Guidugli's goals include playing Irish, Kelly in BCS bowl
By Bill Koch •
August 16, 2010

WEST HARRISON, Ind. -- Like his teammates, University of Cincinnati tight end Ben Guidugli is focused on winning a third straight Big East title.

But his goals include a unique twist.

[IMGR][/IMGR]Not only does he want to win the Big East, he said, “I want to play Notre Dame in the BCS bowl game.”

Guidugli was one of the most outspoken players in his criticism of Brian Kelly when Kelly left for Notre Dame last year.

“We don’t really care what he has to say anymore,” Guidugli said after Kelly informed the team of his decision at the football banquet. “He can go talk to his Notre Dame team. We’re ready to move forward with whoever wants to move forward with us.”

Eight months later, Guidugli has eagerly embraced the approach of new coach Butch Jones.

“It’s a different philosophy,” Guidugli said Monday. “It’s more family-oriented instead of a business approach or an NFL approach where you just get in and get out with no real personal relationships.

“There are different ways to skin a cat, but I like Coach Jones’ philosophy. Our team this year is going to be together from game one until the end. Last year we kind of came apart at the end.”

Guidugli practically drools when he talks about UC’s array of offensive weapons, from quarterback Zach Collaros to running back Isaiah Pead to the talented receiving corps.

“This offense is better than last year’s,” Guidugli said. “I really don’t know what a defense is going to do (to stop us) this year.”

Opposing defenses will definitely have to keep an eye on Guidugli, a senior from Highlands High School who has emerged as one of the more versatile players in Jones’ spread offense.

“Ben’s a weapon,” Jones said. “He’s proven that over the last couple of years. He’ll be on the field a lot.”

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Guidugli arrived at UC in 2006 known primarily as the little brother of quarterback Gino Guidugli, who completed his eligibility in 2004 and is still the school’s career passing leader.

Ben has carved out quite a niche of his own. As he prepares for his final season at UC, he’s regarded as one of the best tight ends in the Big East Conference, if not the country.

He was second-team all-Big East in 2009 and this year the Sporting News names him a second-team pre-season All-American after a 2009 season in which he caught 27 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns.

He added another accolade Monday when he was named to the watch list for the John Mackey Award that goes to the nation’s best tight end.

“It means that somebody noticed all the hard work that I put in,” Guidugli said. “It feels good but at the same time I know that I’ve got to come out here and get better every day. This is a new year. Last year doesn’t matter.”

Jones and his offensive coaches have big plans for Guidugli this fall.

“He’s a big, strong kid,” said tight ends coach Mark Elder, “so he can bring a lot of different elements to us as an offense where the defense won’t know necessarily know what we’re going to do when he’s in the game.”

Elder foresees three different roles for Guidugli. He can be flexed out as a wide receiver running the same routes the other receivers run. He can line up as a traditional tight end where his blocking can help the running game. And he can play the H back position, where, Elder said, “He can do some pulling and blocking from an off-the-football position.”

Guidugli’s pass-catching ability has never been in doubt. If there’s one element in his game that has needed improvement it’s his blocking. Guidugli, who concedes “I couldn’t block anybody when I got here,” says he has worked hard to improve in that area.

He’s coming along (as blocker),” Jones said. “A lot of it is having the mentality and the want-to and he’s demonstrated that.”