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Top 10 Bearcats: #8 Shaq Washington

The diminutive slot receiver came into his own this year after spending 2012 buried on the depth chart. He could have spent this year as a rotational piece as well if not for an injury.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back to July of 2013 I don't think that anyone could have correctly predicted the breakout of Shaq Washington. He was one of a handful of receivers who was vying for the only slot position on the team. A spot that everyone assumed was going to Anthony McClung.

But McClung was hurt for most of camp and really limited for most of the first month of the season. That injury slightly opened the door for Shaq, and he kicked it down with his play. Two things became clear about Shaq after the Illinois game. 1) He was so good that he simply had to be on the field this year. 2) He stole Ralph David Abernathy IV's turf in the passing game.

That last point doesn't garner enough discussion, but is certainly true. RDA4's main attribute in the passing game in 2012 was that he simply couldn't be covered by a linebacker in space. Everyone complained about Gran's use of RDA4 this year, and how he wasn't used properly. But no one has talked about how Shaq Washington was simply better in those situations than RDA4 was in 2012.

From October onward as the Bearcats went to more and more four receiver sets Shaq got more and more match ups with linebackers because defenses went with nickel and stuck the nickel back on Anthony McClung leaving Shaq matched up with linebackers. That was a win for UC, and Brendon Kay knew it, so Shaq became his security blanket. Shaq was targeted 10 or more times in five different games, only McClung had more with 6 such games. Here is the final line for Shaq's 2013 season

  • 102 targets *
  • 77 catches*
  • 75 percent catch rate
  • 785 yards
  • 1 receiving TD
  • 65 yards and 1 TD rushing
  • 3 for 3 for 40 yards and 1 TD passing

* The 102 targets are the most since Armon Binns in 2010, 77 catches is good for 5th in a single season

Thats a pretty objectively great year for someone that was off the radar before the start of the season. The best news of all is that like Chris Moore he will be back in 2014.