On paper the discrepancy between the top tier teams and the bottom level squads inside the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference is glaring. Big things are expected out of Taft, Withrow and Western Hills. For Hughes, Woodward and Aiken it will be a struggle to earn respectability.
No matter where your favorite squad lies the conference has plenty to prove in 2011.
Here is a complete overview of the CMAC:
Division III, Region 12
Head Coach: Mike Martin (47-39, nine years @ Taft, 47-39 overall)
2010 Record: 7-4, 6-0
Overview: What a difference a decade makes. When head coach Mike Martin took over the program the Senators were mired in one of the longest losing streaks in Cincinnati history. In 2010 the school made its first ever playoff appearance. This fall expectations are even higher with a quality cast of characters coming back to build on the foundation that has been laid.
This Taft squad is as deep and talented as any that Martin has had during his tenure. The tone will be set on defense by the reigning Ohio Division IV Defensive Player of the Year, Adolphus Washington. It has already been a stellar career for Washington, who comes into the season with 33.0 sacks at the varsity level. He has plenty of help on this side of the ball with fellow lineman Antonio Garnett, linebackers Jamaine Freeman, Michael Williams and secondary standouts Edmond Hurt and Rasaan Jackson. Add transfers Jabari Watkins and James Rogers from North College Hill and Kimani Smith from Aiken and the Senators have all the makings of a special unit.
Weapons abound on offense. De'Quon Smith ran for 1,190 yards as a junior, but only found the end zone three times. Star wide receiver Dwayne Stanford can stretch a defense. He averaged just under 23 yards per reception on 20 catches over the last five weeks of ‘10. Kendall Bobo, who comes over from Purcell Marian will fill the void at quarterback. Line play, taking care of the pigskin and clock management will be the difference between a good and a great 2011 for Taft.
Division I, Region 4
Head Coach: Jim Place (0-0, first year @ Withrow, 223-161-3 overall)
2010 Record: 6-4, 5-1 CMAC
Overview: A new sheriff is in town and Withrow looks to recapture the CMAC title after finishing last season with six straight wins. Longtime coaching veteran Jim Place takes over for alum Doc Gamble, who has moved on to the University of Cincinnati. Place, a disciplinarian, will put a team on the field that is one of the most well prepared in the league.
There are many questions to be answered on the offensive side of the ball, but one is not at wide receiver. Dionte Riley and Sean Middlebrooks both have the skills to play at the next level. Riley had 50 receptions and eight touchdown catches as a junior. Sam Williams and Shakee Bellamy will battle it out for quarterback. Sha'khil Kelly has all the tools to have a big year at running back. Aliou Diouf is a beast up front.
The Tiger lost a ton on defense. It will be up to some very "green" players to make an impact on this side of the ball. William Gover and Nick Isaacs are the only two experienced linemen. The back seven is going to be entirely raw with the exception of secondary member Rudy Worthen, who was a Second Team All-CMAC performer as a junior.
WESTERN HILLS MUSTANGS
Division I, Region 4
Head Coach: Paul Jenne (10-10, two years @ Western Hills)
2010 Record: 7-3, 4-2
Overview: It only took two seasons for head coach Paul Jenne to whip his Westsiders into shape. With a large pool of talent hitting the field in 2011, the Mustangs are on course to win a league title.
Quarterback Cameron Washington was solid as a sophomore with 992 yards passing, 14 touchdown tosses, 465 yards rushing and four scores on the ground. If he can alleviate half or more of his 21 turnovers Western Hills will win way more than it loses in 2011. Bruising back Dion Dawson and his 270-pound frame found the end zone 10 times as a junior. The swift and silky smooth Josh Smith is one of the top receivers in the Tri-state area. Smith caught 32 passes for 590 yards and nine scores in 2010. A line that paved the way for 285 total yards per game a year ago is anchored by big Aliou Diouf.
The defense is the most depleted components of last season's successful run. Dawson led the team in tackles and Smith was tops in interceptions. Tywaun Black adds depth to a solid secondary. Black will also return kicks on special teams. Jenne will look for Charles Clark, Tyler Taylor and Billy Kilgore to step up more than ever on the line.
SHRODER PAIDEIA JAGUARS
Division IV, Region 16
Head Coach: Gerald Warmack (18-22, four years @ Shroder, 18-12 overall)
2010 Record: 6-4, 3-3
Overview: Shroder is the smallest school in the CMAC, but it plays with a big heart. The Jaguars have the talent to not only compete for a conference title but a Division IV, Region 16 playoff berth. In his fifth season at the helm Gerald Warmack sees plenty to be excited about.
