Cincinnati at crossroad in coach Jones’ 2nd year

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The offense will be in transition with six new starters. But there’s one advantage: The quarterback has been through it all.

Collaros struggled in his first full season as a starter, throwing for 2,902 yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. At the start of the season, he tried too hard to make things happen and wound up taking sacks and losing fumbles. Cincinnati gave up 27 sacks last season _ almost twice as many as the previous year _ and fumbled 24 times.

Collaros‘ main goal this year is to avoid self-destruction.

“Being the quarterback, it’s always about getting better,” Collaros said. “You can clean up your game everywhere. Mainly, it’s about cutting down on the turnovers and forcing the ball into coverage.”

Kelly and Jones both run a spread offense, so there were expectations of a seamless transition last season. Instead, it was as tough as it gets, and it’s still a little mystifying.

“I can’t really put my finger on it,” Collaros said. “We definitely have to pick up on the leadership aspect of things. The senior class has embraced that. Coach Jones says talent wins six games, discipline wins eight games and leadership wins 10 games. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

The rocky season taught the Bearcats a few things about how tough it is to stay at the top.

“It stings and it motivates you,” Schaffer said. “It shows you what you need to do to be successful. You can’t get complacent. You can’t let off the gas pedal. If you win and you keep doing the same things you did before, somebody’s going to catch up to you. We saw everybody’s A-game, that’s for sure.”

Cincinnati’s nonconference schedule includes a game at Tennessee and a home date vs. North Carolina State. For the first time, the Bearcats will play two of their home games at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, against Big East rivals Louisville and West Virginia.

One thing is clear: It’s a season that will either re-ignite fan interest or make it dwindle even more.

“I think it’s big for the program,” Collaros said. “It’s big for us as a class. We always talk about what we want to be remembered by, what our legacy is.

“We want to get things back on track.”

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