In the last two years, the Cincinnati Bearcats have had to say goodbye to some very talented running backs. There was Tion Green last year and following the 2017 campaign, it was Mike Boone’s turn. The duo combined for more than 4,000 rushing yards combined in their respective UC careers.
Somehow, even with those departures, the Bearcats are blessed with so much talent and depth at the position entering 2018 that they could be even better, if that’s possible. All that depth may have been a factor in Jaelen Greene’s recent decision to transfer to Jacksonville State.
Greene ran the ball four times for 15 yards in total last season, so it is completely understandable that he would be looking for a new opportunity with more playing time. Of course, the decision to transfer is a personal one and there are any number of factors of which we on the outside are not privy.
With that written, even after losing a three-star running back who has some collegiate playing experience, the UC running game should still be an improving one.
The biggest reason is that the Bearcats already have the heir apparents to the thunder and lightning combination that was Green and Boone. Gerrid Doaks came in and actually led the team in rushing a year ago (513), averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He had fewer carries than Boone, but made the most of his chances. The same can be said of Michael Warren, who averaged an even 6.0 yards per carry, compiling a total of 324 yards. Both players were only freshman and showed exceptional vision on the field and an ability to keep the ball (and the chains) moving.
As if having two players with three years left and the type of talent that Doaks and Warren possess wasn’t enough, the Bearcats have plenty of incoming players behind them ready for a challenge. The most lauded of the group are true freshmen Tavion Thomas and Charles McClelland. Thomas was ranked the No. 18 running back in his class and rushed for 1,663 yards and 24 touchdowns to become a top recruit in Ohio last season. As for McClelland, he won two state championships in Georgia and has abilities that stretch beyond the run game, which should make him a key player both on the ground and through the air.
Don’t forget about Ryan Montgomery either. He’s a three-star recruit who was among the top 50 recruits in Ohio for the most recent recruiting class.
All that talent should help UC improve on what has been a rather disappointing rushing offense the last two seasons. Even with Doaks and Warren making strides and flashing star potential, the Bearcats ranked second to last in the American Athletic Conference in rushing yards last season (1,624). Now, the offense as a whole was pretty weak and because they trailed very often they ended up with the fewest rushing attempts in the league (371), but there is still clearly room for the Bearcats to improve. That will be made easier with the wealth of options that Luke Fickell and his offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and running backs coach Doug Pillips have to work with, even if one has moved on to another team.