BearcatLair spoke briefly with Cincinnati's defensive coordinator, Joe Tresey, after Saturday's scrimmage to get his initial impressions.
The scrimmage started with the offense in the red zone. Those numbers were not included in the released statistics, but the offense dominated that area of the field, and it's a concern for Coach Tresey.
"We've got to evaluate the tape, but we're very disappointed in how we started," said Tresey. "One thing we prided ourselves on last year was our red zone defense. We were second in the BIG EAST and in the top twenty nationally in scoring defense. Our kids had a demeanor when people got down there. They were not going to let people get into the end zone. We didn't have that same demeanor today, and we were not as physical as we needed to be. The way we started the scrimmage was very disappointing. As we went on, we picked it up. We had some three and outs, and it looked like we did pretty good on third and long. We got off the field, but this is spring football. We have to go back and evaluate the tape."
In all fairness to everyone concerned, neither returning starter at defensive tackle has been with the #1 defensive unit this spring. All-American, Terrill Byrd, has been with the #2 unit since returning from his suspension, and Adam Hopple is out for the spring with an injury. Like any good leader, Coach Tresey would not use the missing personnel as an excuse.
"It is what it is. If we had to play tomorrow, those are the four guys that would play," said Tresey. "We've got to do a better job as a staff of coaching them and getting them better. We need to keep them wired in on what's important."
The starting defensive tackles during scrimmages this spring have been Ricardo Mathews and Thomas Claggett. In 2007, Mathews recorded 11 tackles while Claggett got one. Byrd and Hoppel combined to make 94 stops, 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks last season. Craig Carey and Connor Barwin have been the defensive ends, and both are still learning their new positions. Also projected starter at defensive end, Lamonte Nelms, has not played in the scrimmages.
The Bearcats seem to have opened up the defensive playbook more this spring, but Coach Tresey refutes that point.
"I don't know how much bigger the playbook has gotten, but we're doing more multiple things in it. We're experimenting which is one of the things you use spring for. Again, we have to evaluate the film and close the book on it."