In 2018, Cincinnati Bearcats quarterbacks completed 227 passes to 17 different players. Among those 17, only six guys caught 20 or more passes throughout the season - RB Michael Warren II, TE Josiah Deguara, and WR Kahlil Lewis.
Warren and Deguara return in 2019 but Lewis graduated after leading the team with 56 catches. Lewis’ 56 catches were 18 more than the second highest player (Deguara) and 30 more than the next best wide receiver (Rashad Medaris).
Cincinnati QBs threw 22 touchdown passes to 7 different players. Kahlil Lewis led the group, catching 9 of those touchdowns. Among the other 13 TDs, 7 were caught by non-WR - Deguara (5), Warren (1), Charles McClelland (1).
Overall, Cincinnati’s WR room returns 82 catches, 1,150 yards, and 6 TDs.
The top three returning WRs are Rashad Medaris, Thomas Geddis and Jayshon Jackson. Those three account for all 6 returning WR touchdowns, 69 of the 82 catches and 978 of the returning 1,150 yards.
Medaris established himself as a serious vertical threat for the Bearcats in 2018 but now he is in the running to become the top wide receiver on the depth chart.
Medaris and Geddis are both seniors, with a chance to carve out big roles. Medaris caught 3 touchdowns in 2018 (the only three of his career). He started his career at Western Illinois and transferred to UC in 2016, sitting out that season. He caught just 6 passes in 2017, before suffering an injury week 5. Geddis caught 7 passes as a freshman in 2016, and caught a career high 29 in 2017 and 20 in 2018. He caught just 1 TD in 2018, after catching 3 in 2017. Both WRs can provide a senior presence in the locker room and server as experienced, reliable options for QB Desmond Ridder.
Jayshon Jackson flashed a ton of potential at times in 2018 as a true freshman. He will be given plenty of opportunities, especially as him and Ridder continue to grow with each other. He had 7 multi-catch games, including 6 catches during a win against Alabama A&M. He caught two passes five times and three during a late season route against East Carolina.
Beyond those three players, Cincinnati has a ton of depth with exciting young wide receivers. While those WRs mostly lack experience and are seeking their first dose of real playing time in their collegiate careers, they all have a lot of potential and talent.
Trent Cloud, Javan Hawes, Malick Mbodj, and Yanez Rodgers saw the most playing time in 2018 of returning WRs - they combined for 13 catches in 2018. Hawes and Cloud were both part of Fickell’s first recruiting class from 2017. Hawes is a junior and Cloud is a redshirt sophomore. Yanez Rodgers caught 1 pass in 2018 but was technically a redshirt, so he enters his freshman year in 2019. Alec Pierce (who did not catch a pass) and Trent Cloud both enter their sophomore seasons.
Both Pierce and Cloud have reportedly been impressive during training camp and among this group, likely have the best chance to emerge as legitimate threats.
There is also Blue Smith, a redshirt freshman who transferred from Ohio State and was recently granted a waiver for immediate eligibility. Smith was the #39 recruit in the 2018 class, #9 WR and #3 overall from Ohio. He transferred from Ohio State and recently received a waiver for immediate eligibility.
Garyn Prater is another WR who transferred from Ohio State. He is the older brother of 2020 QB recruit Evan Prater and was previously a walk-on with the Buckeyes. He took advantage of a scholarship offer and the chance to play with his brother in the future.
Led by Tre Tucker, Bearcats have 5 freshman WRs on the roster, most, if not all of whom are likely to redshirt this season, though Tucker would be the most likely to see playing time.
If I had to guess the top 5 WRs in terms of production by the end of 2019, I would guess - Medaris, Jackson, Hawes, Pierce and Cloud, with Geddis and Rodgers also contributing, plus Blue Smith who may emerge more as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable in the offense. Several WRs will likely transfer at the end of 2019 - there are plenty of opportunities, but there won’t be enough snaps to please everyone.
There are no flashy names. No one with any previous major impact or special moments. And that’s okay. This is a young and deep group with a ton of talent. Desmond Ridder is entering only his second season as a starter as a sophomore. There is potential for a lot of big plays on offense from these WRs, even in an offense that focuses on the run game and whose top passing option is TE Josiah Deguara.