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Bearcats Get 2nd Chance at 1st Impression in Big 12

Cincinnati Bearcats
© Albert Cesare/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Getting a second chance to make a first impression doesn't come around very often, but thanks to conference realignment, coach Scott Satterfield and the Cincinnati Bearcats will have that opportunity in 2024 in the new-look Big 12 Conference.

Along with joining a new conference, the Bearcats have transitioned to a new coaching staff after Satterfield was brought in to replace the university's all-time winningest coach, Luke Fickell, in 2023. Although Cincinnati won their first two games to start last season, including a 27-21 win against the Pitt Panthers in the River City Rivalry, Satterfield and the Bearcats' debut season quickly turned sour thanks to a seven-game losing streak and dropping nine of their last 10 games to finish 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big 12. Cincinnati's lone conference win came in Week 10 against the Houston Cougars.

Bearcats Will Benefit From Experience

Despite struggling in nearly every team category on offense and defense last season the Bearcats will benefit from the experience of having played in the Big 12 with the return of all five starting offensive linemen, led by preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection guard Luke Kandra, and the return of one of the conference's best running back duo in Corey Kiner and Myles Montgomery.

The Bearcats' defense got a scare in June when disruptive force and star defensive tackle Dontay Corleone, a preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection, was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and ruled out indefinitely by the team. However, during the Big 12 Media Days in Las Vegas on July 9, Satterfield told reporters Corleone is back with the team and working out.

Satterfield said they are hopeful Corleone, affectionately known as "The Godfather," will be terrifying offenses in the fall.

"The No. 1 thing is Dontay's health," Satterfield said.

Bearcats Will Lean on Running Game

While the Cincinnati offense struggled to score in 2023 (No. 11 in the Big 12, 24.1 points per game), total offense (No. 9 in the Big 12, 426.1 yards per game) and passing offense (No. 12 in the Big 12, 209 ypg), the offensive line helped lead the Bearcats to the No. 5 rushing attack in the country, averaging 217.1 ypg. The running game will once again lead the way in 2024 with the return of Kandra and company opening holes for Kiner and Montgomery.

“Any time you have a lot of guys coming back that’s a positive," Satterfield said of the offensive line. "We were around fifth in the country in rushing against a lot of teams that knew we were gonna try and run the football. To bring those guys back with that experience that they have as well as a couple backups that could be starters as well. We are gonna rely on those guys a lot. That takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback and doesn’t force him to try and make big plays.”

The audio of Satterfield's remarks at Media Days has been released and can be accessed here.

Luke Kandra
© Carter Skaggs/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Kiner, a junior, is looking to solidify his position as one of the best running backs in the conference after rushing for 1,047 yards and 5 TDs. Kiner also averaged 5.5 yards per carry and finished No. 8 in the Big 12 in rushing, averaging 87.3 ypg. Montgomery, a sophomore, only had 428 yards and scored 3 TDs in 2023 but he did average 6.5 ypc.

An experienced offensive line and backfield will most likely help new quarterback Brendan Sorsby, who transfers in from Indiana and will take over the starting role after the departure of Emory Jones to the NFL as an undrafted free agent, signed by the Baltimore Ravens.

A dual-threat quarterback, Sorsby (redshirt sophomore) appeared in 10 games and started seven for the Hoosiers in 2023. He passed for 1,587 yards, 15 TDs and had 5 INTs, and he rushed for 276 yards and 4 TDs.

Although the passing game was lackluster in 2023, Sorsby will have a pair of experienced receivers to throw to in seniors Xavier Henderson and Braden Smith. Henderson had 782 yards on 58 receptions and 3 TDs, while Smith had 557 yards on 43 receptions and 4 TDs.

Return of 'The Godfather'

Despite boasting the best player on the team in Corleone, the defense struggled mightily facing the explosive offenses of the Big 12 in 2023, giving up an average of 30 ppg, 426.1 total ypg and 176.9 rushing ypg.

The All-American Corleone finished the 2023 season with 39 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks, and is joined by safety Byron Threats, who returns to the Bearcats after coming in second on the team in tackles (57) in 2023.

With only five starters returning from last season, Satterfield used the transfer port to bring in 11 different players to revamp the defense and provide Corleone some help. Louisville transfer DL Kameron Wilson brings championship experience to the Bearcats after playing against Florida State in the 2023 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game. DE Darian Varner will also help the defensive line with experience after playing 12 games for the Wisconsin Badgers last season.

Former West Virginia linebacker Jared Bartlett and former North Texas DB Logan Wilson will also be joining the Bearcat defense.

The Schedule

The Bearcats begin the season taking on Towson on Aug. 31 and Pitt on Sept. 7 at Nippert Stadium before finishing up their nonconference schedule by traveling to Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 14. Cincinnati will open Big 12 play on Sept. 21 at home against Houston.

Although the Bearcats won't play Big 12 championship contenders Utah and Oklahoma State—along with Arizona, Baylor and Kansas—in the regular season, Cincinnati will have to contend with back-to-back road games against Iowa State (Nov. 16) and Kansas State (Nov. 23) and take on TCU (Nov. 30) at home in its final three games of the season.


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