The Cincinnati Bearcats had the ninth-best passing offense in the 12-team American Athletic Conference in 2017, averaging 216.4 yards per game. Even for a team with such a weak aerial attack, the Bearcats still had to have some players who could catch passes. There were 17 in total who brought in at least one reception.
The makeup of the pass-catching contingent of the roster in 2018 will have some top returning talent, but is also going to be stepping in a new direction with new additions, promotions and a few departures.
Devin Gray had a meteoric rise in 2016 and cratered back to earth in 2017. A JUCO transfer addition, Gray led the Bearcats in receptions (58) and receiving yards (860) while tying for the most touchdown receptions (five) during 2016. He did not live up to that level of production as a senior, finishing with only 28 catches for 444 yards and three scores. Even if he took a major step back in his final season, losing Gray will have a negative impact on the roster.
In addition to Gray’s departure, the Bearcats are going to need to find a new starting tight end with Tyler Cogswell moving on. Cogswell was never a dominant pass-catching threat, but he had a career-year in 2017 with 23 receptions, including two scores. He had a total of seven catches combined in his first three years on campus.
Other players no longer listed on the roster include JJ Pinckney and JaQuay Savage, who combined for 17 receptions and 222 yards in 2017. Wide receiver Marcel Paul and tight ends Garrett Weaver and Jake Elfers are all no longer listed as well.
Kahlil Lewis is back and that’s fantastic. Heading into his senior season, Lewis has just gotten better and better. He had 676 yards and 61 receptions last year, along with seven touchdown grabs, which all ranked first on the roster.
Joining Lewis on the edge will be Thomas Geddis, who was a breakout candidate for 2017 and he largely lived up to that, especially if you compare his work to that of every non-Lewis receiver. With 29 receptions, he ranked second on the team, turning those into 388 yards and three touchdowns. He also did some special teams work and we’ll see if that continues in 2018.
As for the rest of the returning receivers, guys like Javan Hawes (eight receptions, 57 yards, 1 TD), Jerron Rollins (13, 101, 1) and Rashad Medaris (6, 61, 0) all got some work a year ago, albeit fairly limited, while Malick Mbodj, Tyrin Summers, Trent Cloud, Braxton Neal and Jack Peterson are back in the mix as well. Mbodj and Neal both helped a bit on special teams last year, while Cloud and Kirk redshirted.
As for the tight ends, Josiah Deguara had 11 receptions for 98 yards as he partnered with Cogswell for the first seven games of the year. Bruno Labelle played in all 12 games, but was used more as a blocker, with only one reception on the year. Wilson Huber was a three-star recruit for the 2017 class and redshirted. He’s back as well.
The vaunted 2017 recruiting class added a number of talented players both at tight end and at wide receiver. Perhaps the most exciting prospect is Leonard Taylor, a 6’5”, 235-pound tight end and four-star recruit. Three-star prospects Dylan O’Quinn and Josh Whyle as well as Cincinnati-native Mick Oakes will also add to the tight end ranks .
On the wide receiver side of things, Meechi Harris, Jayshon Jackson and Alec Pierce are all three-star recruits worth getting excited about. Don’t forget about local recruit Wyatt Fischer either.