Tag Archives: AAC

RedHawk transfers paying dividends for Jayhawks, Bearcats

Through the season’s first month, two former Miami (Ohio) stars have helped take their new teams to the next level. The MAC’s leading tackler from a season ago, Ivan Pace, Jr., joined his younger brother, Deshawn (20 tackles, QB sack, 3 TFLs, INT-TD, PBU and one blocked kick), in the Cincinnati linebacking corps. The chemistry has been palpable for the nation’s 22nd-ranked defense. Ivan leads the nation with 13.5 tackles for loss entering Week 6, and he also has six quarterback sacks with two forced fumbles.

While at Miami (Ohio), he displayed a knack for reading the action instinctively and always flashed a short-area burst to reach the quarterback. Pace has often been far too much for running backs to handle in blitz pickup at various stages (2nd QTR/6:40, Ohio ’21).

Ivan Pace LB Cincinnati in the 2021 Frisco Football Classic
Pace, Jr. (No. 0 pictured for Miami in 2021) transferred to Cincinnati in 2022 and currently leads the nation with 13.5 tackles for losses (through five games).

On Ohio’s next drive during that game, Pace, Jr. forced a fumble (2nd QTR, Ohio ’21).

Never a threat to pass the eye test, teams around the AAC have their sights fixated on Pace, Jr. when they turn on Cincinnati’s game film. He began the year with 12 tackles, one quarterback sack and three-and-a-half tackles for loss against Arkansas on the road. He has posted four double-digit tackle performances and is currently tied for fifth nationally in that category (56 tackles).

Prior to the 2020 campaign, Pace, Jr. changed his number from 23 to zero for the Redhawks. And he’s responded by averaging nearly 10 tackles per game over that time span.

Statistically, there have been none better than the Bearcats’ latest star.

In Lawrence, Kansas (5-0) also got a boost from a former RedHawk with the addition of Phelps. He is the same explosive player who nearly decapitated two blockers in kickoff coverage during the 2021 Frisco Classic Bowl. That type of intensity is nothing new for Phelps, who plays the game with an attitude that tips the scales of angry play. His kickoff cover prowess was evident during the 2021 season at various points (tackle, 3rd QTR/8:26, Ohio ’21).

He’s strong with his hands and can win at the point of attack. Phelps has posted sacks in each of his last two outings after starting the year with a dominant three-sack performance against Tennessee Tech. The Big 12 Conference named him the Defensive Player of the Week after the performance (9-5-22).

Nine-and-a-half of his 30 tackles in 2021 went for quarterback sacks, but it was the manner in which he finished those which catches the eyes of opponents.

Lonnie Phelps in the 2021 Frisco Football Classic
Phelps, pictured, led Miami (Ohio) with 13.5 tackles for losses in 2021. He already has five quarterback sacks in 2022 for the Jayhawks.

The team faces its biggest test of the year this week against TCU. The Jayhawks are counting on Phelps, a redshirt junior, to continue his torrid pace. The Horned Frogs rushing attack ranks second in the Big 12 and sixth nationally at 252 yards per game. One of Phelps’ strengths is suddenness. His hands have to be ready for combat due to the size of TCU offensive tackles Brandon Coleman (6’6, 325) and Andrew Coker (6’7, 315). Coleman is a former guard who moves bodies in the run game and Coker’s size often engulfs opponents.

Kansas, however, ranks 39th in the country in rushing defense and allowed just 26 yards on the ground to Iowa State (3-2) in last week’s 14-11 victory.

2020 NFL Draft: Michael Warren 5’10 218 (E) RB-Junior Cincinnati

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Most NFL teams will find it surprising in their research of Warren that he was a good kickoff returner in the AAC as a freshman. This lays credence to his level of hand-eye coordination and athleticism. It is a big reason the team has put so many different responsibilities on his plate during school. He was once described as having a “high football IQ” by Bearcats offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock. Jordan Howard (Bears, Eagles) is the player Warren most resembles currently playing in the NFL. Howard was also a big back with underrated athleticism when he came out of Indiana. Warren won’t blow up the workout circuit leading up to the draft, but he could surprise once he gets into an NFL training camp with his balance, lower body strength, vision and instincts. He needs to make sure he is in top-notch physical condition to ensure that possibility.

Editor’s note: For the full scouting report on Cincinnati RB Michael Warren or any other of your favorite 2020 NFL Draft prospects (including Strengths, Weaknesses and Other Notes), please check out Corey Chavous’ 2020 NFL Draft Guide (available later this year).

Cincinnati vs. UCF, 11-17-18: In-game report

A fast paced offense and some self-inflicted wounds aided UCF to its 23rd straight victory. The Knights defeated the  Cincinnati Bearcats, 38-13, and clinched a spot in the AAC championship in the process. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

UCF offense 

They aren’t called UCFast for nothing. The Knights play at one of the fastest paces in college football and have the players at the skill positions to make it work.  They currently average 43 points per game and scored 38 against Cincinnati, who hadn’t given up for more than 30 in the six games previous.  The list of contributors offensively is exhaustive.  Six different players caught at least one pass and five different players ran the ball at least once.  In his first season as head coach, Josh Heupel has carried over some of the spread principles that he used in Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. Junior quarterback McKenzie Milton (5’11, 185) isn’t the prospect that Sam Bradford was coming out of Oklahoma under Heupel’s tutelage, but the UCF quarterback is putting up reminiscent numbers.  The Knights will need a lot of help to get into the College Football Playoff but even if they don’t make it, their offense will pose a big problem to any Power 5 team because of the one-on-one matchups they can create week-to-week. 

UCF defensive ends 

Davis, pictured, has 15.5 tackles for loss for the Knights entering the team’s AAC Championship Game.

Senior defensive end Titus Davis (6’3, 250) and junior defensive end Brendon Hayes (6’3, 293) are two premier pass rushers who feast on opposing quarterbacks once UCF takes big leads. The two tag- teamed for a turnover in the second quarter, when Davis met Cincinnati freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder (6’4, 212) in the backfield, forcing a fumble that Hayes recovered.  For the game, Davis finished with three sacks, bringing his season total to six. Hayes, the better edge-setter and run defender between the two, had five tackles and a pass deflection.

Cincinnati mistakes 

Before the Bearcats could settle down, they were already in a hole. In the first half alone, the Bearcats lost a fumble, missed a field goal, had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point. 

“We generated some momentum early in the game and gave it right back to them, whether it was a missed field goal or extra point or something like that,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said. “When you’re playing the champs, when you’re playing a team as good as they are, you can’t have mishaps like that.”

For the game, the Bearcats were comparable when it came to total yards and third down efficiency. But the early lopsided score made the Bearcats one-dimensional and turned what could have been a close game into a blowout.