Position Breakdown: Receivers/Tight Ends

BearcatInsider breaks down the play of the UC receivers/tight ends to date, and where they can improve going forward.

Over the next few days, we at BearcatInsider will be going over a few of Cincinnati's position groups and analyzing their performance so far this season, where they can improve, and some of the players we expect to step up. Today, we will start with the wide receivers/tight ends.

The Good

Where to start with this group? With quarterback Munchie Legaux completing 34 passes through two games (for an average of 17 per game), one would assume there would be two or three receivers that Legaux has begun to build a repertoire with. That's where we're wrong. The strength of this UC receiver's group has been their depth. No receiver/tight end has more than seven receptions, with running back/slot receiver Ralph Abernathy IV leading the way with those seven receptions to go along with two touchdowns.

The next best receiver, statistically speaking, is junior Anthony McClung, who has six receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown through two games. The next seven receivers/tight ends on the list have between one and five receptions respectively. We can look at that one of two ways, either Munchie has so many options at his disposal that it doesn't matter whom he throws it to, or no receiver has stepped up enough to earn that go-to receiver position. Being that this is ‘The Good' section, we'll go with option one. In game one against Pitt, Abernathy stepped up and looked like a slot receiver extraordinaire in the making. In game two, senior Damon Julian stepped up in his first career start and had four receptions for 62 yards on one touchdown, a huge game from somebody seeing their first serious action in a Division one college football game.

From looking down the roster, I believe there are four to five legitimate options that can lead the team in receiving in any given game. From the older guys like Kenbrell Thompkins and Travis Kelce, to the young studs like Alex Chisum and Jeremy Graves, this group is not lacking for talent. And having talent is never a bad thing.

Improvements

Playing devil's advocate to my first point, the lack of a breakout receiver can be discerning as well. At this point in the season, one would like to see one or two guys step up and be ‘that guy', a receiver who you know you can count on to make a big third down catch; a receiver who you can count on to make that downfield block to spring that 50-yard touchdown run. We've seen glimpses of that potential from a few players, which is a positive sign going forward, but with the amount of upperclassmen the receiving core possesses, it would be nice to have already had a few guys step up.

Another issue plaguing this group has been turnovers. In the Delaware State game, Cincinnati committed four fumbles, two of which belonged to members of the receiving core. The most damaging fumble belonged to junior Anthony McClung. In the second quarter, with UC leading 13-0, McClung caught a short pass left and sprinted outside for a long gainer that should have been a touchdown. However, he lost track of the safety and was blindside hit, fumbling the ball inside the 3-yard line and missing a chance to essentially put the game away early. The other fumble belonged to senior tight end Travis Kelce, who had the ball stripped on a 5 yard in route. All correctable mistakes, but discerning nonetheless coming from upperclassmen.

Player Expected to Step Up

There are so many options on this Bearcat squad that it is tough to choose just one. By watching practice everyday, and being able to see a bird's eye view of every game from the press box, I believe that player is senior tight end Travis Kelce. From a physical standpoint, Kelce oozes NFL potential. At 6-6, 240, he has the body of a prototypical tight end. He moves well and has above average speed at the position. Watching him in practice, he gets great separation off the line and has really soft hands. If Kelce continues to work on his game, and use that practice time to build chemistry with Legaux, I expect the senior from Cleveland to have a breakout year, and to continue working on his game next year on Sundays.


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