Following the 2017 season, there were plenty of reasons to believe the Cincinnati Bearcats would become a powerful rushing team led by a star running back in 2018. They lived up to that destiny, ranking fourth in the American Athletic Conference and 15th nationally in rushing yards per game (239.5). They also had one of the best feature running backs in the country, but last year was supposed to be Gerrid Doaks’ time to ascend to stardom. Unfortunately, a lingering health issue from the 2017 season kept him out of the entire 2018 campaign and paved the way for Michael Warren to take a control of the top spot on the depth chart.
While Doaks was likely stoked for his teammate, it must have been difficult to know that if he was healthy, he might have been able to attain such success or at least team with Warren in a dominant backfield. With true freshmen Tavion Thomas and Charles McClelland getting work themselves, there’s no doubt that if he could have been out there, Doaks would have received a great deal of playing time and it would have made the UC rushing attack that much better. Fortunately, after a year-long wait, Doaks should be back to business this year and that means that whole making the rushing game better strategy is very much in play.
Before we start imagining the ludicrous rushing totals the Bearcats will amass this season, let’s take a look back at what made Doaks seem like the next great UC running back in 2017. At the time, the backfield still belonged to Mike Boone, who is now breaking off big runs for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL. Despite that 2017 campaign being Boone’s final one as a Bearcat, it was Doaks who emerged as the best runner on the team. Doaks managed 87 rushing attempts compared with 110 for Boone, but wound up at the top of the list in terms of rushing yards, tallying 513 across nine appearances. His 5.9 yards per carry average was promising and ranked second on the team among players to have at least 50 carries, with Warren’s mark of 6.0 yards per carry just barely besting him.
During those nine games in 2017, Doaks rushed for at least 50 yards on five separate occasions, including an incredible 149-yard effort against Tulane when he tied a career-high with 17 attempts. That contest marked the fourth and final game in which he would have double digit carries, but even when he received fewer opportunities, he still racked up yards. For example, he had 91 yards on nine carries in a matchup against SMU.
In addition to displaying fantastic skills when he was handed the ball, Doaks flashed solid ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught 14 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, adding to his rushing total to give him three scores overall.
Prior to 2017, Doaks had not been given much of a chance to contribute. He earned a three-star designation for the 2016 recruiting class but during his first year on campus, he was limited to red shirt status. The 2018 season wasn’t exactly the same, but Doaks has had ample time to recover and prepare to lend a hand in the rushing game this season. It remains to be seen just how large a role he will play due to the development of Warren, Thomas and McClelland but with how well they run and with what Doaks has shown when healthy, the Bearcats will find a way to get him into the game plan.