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Season in Review: Charles McClelland

When they needed a big play, McClelland was there for the Bearcats.

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

The Numbers

  • 485 rushing yards
  • 7.7 yards per carry
  • 9 receptions
  • 108 receiving yards
  • 5 total touchdowns
  • 13.3 yards per kickoff return

The Cincinnati Bearcats are loaded at running back right now and that should continue for a while. One of the pillars of that development is Charles McClelland, a three-star recruit who stepped in right away as a freshman and made a serious impact during the 2018 season.

Before the season started, it would have been fair to assume that McClelland wouldn’t get much playing time. The Bearcats were projected to lean on Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren as their running back tandem after both made their own promising starts as freshmen in 2017. But Doaks’ health didn’t hold up, unfortunately, which meant the Bearcats needed some production from the new guys. McClelland (along with fellow freshman Tavion Thomas) helped with that. Obviously, Michael Warren took on the lion’s share of the work, but McClelland (and Thomas) helped bring a change of pace that was necessary. Otherwise, Warren may have been gassed before the season even hit November.

Starting with some massive production in UC’s dominant season-opening win against Alabama A&M, McClelland quickly exhibited an ability to get into the open field and pick up large chunks of yardage. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry while running the ball 63 times this past season. That equated to 485 yards, which ranked third on the team (among running backs) behind Warren and Thomas. McClelland also made some inroads as a receiver out of the backfield, especially during the last two games of the year when he combined for four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

As if that wasn’t enough, McClelland also got a few tries out on special teams as a kick returner. He averaged 13.3 yards per return on only seven tries, but perhaps his explosive running will translate to more chances in the future.

The Best of the Best

Sept. 15 vs. Alabama A&M

Welcome to your first college football game, Mr. McClelland, Can I interested you in 121 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries?

Oct. 20 at Temple

Even though he didn’t get a ton of play, McClelland made sure the opportunities he did get were productive, as he racked up 70 yards and a touchdown on only four attempts.

Nov. 3 vs. Navy

This was another example of packing a lot into only a few chances. McClelland ripped off 85 yards and a score on six carries.

Nov. 23 vs. East Carolina

While Thomas started this game in place of Warren, McClelland also got to work, producing 114 yards and a touchdown on eight carries while adding two receptions for 30 yards.

For Next Year

It will be very interesting to see how the Bearcats juggle their depth at running back next season. Breakout seasons from Warren, Thomas and McClelland will make it difficult to just give Doaks the majority of the carries once he is healthy. For McClelland, to ensure he gets opportunities, he needs to keep breaking off big runs and showing good vision in the open field. It’s possible that could lead to some more special teams work as well. Either way, we’ll certainly be seeing more of him in the next few seasons.

Editor’s note: This article was corrected to clarify that McClelland ranked third in rushing yardage among UC running backs in 2018.