Takeaways from the 2022 AAC Football Media Days

Zach Stipe

Assistant AD / Communications

CINCINNATI- University of Cincinnati Head Coach Luc Fickel and seniors Jabari Taylor and Tre Tucker spoke to league media as part of the American Athletic Conference Football Media Day on Thursday.

The Bearcats were chosen to finish second in the AAC’s preseason media poll, despite having the most votes for first place (10). Houston garnered seven of 24 possible votes for first place as part of a conference-best 243 points, while the Bearcats were second with 242. UCF is third with seven nods and 225 total votes.

“More than anything, we have goals and targets every year that won’t change based on poll results,” Fickell said. “We’re going to use it. In some ways we like to play a bit more from that (outsider) position, but we have a squad full of leaders and older guys who understand the realities of what that means.”

Under Fickell’s leadership, the Bearcats went 13-1 in 2021 that culminated in their second straight AAC championship before becoming the first AAC program to advance to the college football playoffs.

UC extended its school-record 27-game winning streak at home at Nippert Stadium, just behind Clemson (34). Cincinnati is undefeated in the conference the past two seasons and is 22-2 overall with the only two losses to Georgia and Alabama — the last two national champions — in the 2020 Peach Bowl and the U.S. semifinals. 2021 College Football Playoffs at the Cotton Bowl.

Despite a school record of nine players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, Fickell took the time to acknowledge the amount of leadership returning to this year’s team.

“The unique thing is, except for a few positions, I think we have a lot more maturity than people realize,” Fickell added. “I think our leadership is more mature than maybe it even has been because our guys come from different places and earn things in a different way.”

The Bearcats are still presumed to face off in the conference thanks in part to comebacks like Taylor and Tucker, who are expected to take on more of a leadership role this season.

Taylor, a defensive tackle from Akron, Ohio, used his extra year of eligibility to return for a sixth season. A member of the defensive line rotation for three years, he is expected to start this season and be a versatile force who can play at the end or as an inside lineman. He appeared in 44 games and had 74 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and four sacks during his college career.

“Not knowing if I was going to get a sixth grade or not, I didn’t expect to play the role of leader,” Taylor said. “I’ve always been a type of player who leads by example and having guys like Coby Bryant and Desmond Cavalier in front of me, able to watch them for years and get what I could out of them.”

Tucker, a wide receiver and recognized as one of the nation’s most dangerous kick returners, finished his junior season with 426 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 34 receptions. For his career, the Akron native has 59 receptions for 754 yards and five touchdown receptions. His 1,496 punt return yards rank fourth in UC history, while his 25.36 average ranks third.

Cincinnati opens the 2022 season on Saturday, Sept. 3, with the first-ever game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. Live coverage from the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

BEARCATS ARE READY TO RECHARGE

Led by reigning national consensus coach of the year Luke Fickell and 12 returning starters, the Bearcats are the two-time defending AAC champions and are coming off a 13-1 season that resulted in a trip in the 2021 College Football Playoffs. With a 44-7 record since the start of 2018, Cincinnati’s 86% winning percentage ranks among the top 5 winning percentages in the nation for the past four years.

Cincinnati opens the 2022 season at 3:30 p.m. ET on September 3 against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas, before returning to Nippert Stadium to host Kennesaw State at 3:30 p.m. on September 10.

As season tickets go on sale for the first time in school history, fans can still purchase game tickets for as low as $25 HERE. Fans can also join the waiting list for 2023 subscriptions.

FIRST DAY CAMPAIGN

Cincinnati will officially join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023. The Bearcats are entering a new era as a Power Five school, and by joining the Big 12, every competitive edge matters to UC’s more than 450 student-athletes.

As an important part of the university Next, Now Campaign, the UC Athletics Day One Ready campaign is a $100 million fundraising initiative that aims to achieve the next level of success in the new conference. With fan support for signature facilities, student-athlete welfare and championship readiness, the Bearcats won’t just be ready to compete on their first official day in the Big 12.

They will be ready to bring the championships back to Cincinnati.



Donate to the Day One Ready campaign here.



FOLLOW THE BEARCATS
For all the latest information on Cincinnati Athletics, please visit GoBEARCATS.com. For last-minute updates, follow Cincinnati Athletics on Twitter, instagram and Facebook.

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