A lot has changed for the Cincinnati Bearcats since 2016. In the last three plus years, the program has completely shaken up the coaching staff, reached a new level of success on the recruiting trail and taken a seat at the contenders table in the American Athletic Conference. Considering the fact that they went just 4-8 during the 2016 season, its quite a marvel that they have gotten to where they are so quickly.
The 2016 season also featured one of the final recruiting classes of the Tommy Tuberville era. Although Tuberville’s tenure with the Bearcats ended quite dismally, the 2019 season will still be affected by what he and his staff was able to do in 2016. It wasn’t the most impressive of classes, at least in terms of ranking. According to 247Sports, UC had the 74th best class in the country in 2016 and just the sixth-best class in the AAC. Many of the players from that group proved the rankings wrong and are now entering their senior seasons. Let’s review the class and what they’ve accomplished at UC over the last three years.
Perry Young, LB
Young has had perhaps the most heralded career with the Bearcats among 2016 recruiting class members. He was an on the All-American Athletic Conference first team last season and in 2017 reached the century mark in tackles. Originally recruited as a three-star safety, Young’s transition to linebacker has been exceptional.
James Wiggins, S
Young has the longer track record of impressive play but Wiggins, who was also a three-star recruit, announced himself as a certified star in 2018. After redshirting in 2016 and playing sparingly in 2017, he had four interceptions last season, including more than a few that effectively won games for the Bearcats. His playmaking also yielded nine passes defended and five pass breakups not to mention 54 tackles and culminated in a second-team all-conference honor.
Michael Pitts, DE/JACK
Pitts shared a similar trajectory to Wiggins even if he did not get as much acclaim last fall. With 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks, Pitts took to the newly fashioned JACK position about as well as you could hope. Such production came following a 2016 redshirt season and a 2017 campaign with very little playing time for the former three-star prospect.
Kendall Calhoun, OL
Since he transferred to UC from Lackawanna Community College, Calhoun has already taken the next step in his career but he did appear in 10 games for the Bearcats during his two seasons on campus.
Gerrid Doaks, RB
Since he missed all of 2018, you might have forgotten how quickly Doaks made an impact for the Bearcats and what an impact it was. The now redshirt junior was the team’s leading rusher in 2017 when he breathed hope into the UC offense and the future aspirations of the running game by tallying 513 yards and two touchdowns. He should be back to health this season but now will have to compete for touches with Michael Warren, Tavion Thomas and Charles McClelland.
Devin Gray, WR
Gray was a breakout star for the 2016 team. He led the Bearcats in receptions (58), receiving yards (860) and tied for the top mark in receiving touchdowns (five). The graduate transfer wasn’t unable to recreate such production in 2017, managing only 28 receptions and 444 yards before graduating.
Thomas Geddis, WR
It looked like Geddis, who had 139 yards on seven receptions as a freshman, might have been on the cusp of a breakout following his second season in 2017 when he had 29 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers might not seem all that impressive but remember that the Bearcats ranked ninth in the AAC in passing yards that season (216.4 per game) and dead last in yards per attempt. Unfortunately, Geddis regressed in 2018 but he could certainly bounce back with the opening left on the roster by the departure of top receiver Kahlil Lewis.
Zach Bycznski, OL
Bycznski has carved out a role as a rotational piece for the offensive line in his three years with the Bearcats. The former three-star recruit played in 12 games last season after redshirting in 2016 and largely spending the 2017 season on the sidelines.
Tyrin Summers, WR
Summers may have been on the roster in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but he didn’t get many chances to contribute and is now trying things out with Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Bruno Labelle, TE
While fellow tight end Josiah Deguara has gotten more targets and more headlines recently, LaBelle has quietly gone about his business, playing in 25 games combined during the last two seasons after redshirting in 2016 and lending a hand in pass and run protection while catching eight passes for 60 yards. That might not earn accolades for the former three-star prospect but the contributions have still been valuable.
Jake Sopko, QB
When Sopko decided on UC as a three-star quarterback prospect, he may have thought he’d have a chance to be the signal caller of the future. Unfortunately for him, he has been left in an understudy role, with just a few appearances and three total pass attempts in mop-up duty in the last two seasons after redshirting in 2016.
Malick Mbodj, WR
A top 150 wide receiver for the overall 2016 recruiting class, Mbodj has flashed big play ability, averaging 24.7 yards per reception as a Bearcat. The only problem is that he has done that on only three catches, which all came during the 2018 season.
Ty Sponseller, LB
Sponseller was another 2016 recruit who redshirted after attaining a three-star status as a prospect. Although he never became a primary starter at linebacker before departing for Elon, Sponseller still had 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks with UC in 2018.
Marquis Smith, CB
Another three-star recruit who redshirted in 2016 and provided sparse production in 2017 and 2018 (22 total tackles), Smith is no longer on the roster.
Joel Dublanko, LB
The Bearcats have been lucky enough to have a lot of talent at linebacker during the last few seasons. Dublanko is part of that group even if he hasn’t risen as high as fellow 2016 class member Young and players like Bryan Wright and Jarell White. Even in a secondary role, he has gradually gotten more playing time and rewarded the coaching staff with more production, including a career-high 27 tackles last season.
Elijah Ponder, DT
Ponder has largely been stuck behind some more seasoned players on the depth chart but that hasn’t stopped him from making an impact when he has been given shot. In eight games last season, he had nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He had only appeared in one game before that but the former two-star defensive end recruit may be on the inside track for more opportunities in 2019.
Curtis Brooks, DT
Brooks falls into the same boat as Ponder. Both are former two-star defensive end prospects who redshirted in 2016 and have gradually fought their way to more important roles on the line as defensive tackles. He has 39 combined tackles over the last three seasons and should add to that this season.
Tyquan Statham, LB
Statham redshirted in 2016 and played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017. Unfortunately, due to forces outside of his control, his playing days came to to an end after the 2017 campaign.
Jerron Rollins, WR
As a former three-star prospect, Rollins tallied 23 receptions for 222 yards and two touchdowns across 36 games from 2016 to 2018. However, he opted to play elsewhere going forward.
Davin Pierce, S
As a junior college transfer from Blinn College, Pierce stepped in immediately in 2016 and began making plays at safety. He would tally 33 tackles, four tackles for loss, three passes defended and a sack in two years with the Bearcats.
Marcel Paul, WR
Pauls’ three-star recruiting status didn’t end up yielding him much playing time and ultimately led him to leave UC to play elsewhere.