There are Devin Gray days left until the Cincinnati Bearcats season starts. That’s 21 for those counting at home. It’s a fitting note because today we are going to take a look back at the excellent 2016 season of the JUCO transfer and what to expect in 2017.
Roughly a year ago, Gray had never caught a pass for the Bearcats and yet some genius said he was going to be a breakout star for the team. My petty self promotion aside, Gray was a welcome addition to a team that lost a great deal of depth and talent on the wide receiving corps. Playing for Sierra College in California, Gray had made a mockery of opposing secondaries in junior college, tallying 69 receptions for 1,154 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015.
Gray quickly ingratiated himself to the UC coaching staff as well as the fans when he erupted for 111 yards on five receptions in his first appearance in a Bearcat uniform. That 100-yard effort was one of three he had during his debut season, as he had 105 and 143 yards against BYU and Tulsa, respectively. In total, he had at least five receptions in half of UC’s games and at least 90 yards in the same number. He averaged a healthy 14.8 yards per reception, which led all receivers with at least 20 catches. He also led in total receptions (58) and receiving yards (860), while tying with Kahlil Lewis for the most touchdown catches.
The 4-8 Bearcats did not have many players on conference top 10 leader boards. But there were a few. Eric Wilson led the American Athletic Conference in tackles, Mike Tyson and Alex Thomas cracked the top 10 in interceptions and Gray managed to break into the top 10 in the American Athletic Conference in receiving yards, finishing ninth, ahead of Jimmy Williams, who is still very much on the East Carolina Pirates.
After showing off what he could do during the final season of the Tommy Tuberville era, there should be a great deal of excitement surrounding Gray now that he will be learning from Luke Fickell and Mike Denbrock. As we discussed yesterday in our RPR of Lewis, the new offense is going to be fast and Denbrock has proven capable of coaching talented wideouts. Gray will fit in nicely to the new offensive strategy and should team up with Lewis to create one of the more productive receiving tandems in the conference, and, if things break really well, the entire country.
Its pretty amazing how Gray went from non-Bearcat to household name (among UC fans at least) in less than a year, but that’s where he is now. We’re no longer expecting a breakout from him. Instead, we’re expecting more of the same excellence.