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Returning Player Refresher: Josiah Deguara

Deguara revitalized the tight end position for the Bearcats in 2018 and as the team’s top returning pass-catcher, he should be a focal point for the offense once again.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 Ohio at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tight end has not always been a position of strength for the Cincinnati Bearcats, at least when it comes to pass-catching. Even if the best tight end in the NFL is a UC product, since Travis Kelce took off for the professional ranks after the 2012 season, the Bearcats just haven’t got a ton of production out of the position when it comes to picking up yards. That all changed last season when Josiah Deguara became on of the most indispensable receivers on the roster.

Before last season, a UC tight end had not surpassed even 200 yards receiving since Kelce had 722 in 2012. Players like DJ Dowdy, Tyler Cogswell and Blake Annen were all key members of the team and helped in run and pass protection, but nobody was able to take on a prominent role when it came to actually catching passes. Deguara reversed the trend by tallying 38 receptions and turning that into 468 yards and five touchdowns in 2018. He ranked second on the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns and third in receiving yards. The leader in all of those categories was Kahlil Lewis but he has moved on to try to make a name for himself in the NFL, That means that Deguara is the top receiving option to be returning to the UC offense.

Speaking of that offense, it wasn’t entirely surprising that the Bearcats began utilizing the tight end more last year. For starters, with the team turning to a new starting quarterback in redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder, it makes sense that Deguara got targeted more often. It is common for younger quarterbacks to rely on tight ends or at least that’s what the common assumption is. Deguara certainly formed a camaraderie with Ridder right away. He had 247 yards and three touchdowns on 18 receptions in the first month of the season alone, including a career-high 112 yards and a score on five catches against UConn. He didn’t exactly falter the rest of the way, with four more games of at least three receptions, highlighted by a regular season finale against East Carolina when he turned five receptions into 64 yards and a touchdown.

Deguara’s connection with Ridder wasn’t all that set him up for success. The man overseeing the offense also has a lot to do with that. Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock has a long history of coaching talented tight ends and giving them a starring role in the offense. He has previously coached players like Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph and in addition to his current role as offensive coordinator, he is also the coach for the tight ends. It may have taken a year for Denbrock’s philosophy about the tight end to take hold, as Deguara had only 11 receptions in 2017. However, even that was still a step up from his severely limited role during the 2016 campaign.

For as much Ridder and Denbrock have done for Deguara’s career, don’t think that he is just a benefactor of being in the right place at the right time. The former two-star recruit has clearly put in the work and after reaching the second-team all-American Athletic Conference team last season, he has proven that he is an important part of the offense. He should certainly continue to be in 2019 and that mean’s he could challenge Kelce’s claim to the UC tight end throne.