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Picking UC’s 2017 Breakout Candidates

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We know what to expect from some guys, but who will be the players that surprise us?

NCAA Football: South Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Gray was incredible last season. He was the best wide receiver on the roster for the Cincinnati Bearcats. He had more catches and yards than any other player. But before that he was playing in junior college. To say that Gray surprised in his first year would be an understatement. Even people who forecasted a breakout from Gray didn’t necessarily think he would ascend the ladder so quickly. But chaos is a ladder, and Gray took advantage of the storm circling the Bearcats and was easily the biggest breakout performer in 2016.

Who’s next? Let’s take some guesses, shall we?

Thomas Geddis

Since I struck gold with a receiver last year, I’m going to go back to the well. Someone is going to have to make up for the loss of Nate Cole and his 518 receiving yards and Geddis is the man to do it. Geddis will be the No. 3 receiver behind Gray and Kahlil Lewis, so he should get more opportunities than most to make up Cole’s production.

Last year, when he was allowed a little more time on the field, Geddis showed off a ton of big play ability, as he turned only three receptions into 104 yards and a touchdown in the season finale against Tulsa. I’m not expecting him to average 34.7 yards per reception for an entire season, but that game showed me that Geddis is ready to at least get into the 500 yard range.

Josiah Deguara

All of these picks are based on hunches, but this might be the one that is most hunch-like (hunchy? hunchish?). Deguara played in only four games last season and had as many receptions. He also doesn’t have incredible pedigree and will likely be stuck behind Tyler Cogswell on the depth chart. However, Mike Denbrock likes tight ends and the new offensive coordinator isn’t just going to ignore the position. Cogswell is bigger than Deguara, but that doesn’t mean he’s the better receiver. Deguara, a redshirt sophomore, is quicker, had more receptions in 2016 and could be utilized more often in passing plays, while Cogswell provides support in blocking situations. If that happens, and Denbrock calls more plays for the tight end, then Deguara could end up being a bigger contributor than you might think.

Of course, that assertion is based on a lot of ifs and I thought another UC tight end was going to break out last season and we saw how that turned out.

Kevin Mouhon

Mouhon is probably the most obvious name on this list. Luke Fickell, a defensive minded head coach, is now leading the Bearcats and Mouhon is coming off what could already be called a breakout year. The junior linebacker/defensive end led the Bearcats with 9.5 tackles for loss last season. If he turns more of those into sacks, he’ll be knocking on the door of the all-conference lists. Fickell and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman are just the men to unlock Mouhon’s potential.

Marquise Copeland

The defensive line has a chance to be special, as Mouhon isn’t the only player who could make a name for himself. With Cortez Broughton, the Bearcats have an anchor up front, and Copeland will further fortify the trenches. He had the fourth-most tackles on the team last season (59), including 4.5 for loss. I suppose you could say he already broke out as well, considering he had at least five tackles in eight of 12 games, but like Mouhon, Copeland is in for another major step forward.

Ross Trail

This is more of a pipe dream than these others. After two seasons of watching Hayden Moore, I’m just not sure he’s ever going to be more than serviceable. Trail obviously wasn’t even that last season, but he still has the raw talent. One of the two is going to win the starting job and if its Trail, maybe it’s because a switch got flipped and he’s ready to carry the offense. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, Trail has the higher ceiling than Moore and that could lead to some great things. Maybe.