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Projecting the Depth Chart: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Who is going to catch passes in the American Athletic Conference’s most pass-happy offense?

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NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Houston Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

With fewer than three weeks separating us from Cincinnati Bearcats football, the things are coming into focus. While the depth chart entering fall practice looks one way, until the final practice is completed, there is still a chance things could change. Here’s how the situation at wide receiver and tight end could turn out.

Definite Starters

Nate Cole, WR

The only senior among the wide receivers, Cole is easily the No. 1 player on the depth chart at the position. He has played in 39 games during his career and accumulated 446 yards and three touchdowns in that time. He set career-highs in receptions (19) and receiving yards (262) last season despite battling six seniors for playing time.

DJ Dowdy, TE

Last season, Dowdy started in six games and played in 13 overall. His production (12 receptions, 104 yards, 3 TDs) wasn’t all that exciting, but he has the strength of being a player with returning experience who has proven he can consistently haul in passes.

Position Battles

The competition for the No. 2 receiver spot lost a bit of its intrigue this week, as junior Tshumbi Johnson broke a bone in his foot during practice and may be out for nearly two months. The 5’11”, 185-pound receiver played in nine games and caught four passes for 64 yards last season and had an eyebrow-raising performance in the spring game (five receptions, 88 yards).

Even before Johnson was hobbled, Kahlil Lewis seemed to be the clear favorite to line up with Cole on the first team, but since UC throws so often, being slotted in third or fourth on the depth chart will still lead to plenty of chances. Junior college transfer Devin Gray and Avery Johnson, the brother of NFL cornerback Patrick Peterson and LSU transfer, are primed to make an impact in 2016.

Final Projection

First Team

Nate Cole, WR1

Kahlil Lewis, WR2

Devin Gray, WR3

DJ Dowdy, TE

Gray and Avery Johnson will push Lewis for that No. 2 receiver role as will Tshumbi Johnson whenever he returns from injury. Gray, who came over from Sierra College in California, is an extremely quick receiver with good hands. He tallied 1,154 yards and 11 touchdowns in 69 receptions for Sierra as a junior and caught three passes for 24 yards in the spring. The three-star prospect gets a slight edge over Johnson, although their workload will likely look similar at year’s end.

Picking the No. 6 receiver on the roster is a difficult job. Cole, Lewis, Gray, Tshumbi Johnson and Avery Johnson were the only receivers to catch passes in the spring, and since the majority of the rest of the group is made up of freshman (both redshirt and true), you can expect the post be a rotating door for most of the season.

Second Team

Avery Johnson, WR1

Jamil Kamara, WR2

Brayden Beard, WR3

Tyler Cogswell, TE

Kamara is a former four-star recruit who sat out last season after transferring from Virginia. He played in five games and caught a single pass for six yards in his only season with the Cavaliers. However, with the dearth of experienced pass-catchers on the roster, he has a leg up.

Beard may not have the upside of some of the true freshman on the roster like Malick Mbodj, Tyrin Summers and Jerron Rollins, but having a year of being with the team under his belt may elevate the redshirt freshman.

Cogswell, who played in all 13 games last season and is a serviceable backup to Dowdy, even if his ceiling as a receiving threat is not as high.