue. The bigger one is a lack of depth behind them, so they may be relied upon much more than Jones wants.
Linebacker Greg Blair. Blair fought through a number of issues last season, including becoming eligible to play after transferring in from junior college. He then got hurt and gained weight, reaching 260 pounds. Jones says Blair is now between 235 and 238 pounds. "Greg has worked extremely hard," Jones said. "He's probably the most explosive player we have on our football team. With him dropping the weight, it’s really going to help our defense."