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With a new coach and a parade of new faces, Cincinnati will try to step up in the Big 12

Scott Satterfield
Posted at 4:40 PM, Aug 18, 2023

CINCINNATI — Talk about a season of change.

The Bearcats step up from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12 with a new coach, new coordinators, new quarterback and a parade of other new players plucked out of the transfer portal.

“It's an exciting time,” said first-year coach Scott Satterfield, who brought coaches and transfers with him from Louisville. “We've got a great seat at a Power Five table now, in a great conference. It's a lot of excitement throughout our city, the university. You know, the buzz on campus.”

Satterfield has a monumental job at Cincinnati.

The only returning starter on offense is center Gavin Gerhardt. Last year's starting quarterback, Ben Bryant, transferred to Northwestern. Bryant's backup, Evan Prater, had some shoulder trouble and switched to wide receiver.

There are so many unknowns for the Bearcats that the Big 12 media picked them to finish 13th out of 14 teams, just above West Virginia and below other new members Brigham Young (6), Central Florida (8) and Houston (12).

“We've got to have a sense of urgency every day,” Satterfield said. “Meetings, practices, walk-throughs — a sense of urgency every single day. You don't want to get to the game and say, ‘now it’s too late.' You know, we've got have it now.”

The Bearcats finished 9-4 in their final year in the American Athletic Conference in 2022, including 6-2 in conference.


One thing Satterfield knows is that Cincinnati's defensive line will be one of its strengths. Second-year interior lineman Dontay Corleone — whose nickname, of course, is “The Godfather" — is on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in college football.

Returning DL veterans Malik Vann and Jowon Briggs are also outstanding, having combined for 19 career sacks.

“They're some dudes,” new defensive coordinator Bryan Brown said after the Bearcats' first scrimmage. “I think they can be the best in the Big 12, or even the country.”

A combination of returning starters and transfers will fill out the back end of the unit.


The 50-year-old Satterfield made his name as the head man at Appalachia State in his native North Carolina, compiling a 46-16 record and leading the Mountaineers to three bowl games in five seasons. He was hired at Louisville in 2019 and was less successful, going 25-24 in four seasons and putting himself on the hot seat with a 7-5 finish in 2022. Satterfield was hired by Cincinnati in December to replace Luke Fickell, who moved on to lead Wisconsin.


The presumptive starter at quarterback is Emory Jones, a grad transfer who will be in his sixth season and third school after playing at Florida and Arizona State. The dual-threat QB had his best year in 2021 as the Gators' starter, throwing for 2,734 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Look for the shifty Jones to also spark the Bearcats' ground game, which struggled last season.

UC's top six receivers from 2022 left for the NFL or jumped in the transfer portal. Transfers Dee Wiggins (Louisville), Donovan Ollie (Washington State), Xzavier Henderson (Florida) and Aaron Turner (UConn) are the prospective top targets.


Gerhardt knows he's got to assume a leadership role on the reconstituted O-line. Three of the four starters are expected to be transfers, including guard Luke Kandra, a Cincinnati native who followed Satterfield from Louisville.

“I consider myself pretty smart and someone who leads by example, but being as vocal as I can will help this team," Gerhardt said. “Last fall camp I was the young guy moving from guard to starting center, but this year is a bit different.”


The Bearcats open the season at home against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 2. Key games are Oklahoma at home (Sept. 23), home against Baylor (Oct. 21) and at Oklahoma State (Oct. 28).