CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bearcats’ sales pitch to Daniel Grzesiak was simple.
“They led the country in sacks (when this staff was) at Louisville last year,” Grzesiak said. “It caught my attention, for sure.”
That helped Cincinnati land a transfer commitment for the 6-foot-1, 245-pound rusher out of Utah State on Saturday, a massive addition to the Bearcats defense in 2023 under new coach Scott Satterfield.
Grzesiak, ranked 20th best transfer prospect available by Athleticism‘s Max Olson before his decision, spent his first four seasons in Nevada (including a redshirt), where he had 7 1/2 sacks. He transferred to Utah State for the 2022 season and led the Aggies with 8 1/2 sacks and added 52 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He was also credited with 34 QB rushes by Pro Football Focus, fourth among all Mountain West defenders last season.
Grzesiak arrives in Cincinnati as a sixth-year graduate transfer with one season of eligibility. He entered the portal on December 28, 2022, and quickly garnered offers from West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, Houston, and Kansas, among others.
“Really, I was just trying to play Power 5 ball and find a team that matched my skill set,” he said.
— Daniel Grzesiak (@DG_RunItUp) January 7, 2023
Grzesiak had no prior connection to Cincinnati or the new staff, but said Jack Griffith – a former New York Jets scout who Athleticism confirmed was hired as director of player personnel at UC – was the first to reach out. Greg Gasparato, a former Louisville assistant under Satterfield who was recently announced as the Bearcats outside linebackers coach, then led Grzesiak’s recruiting. The Los Angeles native paid an official visit to the Cincinnati campus starting Jan. 4 and quickly felt at home.
“The visit was fire. We saw the city, went out to eat, talked a lot with coach Gasparato,” said Grzesiak. “Coach Satt is a cool, really laid back, cool guy. I really like it. I liked it so much I had to cancel my visit to Kansas.
Grzesiak said the Bearcats see him as a hybrid defensive end/rush linebacker, a position new defensive coordinator Bryan Brown has used as part of his system that often features a 3-4 front and lots of shifts and moves on the line of scrimmage. At Louisville last season, where Brown was the defensive coordinator and current Cincinnati assistants Gasparato and inside linebackers coach Derek Nicholson were also on staff, the Cardinals led the FBS with 50 sacks and finished seventh in the nation. with 97 tackles for loss.
“They are very aggressive (in defence),” Grzesiak said. “They like to tackle the quarterback, give the offensive line and the offense different looks, make it difficult for the quarterback instead of sitting down and dropping eight people. That was the main thing – I’m an aggressive player and like to go after the quarterback.
Grzesiak said the Cincinnati staff have also encouraged him to play alongside established talent on defense, who are expected to return Jaheim Thomas and Deshawn Pace at linebacker along with Jowon Briggs, Eric Phillips and first-team All-AAC. Dontay Corleone selection up front.
“What they call him – The Godfather, right?” Grzesiak said of Corleone, who was PFF’s highest-ranked defender in 2022. “Yeah, we talked about him.”
Grzesiak (pronounced gresh-ick) is Cincinnati’s seventh addition through the transfer portal this offseason, joining offensive linemen Luke Kandra, Trevor Radosevich and Phillip Wilder, as well as linebacker Dorian Jones, wide receiver Keyshawn Helton and quarterback Emory Jones. Grzesiak is the most notable of these newcomers, perhaps aside from Emory Jones, and was arguably the most productive of the bunch in 2022.
Besides the sacks, the plan and Cincinnati joining the Big 12, Grzesiak mentioned the program’s track record of success as an alluring aspect, even beyond the 2021 run to the college football playoffs.
“It caught my attention, but I already knew Cincinnati had a winning history,” he said. “They win a lot here, and I like winning.”
The addition of Grzesiak is a big win for Satterfield and the new staff and gives the Bearcats another talented and dynamic tool to work with on defense as the team continues to replenish the roster.
“We want to be the best defense in the Big 12, try to lead the country in sacks again,” Grzesiak said. “And shoot, we’re trying to get back to the college football playoffs.”
(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)