NOTE: This has been updated from a previously published article in December to include notes from the February Signing Day.
National Signing Day was a huge success for the Cincinnati Bearcats and their coaching staff.
“If they keep score, we want to win”.
That’s what Luke Fickell said during his introductory press conference at Cincinnati back in 2017. Well, I would say, when it comes to recruiting, Cincinnati won.
Coming out of December, the Bearcats’ recruiting class was ranked 53rd. They now sit at #40, the highest ranking in school history, and 25 spots higher than the next Group of 5 team (Boise State at 65).
They are ranked high notable power 5 schools such as NC State, Louisville, Michigan State, Virginia, Iowa State, Virginia Tech, USC, among others.
Among the 22 recruits (# per 247Sports)
- 3 top 400 players - QB Evan Prater (176), LB Jaheim Thomas (337), WR Jadon Thompson (353)
- Prater, Thomas, and Thompson are all 4-star recruits and ESPN gave DB Sammy Anderson a 4th star (though, 247 has not, yet)
- 4 of the top 25 players from Ohio (Prater, Thomas, Anderson, and Justin Wodtly
- 9 top 50 players from Ohio (those 4 plus Chris Scott, Ethan Wright, Tyler Scott, Gavin Gerhardt)
- #1 QB from Ohio (Prater)
- #1 CB from Cincinnati (Anderson)
The success of this class proves that Cincinnati is a brand that resonates with local players and also a bit nationally. It means this coaching staff doesn’t need a P5 logo on their sweaters to convince kids to sign with them.
When Luke Fickell accepted the job at Cincinnati in 2017, he prioritized “the state of Cincinnati” focusing on keeping as many local prospects home as he can and the 2020 class is a clear reflection of that motto.
Evan Prater, Jaheim Thomas, and Deshawn Pace are all proof of the success of that motto, all choosing to stay home rather than sign with a name brand or big time power 5 school (Thomas, specifically, had major offers that he turned down in favor of UC).
In total, 11 of the Bearcats’ 22 signees are from Ohio.
This coaching staff has always had a plan when it comes to recruiting. They recruit a specific type of player at each position and were successful in achieving what they wanted.
They added four offensive lineman, which has obviously been a weakness as of late. Between Gavin Gerhardt, Jake Renfo, John Williams, and Kobe McAllister, you hope at least 2-3 of these guys (if not all 4) can make an impact during their careers.
Ethan Wright and Norman Love were both recruited as athletes and offer positional flexibility moving forward.
There is a pair of linebackers, given that this is becoming a position of need because of graduations after 2019 and 2020.
Wide receiver became a need this off-season due to graduations and transfers. Cincinnati added 3 WRs in the second National Signing Day, including a 4-star WR Jadon Thompson, who flipped from hometown Illinois to join the Bearcats.
And every recruiting class should include a quarterback, and Cincinnati could not have done better than adding the local Prater.
LBs Jaheim Thomas and Daved Jones might have a chance to play in 2020. With Perry Young and Bryan Wright graduating, there is a void to fill at linebacker. Whether its 2020 or soon after, these two will likely be in a position to be among the earliest contributors from this class.
Justin Wodtly is another potential early contributor, simply because of how Cincinnati likes to rotate their defensive lineman. Wodtly is expected to play inside at DT, and could play a limited role as a freshman in 2020 as he eases his way into significant playing time. Curtis Brooks, Elijah Ponder, and Marcus Brown were all juniors in 2019 and will all return to a stack d-line in 2020. That will leave a huge void in 2021, and Wodtly could be in line for the job. It might be wise to play him in 4 games in 2020, but no more, so that he could redshirt and maintain four years of eligibility.
WR Jadon Thompson, mentioned above, could play in 2020. Gone from the WR room are Rashad Medaris, Thomas Geddis, and Malick Mbodj. Cincinnati has a ton of talent at WR, but not many proven commodities at this level. Thompson and perhaps Marquez Bell and athlete Norman Love, may all be given a chance to compete right away from snaps and targets. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, Thompson, specifically, should play a huge role on the Cincinnati offense in the years to come.
TE Peyton Singletary is unlikely to contribute in 2020 and maybe not even 2021, but with Josiah Deguara graduating there is no clear cut tight end of the future. There’s a ton of depth with Josh Whyle, Leonard Taylor, Bruno Labelle, Wilson Huber but until one of these guys separates themselves from the others in spring camp, this position will remain wide open.