Back in May, we embarked on a journey to find the next deep threat for the Cincinnati Bearcats. We did this because UC’s receiver corps was decimated by graduation, with the top six receivers on the team ending their collegiate playing careers in 2015.
This is an alarming issue for UC. On a team whose offense is built on throwing the living heck out of the ball, the pass-catching positions are critical. Like it or not, many players with little experience are going to have to step in and replicate what guys like Shaq Washington, Chirs Moore and Max Morrison did.
Last season, the Bearcats accumulated 4,679 yards through the air. Of that yardage, 3,949 can be accredited to players who are no longer on the team. Of that, 3912 of was produced by a wide receiver. (Running back Hosey Williams had 37 receiving yards).
Washington is easily the biggest loss. He led the Bearcats in receptions (90) and yards (982) while adding in six touchdowns. His steady presence and consistent hands were incredibly valuable.
Chris Moore, last year’s best deep threat, is another big loss due to his ability to take the cover off of opposing secondaries. He only had 40 catches last season (third on the team) but produced 870 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
In addition to Washington and Moore, Max Morrison (52 receptions, 617 yards, 3 TDs), Mekale McKay (27 receptions, 507 yards, 2 TDs), Alex Chisum (38 receptions 475 yards, TD) and Johnny Holton (17 receptions, 461 yards, 5 TDs) made up an incredibly dynamic group of senior receivers who leave big shoes to fill.
The departure of all those senior receivers will open up a lot of chances for Nate Cole, who still managed to produce 262 yards and a touchdown on 19 receptions as a junior. Cole’s production was scattered throughout the reason, although he played his best game against Houston, turning three catches into 66 yards and a touchdown.
In addition, Tshumbi Johnson (4 receptions, 64 yards) and Kahlil Lewis (3 receptions, 53 yards) got some work, although it was obviously on a microscopic level. Lewis, who was just a freshman a year ago, has a great deal of hype surrounding him and could be the next great Bearcat receiver.
UC could shift its offensive philosophy slightly if it wants to give the largely fresh crop of receivers time to develop. Although the tight end position has not been a focal point for the Bearcats, DJ Dowdy (12 receptions, 104 yards, 3 TDs) and Tyler Cogswell (4 receptions, 22 yards, TD) have experience. Dowdy is especially intriguing and has the potential to have a breakout season.
In addition to the players, the coaching staff that focuses on the receivers is largely the same. Blake Rolan returns for his fourth season as wide receivers coach after joining the staff in 2013. Nick Grimes may be in his first year as the tight ends and h-backs coach, but he has been on staff since 2014 as an offensive graduate assistant.
Everyone (just about).
Of the 14 receivers on the roster, five are true freshman. That group is made up of Jerron Rollins, Marcel Paul, Malick Mbodj, Tyrin Summers and Thomas Geddis. Rollins is a 6’2”, 193-pound three-star prospect from Florida. Paul, also a three-star recruit, was ranked the No. 164 receiver in his class by Scout and brings his 6’1”, 183-pound frame to UC from Michigan. Mbodj could develop into a serious red zone threat due to his size (6’4”, 200 pounds) and the fact that he was rated the No. 9 receiver in Georgia by Scout. Geddis (6’1”, 167 pounds) was a two-star prospect according to 247Sports and comes from Florida. Summers, who stands at 5’9”, was a sprinter in high school. His speed makes him an exciting addition.
Tommy Tuberville and company made other contingency plans for the mass receiver exodus, adding several transfers to the roster. Avery Johnson, (6’2”, 200 pounds) is a former four-star prospect who spent two seasons with LSU before joining UC last summer. Jamil Kamara (6’2”, 205 pounds) and Rashad Medaris (5’10”, 164 pounds) come from Virginia and Western Illinois, respectively. In addition, junior-college transfer Devin Gray is a former three-star prospect who played for two seasons at Sierra College in California before coming to UC.
Dowdy and Cogswell will eat up just about every tight end opportunity this season, but true freshmen Bruno Labelle, Doug Bates and Josiah Deguara provide depth at the position. LaBelle and Bates were both three-star recruits while Deguara earned a two-star designation.