The 2015 UC football team features a “Noah’s Ark” wide receiving corps: The Bearcats seemingly have two of everything.
“They are so scary it’s unbelievable,” Memphis coach Justin Fuente told me at AAC media days. “They threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game against us and we didn’t have anybody that could come close to the kid. They have some awfully dangerous weapons.”
“When we went undefeated at Auburn (2004) we had an unbelievable receiving corps, and it kind of reminds me of that group,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “They were tall and lanky and they were fast and physical.”
Gunner Kiel’s top seven targets from last season are back. Here’s a scouting report on each receiver from UC’s junior quarterback (listed in order of receptions last season).
Shaq Washington (66 catches, 761 yards, 4 touchdowns):
“A captain of the wide receivers and a guy that can get open at any time. A reliable target that I love to throw to on short and intermediate passes.”
Max Morrison (45 catches, 458 yards, 4 touchdowns):
“Crisp, crisp routes. Out of everyone, I think he’s our best route runner. A deadly slot guy with really good feet.”
Mekale McKay (44 catches, 725 yards, 8 touchdowns):
“A big tall target that can jump out of the sky. With those long strides you thing he’s not moving, but he’s moving really fast.”
Chris Moore (30 catches, 673 yards, 8 touchdowns):
“Super-fast, quick feet, and a great route runner. He really can do it all.”
Johnny Holton (29 catches, 431 yards, 5 touchdowns):
“Deadly athletic and the fastest guy on our team. Crazy fast with great hands. Goodness sakes.”
Alex Chisum (22 catches, 242 yards, 2 touchdowns):
“I love Chis. First guy out there, last to leave, and loves to work. He does whatever I ask him to do and is a great route runner.”
Nate Cole (15 catches, 145 yards, 2 touchdowns):
“Quick and elusive. He can confuse a lot of DBs because he looks like he’s moving slow, but he’s moving fast. And he’s got great hands.”
But there’s only one football. How can the Bearcats keep everybody happy?
“Honestly, I think I do a pretty good job of spreading the wealth,” said Kiel.
“Your wide receivers are always your worst guys to keep under control,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “They’re prima donnas – not just our guys but all of them. They want the football.
“I’ll have to bring them into the office and say, ‘You’re going to get your share.’”
“One of our core values is being selfless,” said Gran. “It’s trust, it’s being selfless, it’s having unity, and it’s toughness – those are our four core values as an offense. If you can’t be selfless, and you can’t be humble, and it’s not team-first, then you won’t play here. I’ve been a part of championship teams with a lot of great players and it’s not about the touches. It’s about your productivity. If you get the ball three times and do something right with it, NFL scouts will see it.”
Washington, who needs 55 catches in 2015 to become Cincinnati’s all-time career leader, says that battling to get the ball is great motivation.
“We’re very competitive, but at the same time we push each other more than anything,” Shaq told me. “If you watch us, there’s no arguing or anything like that. We stay on top of each other about little things in order to get better.”
“They’re very coachable – that’s what I like about them – we don’t have any that go out there and think that they’ve got their job won,” said Tuberville. “They come out to work every day, put their nose to the grindstone, put that hard hat on and get after it.”
It should be a fun group to watch – and a frightening group to try to defend.
“You’re talking size, speed, and the ability to stretch the field vertically,” said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill. “When you watch them on film you say, ‘Those are some NFL guys right there.’ Big cats that can run.”
Make that Bearcats that can run.
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