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March 26, 2012Filling the shoes of Derek Wolfe will be daunting, but expected starter Camaron Beard can at least fill the jersey.
Already possessing the requisite talent Beard needed to amass, well mass.
"I just ate regularly, tried to eat not huge meals, but I tried to eat regularly so I could gain weight," said Beard.
Beard gained more weight than any Bearcat from Fall 2010 to Fall 2011.
"They pretty much told me anything about 275," said Beard. "I want to play around 285, so that is just my goal. In high school I was around 250, 245 actually. I was a defensive end in high school."
Cincinnati recruited Beard as a defensive end. When he arrived the defensive line had one proven commodity in Wolfe. Everyone else was too small, too slow.
"Initially I was a defensive end, but I started gaining weight so they thought that I would be better at D-tackle," remembered Beard. "I see their approach because being a bigger defensive end I would rather be used where the team needs me."
Credit Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling with morphing a woeful line (2010) into the team's best unit in 2011. He helped John Hughes maximize his potential and converted hybrid linebacker Walter Stewart to a full-time end.
Now Coach Strip has to do it again.
The interior defensive line will be very young and vastly inexperienced.
Expect vivacious play from junior Jordan Stepp. He fought his way onto the field in 2011.
As practiced began this spring Stepp assumed the starting role. Beard fights for the other.
"It is exciting," said Beard. "Last year I was under, I was behind Derek Wolfe who was a great defensive tackle and I learned a lot under him. Now it is just a an opportunity."
Also available inside are young tackles Roney Lozano, Brandon Mitchell, and walk-on Conner Donnini.
For many of the 3-star recruits like Beard it can be tough transitioning from every down player to perpetual bencher. Beard even redshirted his first season. There was no chance of gametime in 2010.
"Initially it was (tough), but we have a thing called IRU which is Indisputable Role Understanding and I figured my time would come," said Beard. I just had to learn under Derek. He is a great mentor and I learned a lot from him."
The reason Beard is quickly adjusting to his new role harkens back to his upbringing. Not his impassionate mother. Though she jokes about his massive appetite last summer she and his grandmother love to see a happy, thriving Camaron.
No, the upbringing that prepared him to excel at Cincinnati, both in school and football, was Indianapolis' Cathedral High School.
"I think Cathedral helped me out when it comes to having the academics and football," said Beard. "It is pretty prestigious. It is a good school to go to and our coaches focus a lot of schoolwork. If you don't have the right grades you aren't playing. And they are always on top of our grades."
Now UC expects Beard to ascend from four career tackles to a capable replacement for the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. For the constantly-eating Beard it's a lot on his plate.