Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder finds a new role

CINCINNATI – Ridder found himself in the middle of a parental rite of passage with Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and longtime friend Claire Cornett, who were expecting their first child in early spring.

A few months after helping get the Cincinnati in the middle of talking about the college football playoffs, Ridder faced another daunting task.

The couple set out to assemble their daughter’s cot and they decided to build it in the living room because the nursery was overcrowded. A few hours later, they made their way through the maze of directions and parts, only to find out that the crib wouldn’t fit in the bedroom door.

So began the dismantling of the crib. One side was removed, followed by the crib’s legs before they wobbled and twisted, causing a soul-crushing defeat. “We almost took it apart in the end,” Ridder told Yahoo Sports with a laugh. “And then put it back together in the room.”

Last week Desmond and Claire greeted their little girl, Leighton Elizabeth, who was 6 pounds, 14 ounces, and 18.5 inches. Papa could never have imagined so much pink – onesies, toys, and a chair – in the house he and Claire share in nearby Fort Thomas, Kentucky.

That life-changing moment also meant that one of the most prominent players in college football this season will both rock a Girl Dad shirt and stay at the forefront of the sport for being a Girl Dad.

Ridder’s return to Cincinnati for his red shirt season was rooted in both football and family. He wanted to be in familiar surroundings for moments like assembling and assembling cribs. He also wanted to remain the linchpin in the Bearcats’ attempt to recreate the magic of their undefeated 2020 regular season.

“As soon as I move in, I’ll fly out the next day and have so many insecurities until I go,” said Ridder. “That’s part of the reason I stayed. I just knew that things would be more specific than if I left. I felt that this was a safety blanket. “

The story goes on

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder celebrates on the field after the American Athletic Conference championship game against Tulsa on December 19, 2020 in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 27-24. (AP Photo / Aaron Doster)

All around Cincinnati, Ridder’s return is celebrated with more than diaper parties. Cincinnati Projects as the Top 10 Preseason Program re-emerge as the antagonist of the college football playoffs, offering Ridder the opportunity to become one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history.

Ridder is the most successful active quarterback in college football as a starter at Cincinnati 30-5. Scouts projected the 6-foot-4,215-pounder somewhere around the fourth round of the NFL draft when it was declared this year. With his return, Ridder has prepared Cincinnati for one of the most special seasons in school history, having played 11-2 (2018), 11-3 (2019) and 9-1 (2020) for the past three seasons.

Cincinnati is returning 16 starters from a team that won the AAC and had the number 8 national defense (16.8 ppg) and number 17 (37.5). “We have what it takes to be a better team on paper,” coach Luke Fickell told Yahoo Sports.

After topping Georgia in double digits in the fourth quarter of the Peach Bowl, the Bearcats lost a 53-yard field goal with three seconds to go. Ridder entered the game with a “Maybe this is it” mindset and left with a nagging desire to rewrite the ending. “I was close,” he said of leaving for the NFL. He added, “After the Georgia game, I just felt like there was something else out there. There was something else in me. I know we can take this program and leave it a lot better than we found it. “

That leaves Ridder’s 2021 season with the dual goal of building the foundation for his own family and helping Cincinnati continue to raise its national profile. The Bearcats visit Indiana and Notre Dame in back-to-back games outside of conference that could turn them into playoff spoilers. A year after peaking at # 7 on the CFP rankings before Cincinnati is skipped by schools with more losses, Cincinnati has the seal of approval and schedule to do a much louder case.

Fickell ticks off all the required qualifications for coaching stereotypes of hard work, focus, and a dash of luck before Cincinnati declares reaching the playoffs a viable option. “I really think it can happen,” said Fickell. “There is an opportunity. What more can you ask for? Does everything have to be aligned correctly? Yes.”

Ridder’s return supports this alignment exponentially. After throwing 19 touchdowns, rushing 12 more, and completing 66.2% of his passes, Ridder still has plenty of room to evolve as Cincinnati’s offense opens up.

Fickell has had myriad opportunities to pursue high-profile jobs, and he appreciates having Ridder there for one final dance to find creative ways to make sure his quarterback evolves.

