Sunday, April 25, 2004

Dantonio sets new course

First play of game a pass instead of a run up the middle

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The first positive sign for University of Cincinnati football fans occurred on the first play from scrimmage.

Gino Guidugi looks for his receiver during UC's spring football game Saturday at Nippert Stadium. Head coach Mark Dantonio is in the background.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
Instead of the traditional handoff up the middle that so often defined the Rick Minter era, tight end Doug Jones lined up in the backfield, then caught a 9-yard pass from quarterback Gino Guidugli.

If you were looking for an early sign that things would be different under new coach Mark Dantonio, there it was.

"I see you noticed," Guidugli said. "I noticed, too. I think everybody in the stands noticed that."

That little offensive twist notwithstanding, it was the defense that dominated Saturday's spring game.

The Red team, quarterbacked by Guidugli, beat the White team, quarterbacked by Collin Carey, 14-0 before an estimated 2,500 fans at Nippert Stadium.

The game consisted of four 10-minute quarters. The teams were assembled on Thursday through a draft by the seniors.

"We played pretty well on defense," said Dantonio, who served as Ohio State's defensive coordinator before taking over at UC last December. "It's indicative pretty much of the whole spring. Our good players are the front seven."

The White team, despite the presence of starting running back Richard Hall , who was held to nine yards on nine carries, managed only 83 yards on 44 plays.

The Red team gained 316 yards, 222 through the air.

Defensive end Trent Cole, a first-team all-Conference USA selection last year, led the Red team with six tackles and 1.5 sacks. Linebacker Jamar Enzor, playing for the White team, had 11 tackles, four solo.

Enzor said it's too early to tell how good this UC defense might be, but he likes the approach of the new staff, led by defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, the defensive coordinator last year at Miami (Ohio).

"It's a lot less mental," Enzor said. "The defense we're playing now allows us to play more freely. It allows us to just get out there and just play football instead of being out there doing a whole lot of thinking."

Dantonio said that only about half of the defense has been installed during the 13 spring practices the Bearcats have had.

"The whole deal with us is to play with great toughness and effort and know what to do and play fast," Dantonio said. "Obviously if you don't know what to do you're playing tentative and you can't play fast."

The Bearcats welcome the change.

"Last year we had more of a complex defense," said defensive tackle Mike Wright. "We had two different calls we had to choose from. This year we have just one call when you line up.

"... Last year you were thinking, 'Am I doing this right? Should I be in another place?' This year you don't have to think about that."

The impact was obvious Saturday, although Guidugli said the offense will catch up.

"We're just not totally on the same page yet, but that will come," he said.



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vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700


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