Shroder makes no bones about how they are going to beat you on offense. The Jaguars scored 26 touchdowns on the ground last season and zero by air. The team returns four offensive linemen including BGSU commit Izaah Lunsford and all-league performer Jeff Scott. Warmack calls center Darryl Ferguson a "bulldog" in the middle. Running back Isaiah Williams and quarterback Myles Jackson are the beneficiaries of the big holes that are opened up front. The duo combined to rush for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010.
On defense, five players are back from the 2010 rotation on the line. Daniel Hayden and Evan Davis are rounding into shape. Adam Miller and Lunsford are difficult to block for anyone. The head coach also expects several juniors to step up and have breakout varsity campaigns. Junior linebacker Davonte Riley was all over the field last year racking up 87 total tackles, five sacks and recovering three fumbles. Dominique Salter and Jalen Townsend join him in the middle of the field. Warmack will not hesitate to bring pressure with this group.
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Jeremy Patterson (5-15, two years @ Woodward, 5-15 overall)
2010 Record: 3-7, 2-4
Overview: Just two years removed from the school's first-ever playoff appearance, Woodward has had found it difficult to maintain their past success. The team has not been able to overcome injuries and youth for head coach Jeremy Patterson. The Bulldogs move down to Division II, but the journey to Week 11 is not going to be a walk in the park.
Defense is where Woodward plans to do much of their damage. Linebacker Elijah Allen had a stellar start to his varsity career leading the team in tackles and registering two sacks as a freshman. Joining him in at linebacker is Terrell Reed, Tyler Bradley and Trevon Bibb. In the secondary Deshawn Coleman has been through the wars. Sophomore Antonio Morrison is ready to step in and be productive. Tino Arnold can hold their own in the trenches.
The Bulldogs' offense has plenty of holes to fill on the line. This team's success will be based on how well this group comes together. Elijah Kelly is Woodward's top threat at the skills positions. Outside of Kelly there will be a fresh crop of youngster looking to make a name for themselves in 2011.
Division III, Region 12
Head Coach: Guy Westmoreland (0-0, first year @ Aiken)
2010 Record: 2-8, 1-5
Overview: The Withrow coaching tree has found its latest branch falling at Aiken. Guy Westmoreland, who played for Dale Mueller along with Gamble, Warmack and current Tigers' assistant Antonio Davis on Madison Avenue, now brings his power-spread offense to Falcons' football. He will be looking for balance between the pass and run to make his program take off.
Most of the Aiken players will go both ways with a limited roster. A key cog in the offense is quarterback James Brown, who is like having another coach on the field for Westmoreland. Brown ran for 537 yards, threw for 360 while tossing seven and running for seven touchdowns in nine games as a junior. Athletes Kionte Earley and sophomore Kalen Miller will see plenty of touches in 2011. Flying under the radar, but not for much longer is junior left tackle Robert Gulley, who has college recruiters in love with his 6-foot-7, 275-pound frame.
The Falcons' defense rendered 44 points or more four times last season. Mix that in with an offense that scored seven points or fewer and you have a recipe for a tired eleven players on this side of the ball. Middle linebacker Eric Veal led the team with 91 total tackles as junior. Brown will play some in the secondary. Gulley will need to be in top shape as he too will find time on the defensive line.
HUGHES CENTER BIG RED
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Mark Thompson (0-0 @ Hughes Center, first year)
2010 Record: 1-9, 0-6
Overview: Ground Zero is where new Hughes head coach Mark Thompson starts his Big Red program. Last year was very forgettable so turning the page is not going to be difficult for Thompson and his crew. The good news is that the youth of 2010 turns into experience in 2011.
The Big Red can trace all their troubles from a year ago to being pushed around on the lines. The defense gave up 42 points or more six times and the offense failed score more than a touchdown on seven occasions.
Fast guys that fly around the field will not be an issue. On offense, quarterback Dominique Brooks is primed for a big senior campaign. Running back Wyman Lockett averaged 5.5 per carry but never had more than 16 totes in a game. Juniors Daron Bowling and Keonte Mapp are a nice receiving tandem.
Donjay Tapplar is the team's top defensive player. The secondary is a strength of the Big Red with Reuben Knox, Keon Shelton, Brooks and Lockett. Bowling could emerge as one of the CMAC's next top linebackers.