One of the more frustrating aspects of the 2016 season for the Cincinnati Bearcats was the fact that they couldn’t find more offensive success despite having a solid group of guys up front. With Deyshawn Bond, Idarius Ray, Korey Cunningham, Ryan Leahy and Ryan Stout, there was a nice grouping of offensive lineman which helped the Bearcats allow the second-fewest tackles for loss in the American Athletic Conference (62).
As the new offense, which promises to be faster under Mike Denbrock and Luke Fickell, is built, the offensive line will need to be adaptive and able to move at the pace the new regime wants. The personnel for this year will be challenged to do that, without a few key contributors from a year ago.
This is where the bad news lives and there’s a lot of it. A lot more than a rebuilding team wants to hear. Bond, Ray, Leahy and Stout are no longer listed on the roster.
Bond was an all-AAC second-team selection in 2015 and played in 48 games over his four years at UC. His presence will be missed and that’s an understatement. Ray played in 18 games, including nine in his final campaign. Stout had a short career but played in all 12 games in 2016 and Leahy was also an all-conference talent in 2015 like Bond. He played in 25 games combined over his last two seasons. That’s a lot of manpower and field time that needs to be accounted for by the 2017 team.
Cunningham is know as “Big Country” and he is the biggest returning player for the offensive line, even if Kendall Calhoun has him on a technicality, standing one inch taller on the depth chart. Cunningham is a 6’6”, 305-pound left tackle who started in 12 games a year ago. He played in 831 of 850 offensive plays so he has the durability and experience to be a real leader for the team.
Although Cunningham will be without a number of his mates from a year ago, its not as if the Bearcats have nobody with any experience. Will Steur is a homegrown lad who stands at 6’4” 300 pounds and started in five games at guard last season. David Niehaus (6’1”, 299 pounds) was in 11 games last season and can play center. He should probably move into a starting role this season.
On top of that, there are rising players who were with the team last year and will add depth during this one like Tyler McGarr, Keith Minor, Alex Heil, Zach Bycznski, Mason Garrison, Garrett Campbell, Calhoun and Morgan James. Then there’s redshirt freshman Doug Bates, a former three-star recruit, and former defensive lineman Chris Ferguson, who is taking on a new position after redshirting in 2014 and not playing in 2015 or 2016.
There are a couple notable newcomers, led by Jakari Robinson, Cody Lamb and Blake Yager, who were all pillars of the 2017 recruiting class.
Robinson is a 6’2”, 290-pound lineman from Alabama who was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He can play center and would be a nice backup to Niehaus if he doesn’t work his way into the rotation at another position.
Lamb was a three-star recruit for the 2017 class and comes from Miamisburg, Ohio where he was a first-team All Greater Western Ohio Conference selection.
Yager is a 6’5”, 292-pound sophomore who most recently played at Iowa Western Community College and endured the end of the Tommy Tuberville era from the recruiting angle but recommitted to the Bearcats once Fickell was hired.
Lastly, Kyle Trout is a transfer student from Ohio State who played in nine games during the 2016 season. At 6’6” and 310 pounds, he should be incredibly difficult to get past.