The University of Cincinnati football team held its annual spring game Saturday evening at Nippert Stadium, with the offensive team beating the defensive team 40-39.
Although no official team or individual statistics were tracked, there were a few glaring takeaways from the inter-squad scrimmage.
Ridder hasn’t skipped a beat
Although redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Bryant has a cannon of an arm and is more than capable of running the offense effectively, sophomore Desmond Ridder is simply on another level.
The 6-foot-4 dual-threat option showcased why he was named the 2018 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year after accounting for 3,028 yards last season. He connected on two touchdown passes and broke numerous runs after scrambling out of the pocket Saturday.
“One of the big things during spring was challenging ourselves to find the backup quarterback and give those guys an opportunity to compete,” UC head coach Luke Fickell said. “Not just to find the backup, but also to put some pressure on Des. He’s a kid that loves pressure and loves to compete. The more the [other quarterbacks] do, the more they’ll push him. It’s really tough to go through a season with just one guy.”
Vann constantly in the backfield
Malik Vann spent the majority of his evening wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield, finishing with four sacks and a handful of solo tackles.
The sophomore defensive end from Fairfield, Ohio, saw limited snaps last season, appearing in 12 of 13 games and providing eight tackles.
“When he thinks he got a sack [by touching the quarterback] and he didn’t, really what we’re trying to do is challenge him a little bit mentally,” Fickell said. “[The defense] has a lot of respect for [the quarterbacks], so you feel really comfortable letting them go at it in these situations.”
Smith drills everything
After a disappointing freshman year that saw him connect on just 5-of-12 field goal attempts, sophomore kicker Cole Smith was as solid as can be Saturday – knocking through 3-of-3 field goal attempts (42 yards, 42, 37).
Senior Ryan Jones pushed Smith for the position last season. Smith said the competition is still going on throughout the spring practices, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That competition is something I want,” Smith said. “I don’t want to have nobody behind me. We’re competing right now and it’s really a good time, and we’re both improving really well … It felt good to get under the lights and get a confidence boost.”
Pierce shows off athleticism
Alec Pierce, a 6-foot-3 sophomore wide receiver from the Chicago area, caught multiple deep, contested passes on the night. With an off-the-charts vertical leap, don’t be surprised to see Ridder take advantage of Pierce down the field this season.
“I think you’re seeing the strength of some of those guys after being in the program for a couple years beginning to show up on the field,” Fickell said.