Staff encouraged a trip this spring to visit private quarterbacks trainer Jordan Palmer in California to broaden Ridder’s horizons. Weight coach Brady Collins set a goal for Ridder to gain 10 pounds more to play at 225. A sizeable jump from him to 176 pounds and his lack of bulk earned him the nickname “Calvin Klein Model”.

Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock has focused on enabling Ridder to “feel uncomfortable”. Ridder will also be attending coaching meetings on Sundays this fall to help him gain a different perspective. “Just so he understands why and why we’re attacking it,” said quarterbacks coach and passing coordinator Gino Guidugli. “I think it will help him down the street.”

NFL scouts want to see a more polished passerby. When Guidugli hit Ridder’s graduation list that off-season, he was below 50% on passes to his left. Ridder especially struggled with shorter balls in that direction, so they worked on footwork to correct this. They also placed great emphasis on the accuracy of deep balls, as Guidugli noted some exaggerated mistakes in shooting in games against Army, Austin Peay and South Florida. “If he hits some of them early in the season, he might come out in the draft this year instead of coming back,” said Guidugli.

The Bearcat offensive this year should be laden with Jerome Ford, the Alabama transfer congestion – “he’s going to be special,” says Guidugli – and two tight ends of the NFL caliber with Leonard Taylor and Josh Whyle (six TDs), which remind Denbrock of the former Notre Dame star Tyler Eifert.

An offense that promises to be more aggressive in early situations is complemented by a defense that is both frustrating and helping to develop Ridder on a daily basis. Coordinator Mike Tressel’s first year defense stars would burst at any level as there are few better corner pairs in the country than Year 5’s Coby Bryant (four INTs) and real junior Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. At 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, Gardner got himself into the first-round NFL discussions with a big season and a little extra weight.

Senior end Myjai Sanders (seven sacks) has such a high engine that Fickell claims he would lose 9 pounds in a single workout. He is so disruptive that he has to suspend part of the training against the offense of the first team in order for it to play games. “Sometimes our throws, our readings are over as quarterbacks,” said Ridder of the constant pressure to defend himself. “It doesn’t make us just sit back and be a robot.”

On Ridder’s trip to California to train with Palmer, he received training in stability, mobility, and how body connectivity can affect throwing motion. A stiff ankle can hit the knee, which can kinetically affect accuracy. “Really learning that throwing is not just about your arms and torso, it’s your whole body and keeping everything in contact,” said Ridder.

Palmer was impressed with Ridder’s talent, athleticism, and the coaching he had received from Guidugli, the only quarterbacks coach Ridder had at UC. Palmer said he had a lot of admiration for it as a teacher. Nor is it lost to Palmer that Ridder’s “all-ball” focus has not strayed outside of soccer and family, as he has already demonstrated the habits and mannerisms of a professional.

Ridder’s decision to return could pay big dividend drafts, as Palmer predicted that Ridder would have reached the top of the second tier in that draft – think the neighborhood of Kellen Mond, Kyle Trask, and Davis Mills – when he explains this and in front of teams would have thrown.

With his 30 wins, Ridder was one of the five most successful quarterbacks in the history of the sport. Kellen Moore (50: 3) and Colt McCoy (45: 8) are out of reach, but Ridder could overtake Peyton Manning (39: 6) or perhaps catch David Greene (42: 10) and be immortalized in elite society.

“It can significantly improve its design status for the next year,” said Palmer. “Chances are he’s something like 43-5 and the NFL people are like, ‘Oh, this is one of the best college football players ever.'”

Right now, Ridder is trying his best to be the best girl dad and soccer captain he can. In February, he moved out of the apartment he’d shared with friends near campus across the Ohio River to prepare a home with Claire for Leighton’s upbringing. The diaper parties earned a bounty that exceeded his winnings as they collected more than 3,000-400 newborn diapers, 1,400 1s, 790 2s, 313 3s and 256 4s.

“I know babies go through a number of diapers,” said Ridder with a laugh. “But it’s ridiculous how much we have and how much stuff we already have.”

At the moment, diaper inventory is the couple’s primary concern. Next year, just before Leighton’s first birthday, they may be worried about draft inventories.

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