More than a few players rose to stardom during the 2018 season for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Desmond Ridder became the present and future at quarterback, Michael Warren transformed into one of the best running backs in the American Athletic Conference, James Wiggins made big play after big play and Bryan Wright proved that he can be a dynamite pass rusher. Those are just a few of the contributors who made giant leaps forward and the Bearcats needed such advances, otherwise they might not have managed to win 11 games. If they hope to reach that summit or even surpass it in 2019, they’ll need even more players to take that type of step. Here are the most likely candidates.
Jayshon Jackson, WR
Although Jackson turned heads before last season, this might be the year he really steps into the limelight. The Bearcats will be on the lookout for a new No. 1 target after Kahlil Lewis served in that role last year and was largely successful. Although guys like Thomas Geddis and Rashad Medaris have a bit more experience, Jackson is the player with the most star potential. The then freshman wide receiver showed a real ability to get open and made some of the most incredible catches of the entire 2018 season.
WHAT I TELL YOU...JAYSHON JACKSON IS THAT DUDE. pic.twitter.com/pTyzf4qT4v— sK. (@_ShaneKinnee) September 22, 2018
Despite an abundance in ability, Jackson’s production was a bit more muted than some of his fellow wideouts. He caught 23 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns while making one start and appearing in 13 games overall. He only surpassed 50 yards receiving once when he caught six passes for 80 yards against Alabama A&M. Some of that can be blamed on the fact that he was just a freshman. Now that he’s had a year to acclimate, expectations are that he will become an even more important part of the Bearcats’ offensive game plan.
Rashad Medaris, WR
Just because Jackson has a ton of potential doesn’t mean you should overlook Medaris. Since transferring to Cincinnati from Western Illinois, he has had only modest opportunities to contribute for the Bearcats. In the last two season, he has collected all of 32 receptions but while he hasn’t received a ton of targets, he has flashed the type of big play ability that could make him a certified star as a senior. Among receivers to make at least 10 catches last season, no one averaged more yards per reception than Medaris (18.2).
On his way to a total of 472 yards and three touchdowns, Medaris already started to make a name for himself, surpassing 80 yards three separate times, including an 104-yard effort against Ohio University which included a 77-yard touchdown reception that sparked a second half rally. When the dust settled on the season, Medaris ranked second on the team in receiving yards behind Lewis. Now it might be his time to rise even higher.
Arquon Bush, CB
This may seem like a bit of cheating because Bush most certainly announced his presence during the regular season finale against East Carolina last year. After playing in only three games up to that point, Bush had an afternoon to remember as he brought in not one but two interceptions. For a player who appeared in only four contests overall, it was quite the statement.
This fall, Bush will be attempting to expand on that performance. As previously mentioned, the now redshirt freshman didn’t get a ton of chances in 2018. He still managed to impress though, particularly in his ability to make plays on the ball. Even without those two interceptions against East Carolina, Bush still managed four passes defended, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. UC’s secondary is already pretty solid but Bush could make it that much more dangerous.
Malik Vann, DE
Vann was a four-star prospect for the 2018 recruiting class so it’s really only a matter of time before he is dominating the headlines for the Bearcats. As a true freshman he played in 12 games as a reserve and used that time to begin developing his pass rushing skills. With a sack and a quarterback hit in limited minutes, he gave the Bearcats a glimpse of what to expect in the future. With the Bearcats having plenty of openings on the defensive line with the departure of players like Cortez Broughton, Marquise Copeland and Kimoni Fitz, there will be a multitude of chances for Vann to begin fulfilling his potential.