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Who Should Return Kicks for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2018?

The Bearcats need a new punt returner with Mike Boone and Devin Gray gone. Plus, will Michael Warren continue to field kickoffs now that he is moving up the offensive depth chart?

NCAA Football: Marshall at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats had a relatively OK special teams last season. They were not bad but they weren’t great either. Brian Mason will be tasked with making improvements for 2018, as he was promoted to special teams coordinator, replacing Doug Phillips, who is now an assistant coach working with the running backs.

Among the areas of focus for Mason’s group will be the return game. UC was far from the worst returning team in the American Athletic Conference last year, but they weren’t near the top either. They ranked fifth in punt return average (6.8 YPR) and seventh in kick return average (20.7 YPR).

The primary returners last season were running back Michael Warren (kickoffs) and wide receiver Devin Gray (punts). Obviously since Gray graduated someone else is going to have to handle punts, so let’s examine the options there first.

In his senior year, Gray handled 12 of the team’s 13 punt returns. He managed to be a reliable player at the post, even if he did not really break out any big-time returns of note, averaging just below eight yards per return. The only other guy to a return a punt for the team was Mike Boone, who also graduated and won’t be around to take on the mantle this year.

If Mason and head coach Luke Fickell decide to go with another wideout, they could do worse than Thomas Geddis. The junior became a much bigger part of the offense last season, but he also made a contribution as a kickoff returner. That skill doesn’t entirely translate to returning punts, but its close enough. He averaged 17.9 yards per return in kickoff duties as the secondary option behind Warren. If the Bearcats were willing to let a senior wideout like Gray pull double-duty on special teams, they might be willing to do the same with Geddis.

If Geddis is not the pick, then wide receiver Javan Hawes or running back Taylor Boose could be looked to, especially since Boose will be contending with a somewhat stacked running back corps for playing time. Some of the new guys could help as well.

Poll

Who should return punts for the Bearcats this season?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Thomas Geddis
    (11 votes)
  • 18%
    Javan Hawes
    (6 votes)
  • 33%
    Taylor Boose
    (11 votes)
  • 15%
    Someone else (Let us know in the comments)
    (5 votes)
33 votes total Vote Now

As for kickoff returns, Warren would seem to have a leg up considering he averaged a solid 23.1 yards per return as the primary option a year ago. However, Warren is going to get more playing time in the offensive backfield this year as Gerrid Doaks steps into the starting role and Warren becomes the primary backup. Whether or not the Bearcats want to put additional pressure on the sophomore running back remains to be seen.

Alternative options for kickoff returner include the players we named before as well as true freshman running back Charles McClelland. McClelland could use the special teams reps as he prepares to become a bigger part of the offense. In addition, the Bearcats already showed a willingness to give a freshman running back a shot since they did the same thing with Warren in 2017.

Poll

Who should return kicks for the Bearcats in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Michael Warren
    (9 votes)
  • 6%
    Thomas Geddis
    (2 votes)
  • 48%
    Charles McLelland
    (15 votes)
  • 16%
    Someone else (Let us know in the comments)
    (5 votes)
31 votes total Vote Now