Here’s something you may not know: Cincinnati can run the ball. Sure, the Bearcats are absolutely a passing team, ranking in the top 20 nationally in passing offense in each of the last three seasons. In fact, last season, they finished No. 6.
With that said, UC can still move the ball on the ground. The team ranked fifth in the AAC in rushing yardage last season (177.92 yards per game). In 2016, the pass will still be the first priority, but having a strong group of running backs will be critical to balancing the offense as well as giving the passing game options out of the backfield. So who should we expect to see out there?
The situation is much less drastic than that at wide receiver, but UC will be replacing its leading rusher from last season. Hosey Williams managed to put together 777 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, while being a minimal producer through the air (six receptions, 37 yards). Williams started in eight games and played in all 13 last year, and recorded 1,570 yards and eight touchdowns during his career with UC, which was shortened by a season-ending injury in 2014.
For the Bearcat backs still on campus, there will be a new man leading the charge from the sidelines. Eddie Gran, the former offensive coordinator and running backs coach for the Bearcats, is now performing those same duties for the Kentucky Wildcats. Gran was replaced, at least as running backs coach, by Ty Linder, who will be serving as special teams coordinator as well.
Williams’ departure is much easier to handle because of the return of Mike Boone and Tion Green, who should form a tandem at running back that few teams can rival.
Of the two, Green is the most experienced, having played in 34 games while amassing 1,329 yards and 17 touchdowns during his career. The senior from Sanford, Florida had 729 yards and eight touchdowns as a runner last season and also contributed 101 yards on 13 receptions, while his 151 carries led the team. In addition, he led the Bearcats in rushing four times, including his effort against USF when he ran for 51 yards and two scores on 10 carries during a game in which the Bearcats averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt.
While Green was a steady force, Boone is the player with the big upside. The junior racked up 749 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns on only 104 attempts in 2015. His average of 7.2 yards per carry jumps off the page not to mention the fact that he led all UC running backs in receptions (15) and receiving yards (108). Boone also helped out on special teams and will likely continue to do so.
Chad Banschbach is another returning player in the backfield, but one who will see much less action than Boone and Green. The junior from Indiana played in eight games last season and rushed for a total of 72 yards on 19 carries. The overwhelming majority of that work came against UCF when he had 75 yards on 18 carries.
Aside from Linder, the coaching staff added Nick Grimes to not only coach tight ends but H-Backs as well. Grimes was an offensive graduate assistant for UC during the last two seasons.
While not strictly newcomers, Taylor Boose and Joshuwa Holloman redshirted in 2015 and will both be competing for some of the playing time Williams left behind. Boose is a three-star prospect from from Virginia. He did a solid job in the spring game, rushing for 34 yards on six carries. However, Holloman, also a three-star prospect, stole the spotlight in that exhibition, tallying 106 yards and two scores on nine attempts.
Deionte Buckley isn’t really new to UC either, having played for the Bearcats in 2012 before transferring to Indiana State. He had the second-most carries in the sporing game (12) and produced 50 yards.
In terms of actual newcomers, three-star recruit Gerrid Doaks and local prospect Hunter Gillespie are true freshmen.