Despite having a decent amount of talent on the roster last year, the Cincinnati Bearcats were not an overly successful rushing team. Of course a team-wide offensive deficiency was a major reason for that, since its not like the Bearcats didn’t have a solid offensive line and some good running backs. Still, averaging only 135.3 yards on the ground per game made them 11th in the American Athletic Conference.
The talent in the backfield was there, though, if you cared to dive a bit deeper. The total yards they rushed for may have been below average, but with a 4.38 yards per carry mark, the Bearcats were at least picking up decent yardage on a per attempt basis.
Improving on both the quantity and quality of the running game would help the offense make the strides it needs to help UC field a competitive team in 2018. Most of that improvement will come from the running backs. Here’s how the group will stack up this season.
Starting running back Mike Boone is the biggest departure for the group. Boone rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns on 110 attempts last season (4.2 YPC) and also added 24 receptions. Boone was, at times, the most electric player on the field in his four years for the Bearcats. In 2014 and 2015 he was unstoppable, amassing 1,399 yards and 18 touchdowns as a rusher, but the next two years were much less productive. Still, he was a player who had at least 100 rushes in four-straight seasons and that doesn’t even take into account his work as a returner.
To his credit, Boone seems to be doing just fine as he tries to make it in the NFL.
Another running back that will no longer be toting the ball for the Bearcats is Jaelen Greene, who decided to transfer to Jacksonville State. Greene was a prospect with promise, but only carried the ball four times last year and, as we discussed at the time of his transfer announcement, may have seen more opportunity elsewhere.
Lastly, Cameron Young is no longer listed on the roster.
The heir apparents to the UC backfield are Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren. They are worthy ones as well. Doaks showed real power and speed when he ran the ball last season. As Boone’s primary backup, he tallied a team-high 513 yards on 87 carries. He had three total touchdowns as well and with a 5.9 yards per carry average, has proven he can break off big gains. Warren rushed for 324 yards on 54 carries and scored one time. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry and should get even more work this year now that he is moving up the depth chart.
As for the other returning players, Taylor Boose has been with the Bearcats for a while now but still has only six career carries. Now a junior, Boose, who redshirted in 2015, is probably going to be used in a limited role. Redshirt freshman Michael Kopaygorodsky is also looking at very little playing time, if any at all.
While Malik Vann and Leonard Taylor are the biggest names for UC’s 2018 recruiting class, you could argue the running backs are the positional group with the most incoming talent from top to bottom. That’s due to the depth the newcomers will provide. Charles McClelland, Tavion Thomas and Ryan Montgomery are all three-star recruits that provide different skills and will help keep the backfield productive for years to come. Throw in local kid Colin Thurman and the Bearcats have a group of backs that run the gamut of expectations.