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Cincinnati Bearcats Football Season in Review: Alec Pierce

Pierce had a breakout 2019 and led the Bearcats in receiving yards.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 04 UCF at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Numbers

  • 37 receptions
  • 652 receiving yards
  • 2 touchdowns

After Kahlil Lewis served as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2017 and 2018, somebody had to step up in 2019. Although tight end Josiah Deguara ended up being the most productive pass-catcher in terms of receptions, there was a need for more. That’s where Alec Pierce entered the picture.

As a sophomore, Pierce made his presence felt in a major way after largely limited opportunities in the preceding year. He didn’t catch a single pass as a freshman in 2018, but he more than made up for the slow start by hauling in 37 passes for a team-high 652 yards as a sophomore last fall. Even though he didn’t find the end zone very often, recording only two touchdown receptions, Pierce still had a tendency to break off big plays, averaging a team-high 17.6 yards per reception among those with more than 10 catches.

A big play was what really started Pierce’s ascension. In the season opener against UCLA, he captured a 52-yard reception in the opening quarter during UC’s first touchdown drive. Pierce only had one other catch in that game, but after he followed up with a four-catch, 93-yard effort against Ohio State the next week, it was clear the Bearcats had a new receiver with potential.

The Best of the Best

Sept. 7, 2019 at Ohio State

Pierce’s showing against Ohio State was an impressive way to prove he had arrived.

Sept. 28, 2019 at Marshall

If the Ohio State game was his arrival, this was Pierce’s peak of the season. He set career-highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (108), surpassing the century mark for the first time ever. He also brought in his first touchdown catch.

Nov. 28, 2019 at Memphis

Pierce’s production dropped during the middle portion of the season, but he stepped up against the Tigers, turning four receptions into 77 yards.

Dec. 7, 2017 at Memphis

He kept that momentum going in the American Athletic Conference title game, catching five passes for 87 yards.

For Next Year

Cincinnati wasn’t a prolific passing team in 2019. The Bearcats averaged only 26.9 pass attempts per game and ranked 10th in the AAC in passing yards per game (182.3). Even on such a team, Pierce carved out a significant role for himself and that was when Deguara was still on campus. Now that Deguara is off to the NFL and veterans like Rashad Medaris are gone as well, Pierce is the clear favorite to inherit a lion’s share of targets next season. He’ll still have to compete with other rising prospects, but he has a head start after 2019.

In addition to an increase in responsibilities, Pierce will have larger expectations to carry next season. The soon-to-be junior may have arrived a bit earlier than anticipated, but after what he produced in 2019, he will be expected to get better. Opposing teams know that as well as the Bearcats, so Pierce will have to contend with more defensive attention and, as the presumed No. 1 wideout, he’ll be going up against the best cornerbacks in the league every week.

The real question is how high is Pierce’s ceiling? He already did enough as the No. 2 option to indicate he isn’t pushing up against it just yet, but that’s far from certain. How he performs next season will go a long way in giving us an answer.