CINCINNATI,-- A bubble is placed on Cincinnati's practice area to create an "indoor facility" for the Midwest when temperatures drop. It is covered with duct tape and emits a musty smell.
Because the space isn’t large enough for everyone, players often use the revolving doors to get to the nearby outdoor field.
The Bearcats are proud of the low-frills and grit aspects of their program. "Clifton Style," they call it, a shoutout to the trendy if rough-around-the-edges neighborhood that abuts their urban campus.
Joel Dublanko, linebacker, said that "Yeah it's certainly not the prettiest and it's definitely not for everyone." "Cincinnati, a blue-collar community, is what we are proud of. We try to do that every Saturday with our film.
The Bearcats don't have the same creature comforts as college football powerhouses like Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Alabama. They may get those when the program is a part of the Big 12. But it isn't stopping them.
As we enter the second half, No. No. 2 Cincinnati (7-0), is currently ranked higher than all three blue bloods, and aims to break college football's glass ceiling.
The Bearcats are positioned to beat Tulane in Saturday's American Athletic Conference match. They will be the first outside Power Five conference team to have a chance at making the College Football Playoff. Tuesday night will see the first CFP rankings.
Ahmad Gardner, All-America cornerback, said that "We know where we belong".
With a team meeting, where Luke Fickell spoke about blind faith, the Luke Fickell era began at Cincinnati on Jan. 8, 2017.
Tommy Tuberville was replaced by the Ohio native and former Ohio State player, as well as assistant coach under Jim Tressel (and Urban Meyer). Tuberville's laidback style and propensity to recruit outside of Ohio had caused a consistent winning program to fall.
Fickell explained to AP that he inherited a group consisting of men who were under a totally different leadership style. "So, as we walked into, I said this was the way we were going to be. You guys have to believe that what we are doing is best for your program and will give you the opportunity to grow as men -- to be successful off the football field."
The Bearcats began a week of Attention Training the next day. They were certainly attracted to the predawn, hard-core outdoor workouts that were exhausting and bone-chilling.
Dublanko, one Cincinnati's six-year-old seniors, said, "I recall doing pushups in snow and there were like little blood spots because my hands were bleeding."
Curtis Brooks (defensive lineman) said that it was his first time considering quitting football.
"It was only 5:30 AM, 6 AM. Snow. Snow running For about an hour and half, I competed in the snow. Brooks stated that it was a "gut-check".
Fickell, 48, has built a formidable team (38-6 in the last four seasons), with players who were undervalued and overlooked.
"We are an offensive line-driven team because we want our guys to care about the team. Fickell stated that they want men to be humble and not take credit for what they do.
He also wants the Bearcats to be largely built in Ohio.
The last Tuberville team roster had 38 players who attended high school in Ohio. The current Bearcats boast 75 players who hail from Ohio high schools, with 27 of them naming Cincinnati their hometown.
Fickell and his staff can help locate any high school football players in the Buckeye State that could be of assistance to the Bearcats.
His first recruiting class was the perfect example.
Coby Bryant was expected to travel to the Mid-American Conference. Fickell reached Bryant's father Ronnie and longtime Glenville High School coach Ted Ginn Sr. to discuss Bryant's future. Ted Jr. is a former Ohio State star and NFL receiver.
Bryant's brother Christian was coached by Fickell with the Buckeyes. Fickell knew Coby had the athleticism and size to be a productive defensive back but also the maturity to set the tone for the program.
"I didn’t want to be spoiled." Bryant stated that he wanted to earn everything.
Bryant will tell you which NFL players he admires. He mentions two Glenville graduates: former Buckeye Marshon Lattimore (new Orleans Saints cornerback) and Justin Hardee (undrafted free agent from Illinois), who have made a career in the NFL as special teams demon.
Bryant is one of Cincinnati's super seniors that took advantage NCAA's eligibility back to compete during the 2020 pandemic-altered season. Bryant will be returning for a fifth time.
Desmond Ridder is a former star quarterback and three-star recruit out of Louisville, Kentucky. Darrian Beavers is a linebacker who transferred to UConn to play for Fickell.
Cincinnati has taken high-upside recruits from Power Five programs, such as Myjai Sands, in subsequent recruiting classes. Sanders, a long-legged but lightweight defensive end from Florida, was signed in 2018. He is now up to 255 lbs and still searching for running backs.
Gardner is also known as Sauce, the Bearcats best player and nicknamed Sauce. This long-armed lockdown corner, which hails from Detroit, chose Cincinnati over Indiana and Kentucky in 2019, and has now developed into a potential first round pick.
Gardner stated, "Coach Fick said to me from the jump that he had something big that would be coming here in a couple of years." "He didn't lie about it."
Clifton Style, the Bearcats are doing great things.
It's the brand. Brooks stated that it is the identity of the football club. It's a tough and gritty school.