Potential Bearcat Football Team Players Next Season | Sports






Former University of Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant (6) throws the ball for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the football game against Austin Peay on Saturday September 19, 2020 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.




The Bearcats are starting to feel the consequences of being a top football program. All season, a handful of Cincinnati starters have made a name for themselves among NFL scouts, and with it, have formed a draft class with the potential to be the biggest in program history. That means the team will see plenty of first-year starters in 2022, including some of the most critical positions.

The biggest change will be at quarterback, as Desmond Ridder has officially left for the NFL Draft. Sophomore Evan Prater, who sat behind Ridder for the past two seasons, looked like the lock for the starting job a week ago. However, former Cincinnati QB Ben Bryant returned to the Bearcats after a year-long stint with the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

Bryant, who spent three of his four college seasons with the Bearcats, now has a full season of experience with the Mid-American Conference Eagles. On the other hand, Prater has several years of chemistry with many newbies.

The interesting part is that both players will meet a new offensive coordinator, as last year’s Mike Denbrock heads to LSU. For now, Denbrocks’ old post remains open.

The other main offensive position is replacing running back Jerome Ford. Ford, unlike Ridder, had a choice of returning to Cincinnati but opted to enter his name in the draft. This opens the door to multiple players, with the most likely candidates being Ryan Montgomery, Charles McClelland and Ethan Wright.

All three had roughly the same number of runs during the season and were used in the Bearcats’ win over South Florida, a game Ford missed through injury. There’s a chance all three could be used in the upcoming season if Fickell chooses to go for a committee rollback approach.

Away from the Bearcats offense, there will still be some familiar faces. Tre Tucker and Tyler Scott will both be looking to expand their 2021 campaigns with the departure of leading receiver Alec Pierce. Cincinnati recently acquired Nick Mardner from Hawaii, the 6’6″, 190-pound transfer receiver with at least two years of eligibility. Cincinnati hopes to fill some of the void left by Pierce.

Jadon Thompson could also see his snap count increase, as he was third last year in receptions among returning wides. Adding to the perimeter threat is the return of Cincinnati tight end Leonard Taylor, who has made his presence felt throughout the season.

As for the defense, the Bearcats will lose their two starting cornerbacks: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Coby Bryant. Arquon Bush, who played significant time this year as the Bearcats’ nickel cornerback, could see himself playing as one of Cincinnati’s top cornerbacks. As for other corners, current Bearcats Ja’quan Sheppard, Todd Bumphis and Taj Ward are all names who could see some serious increases in playing time.

Darrian Beavers, who has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, will likely also need a replacement at linebacker. Sophomore Deshawn Pace had a stellar season at linebacker, so Cincinnati decided to come out and ask Deshawn’s brother Ivan Pace Jr. to join him through the transfer portal. Ivan spent the last three seasons in Miami, Ohio, and was named one of the 2021 Co-MAC Players of the Year.

Safety Bryan Cook, who has also accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, will see his spot filled by Ja’von Hicks. Hicks played alongside Cook last year, helping add to the Bearcats’ big secondary. Next year, potential safeties Hicks could be paired with include both Jacob Dingle and Will Adams, who both saw the field last year.

The final position the Bearcats must look to fill is Myjai Sanders. Sanders, who has been profiting from the NFL for two years, is the only defensive lineman to confirm a draft start this year. Jowon Briggs, who has played all 14 games this season, will most likely take on much of the role Sanders leaves.

Back with Briggs, Malik Vann will bring a needed element of seniority to the Blackcats front. However, Cincinnati’s recruiting brought another end that could look to make some noise in its first season.

Mario Eugenio, a four-star defensive end from Tampa, Fla., was the highest-ranked prospect the Bearcats signed this year. He ranked 20th out of all high school defensive ends and 94th out of all high school prospects. After receiving offers from Michigan, Iowa State, Arkansas and many other Premier Division programs, Eugenio picked Cincinnati out of the pack and should be on everyone’s radar when it opens. of the season.

The Bearcats also drafted other potential first-year starters into this year’s recruiting class: Oliver Bridges, a four-star from Potomac, Maryland, and JQ Hardaway, a three-star from Phenix City, Alabama. Both are cornerbacks who have officially signed with Cincinnati. Also joining the class is four-star rookie Derrick Shepard, a defensive tackle from Kettering, Ohio.

There’s still time for more players to be thrown into the mix. The transfer gate is always an option, and there are always boot camp surprises that end up taking the starting job. But regardless, come season opener, this Bearcats team will look very different from their 2021 history.

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