When it comes to Cincinnati writers, there are a bunch of people who occupy the position. But only 1 person can be the man. That man is Paul Dehner Jr from Go Bearcats. He breaks news, he writes game reports, he talks about stuff on twitter, he does morning articles that are pretty much a must read for Bearcat fans. He also does a podcast that has had esteemed guests like Dan Hoard, the guys from Ballin is a Habit, Terry Nelson, Tom Gelehrter and more. Since he is the man, he's doing work for CBS this week covering some small town event known as the Super Bowl. That didn't stop him from being incredibly nice and answering a bunch of questions from me. Only had to pay 5 grand for the right. Follow Paul on twitter if you aren't for some strange reason.
In this session, we talk about how he ended up on the Bearcat beat, the non-negatives of the job, his favorite game that he's attended, football, Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and more. A thousand thanks to Paul for taking the time. Questions in bold. One of the questions is kind of mean sounding, but it's not meant to be. Mainly because those guys would kick my ass.
How did you end up on the Bearcat Beat?
After spending about six years in the newspaper industry I had to get out because it was, well, dead. So, I moved from my job in at a paper in Georgia to Cincinnati to help C. Trent Rosecrans with his startup CNati.com. I covered XU and UC for them and there met all the fine folks around the schools. When Josh Katzowitz left for his promotion to be a national NFL blogger for CBS, they asked me to step in and take it over. When CTR also got a job as a national blogger for CBS (baseball) the web site, unfortunately, couldn't really continue in the same way. All of this happened within a matter of one crazy week. My heart is still recovering.
I'm sure there are a ton of pluses to having the job, but what's the biggest negative?
This may sound a bit like a cop-out, and feel free to call me soft for saying so, but I can't really think of any negatives. I love this job. Using the word job almost feels misleading. I don't view it that way. I grew up in Cincinnati. I grew up loving Cincinnati sports. I wrote in my eighth grade yearbook that I wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to do write about it here. I fell in love with college basketball watching the Bearcats under Bob Huggins. I've grown to really enjoy college football over the last five years as well. Now, I have had to back off the fan-boy aspect doing this job and trying to walk closer to the line of unbiased reporter, but I'm still living out what my dream jobs.
On football, how big of a surprise was this last season to you?
I will open with this, I didn't think that team would win 10 games. I thought the defense would be better, I didn't expect it to be that much better. I had no idea the offensive line would be that good. To me, that was where the major surprise came from. The way that offensive line opened holes for Isaiah Pead and protecting Zach Collaros and Munchie Legaux was the game-changer. Anytime you have a senior quarterback and one of the best skill players every to come through your school, you know the team will win some games, but the line was the difference between 7 and 10.
Ignoring right team, right situation jargon, do you think Isaiah Pead, Derek Wolfe or someone else from this team could be a good pro?
I think both of those two will be great pros. The changing face of NFL offenses makes his assets extremely valuable. The wide-open, spread passing transformation in the league lends itself to guys who can make plays in space and catch the ball out of the backfield, Isaiah does both of those very well. I've heard a number of comparisons, but I think Arian Foster and Jahvid Best are the two I most correlated him to.
Anybody who reads my blog regularly knows I think Derek Wolfe is an incredible player. I wondered repeatedly why he was getting no preseason love this year nationally. I told him in the preseason he needed to prove me right and he promised he would. The guy delivered. Anytime a player can make me look good that's all that matters, right? But honestly, he has this year's Jason Kelce written all over him. He may be selected a little further back, but I see him as an instant impact guy on the next level.
I think JK Schaffer can play in the NFL as well. He needs a little more size, but a guy with his nose for the football and intelligence are always desired at the next level. He'll get his chance and I think he'll surprise some people. Kind of has a Patriots/Belichick player personality.
Considering that people didn't show up for games at Nippert this season, do you think that we are in for a repeat next year with the faces of the program moving on? Or am I being too negative?
Well, you are being negative. And I'd only say that Whit Babcock has really been making an impact early on in his tenure. He's all about improving the fan experience and making games on campus as desirable as possible. I haven't talked to Whit specifically about this topic, but I can guarantee you he is working diligently to make sure the game experience improves by leaps and bounds. Judging by what I've seen from him in every other aspect to this point, that's reason to be optimistic.
To hoops. Everyone expected Sean Kilpatrick to break out this season, and he has. What do you see as the reason(s) for his breakout to leading scorer and major threat this season?
Well, mainly opportunity. The guy was in the top 10 in the Big East last year in points per minute. His minutes have increased. The math on it is pretty simple. That said, he's much more consistent with his 3-point shot. When he hits from outside, he's so difficult to guard because his real bread and butter is slashing to the bucket. Once he begins to master the efficiency of 3pt/drive ratio, is when he can have an elite scoring season.
We've seen some offensive regression from the team against Syracuse and Rutgers. What tricks does Mick have up his sleeve to get the ball rolling again?
I don't know about tricks. There aren't many tricks to putting the ball in the hole at this point in the season. In many ways, you are who you are. This team needs to get back to turning the opponents over and dominating points off turnovers/fast-break points stats. They haven't done that lately and that's why they haven't scored.
Have you seen a player as good as Cashmere Wright ever struggle so much making any kind of 2 point shot? He's 7-38 since the St John's game.
Yeah, he struggles finishing when he drives into the lane. It's difficult to explain, but a product of being a little guy in a physical conference. You'd think he'd get more calls in there, but officials in this conference aren't big fans of calling contact driving to the basket.
How long would a layup contest to 5 take between Cheikh Mbodj and Ibrahima Thomas take?
Not as long as it would take me to learn the number of languages they know.
This season almost seems like a play. The first act was everything up to Xavier. The second act Wright St through Rutgers. How do you think the third act is going to play out?
It's hard to tell, but it was this point in time last year's team made it's special run. I think this group has the same push in it. Immediacy of needing wins brings teams together. This group in particular plays well with it's back against the wall. They are approaching that spot again.
What's been your favorite UC game that you've attended?
While a close second goes to the game where the Bearcat mascot was arrested because I laughed uncontrollably for four straight hours, it's hard not to say last year's home Georgetown game. Having seen, experienced, lived the frustration of this fan base over the past five years of the rebuilding process, it was incredible to see the coronation and celebration of completing the transformation. The fans were loud, the Cats played one of their best games of the year and the players were celebrating with the fan base. There were many moments along the way where it was legitimate to wonder if a scene like that would ever occur. A really special day to witness.
Once again, a thousand thanks to Paul for taking the time to not only answer my questions, but answer them so well. The Georgetown game last year was incredible. That's an all timer. I appreciate Paul's great answer to the Cheikh Mbodj question. That's why he's the man.
Photo at the top is from his twitter account. Shoutout to whoever took that for him.