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Returning Player Refresher: Kahlil Lewis

Lewis had the best year of any receiver on the team last year and this upcoming season should be even better.

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

On Oct. 22, 2016, Kahlil Lewis had himself a day. In a win against the East Carolina Pirates, he caught 11 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. If there was any doubt that Lewis had what it took to be a standout wide receiver, they were squashed that day. That made for some rather heavy expectations for his junior campaign last fall. Such expectations could have been too much.

Spoilers. They were not.

In his junior season, Lewis performed better than any other pass-catcher for the Cincinnati Bearcats and by quite a large margin. He had a team-high 61 receptions, which was more than twice as many as the next most productive receiver (Thomas Geddis with 29). His 61 receptions accounted for roughly a quarter of the team’s entire output.

I bet you want to know more about what he did with those catches as well. You’re in luck. Lewis turned those 61 catches into 676 yards. The second-place finisher, Devin Gray, had 444. Lewis’ output was good for about 26 percent of the entire receiving production from the Bearcats’ roster.

Lastly, let’s talk touchdowns. Lewis recorded seven receiving touchdowns, which was more than Geddis and Gray’s totals combined. He set a pretty incredible pace in this area early on, catching a touchdown pass in each of the first four games of 2017, but then didn’t have another until Nov. 18 when he caught one against East Carolina. He then had two in the season finale against UConn, giving him plenty to build off entering 2018.

Now that we have established that Lewis was UC’s best receiver last year, let’s take a look at how he measured up against the rest of the American Athletic Conference. Admittedly, it wasn’t as favorably, but for a guy on one of the worst passing offenses in the country, let alone the AAC, he did well for himself. He ranked sixth in receptions and, perhaps most impressively, had more than any other returning player in the conference. The five guys above him last year have all either graduated, gone on to the NFL or both. He also ranked seventh in receptions per game (5.1) and tied for sixth in touchdown receptions.

Despite being one of the top returning receivers in the AAC this year, Lewis still might not be considered the best in the league ... yet. He has the skills and opportunity to take another step forward in terms of production and if the offense improves with him, then Lewis is going to be even more of a force to be reckoned with. Good luck out there, opposing secondaries.