You know you’re great when they name a position for you.
In 2019 the Bearcats offense will include the “K-position.” The K is for Kelce – as in former UC star Travis Kelce who has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“That ‘K-position’ might be a tight end or might be a wide receiver or might just be someone who is athletic like Travis is,” said UC head coach Luke Fickell. “We’re going to recruit to it and we’re going to use it.”
“It’s a recognition of not only the level that (Kelce) plays at week in and week out in the NFL, but also of the great things he did while he was here,” said offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock. “We want to try to emulate some of those things and play that same style of football.”
The current Bearcat expected to get the most snaps at the “K-position” is senior Josiah Deguara who had 38 catches for 468 yards and 5 touchdowns last season. But the future of the spot could belong to redshirt freshman Josh Whyle.
The highly-touted recruit out of La Salle High School was expected to play a significant role last season before breaking his collarbone while attempting to make a catch on the third day of preseason camp.
“It was a one-on-one (route) in the corner of the end zone,” he said. “I went up and twisted and landed on it weird. I felt it click right away and I knew.”
Whyle missed the first eight games of the season before making his college debut on November 3rd vs. Navy.
“It was definitely hard,” Josh told me. “I couldn’t even get out there in camp and show what I can do. That was probably the hardest part for me.”
The 6’6”, 230 pound tight end only played in four games including the Military Bowl win over Virginia Tech meaning that Whyle can take advantage of the new rule instituted last year that allows a player to participate in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt season.
“This is a big spring for him,” said Fickell. “He missed (eight) weeks during the season and still got the opportunity to play in those four games. He wouldn’t have been a redshirt guy had he not gotten hurt but this gives him an opportunity to take that other step. He still needs some experience of playing and doing some different things, but this is going to be an exciting spring for him.”
Over the past few weeks at spring practice, the Bearcats offense has frequently featured multiple tight ends from a talented group that includes Deguara, Whyle, Bruno Labelle, Wilson Huber, and Leonard Taylor.
“We’re experimenting,” said Denbrock. “I think that’s what the spring is for as much as anything. To move some of those pieces around and see what you’ve got and how far those guys have come.”
Whyle is likely to be a valuable weapon in the passing game while playing the “K-position” this year.
“We met with Coach Denbrock after the season and he thinks it’s best for me right now to drop a couple of pounds to get to 230 and stay there and maybe split me out more than being an in-line blocker,” Josh said. “I’m OK with that – it’s what I did in high school. Then down the road in my college years, maybe I’ll beef up a little bit and start working my way inside.”
“He’s a guy like Josiah Deguara who can get out in space and beat people one-on-one,” said Denbrock. “Linebackers and safeties in particular. And we’ve even toyed with matching them up against some corners that they can out-size and out-physical.”
“I feel like Josh Whyle is a mismatch,” said running back Michael Warren. “You can put him out wide and you can put him at tight end. He’s a great competitor and he can go up there and get the ball.”
Whyle’s potential was evident from his list of more than 30 scholarship offers including such schools as Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee and Wisconsin. After playing for an 11-2 team last season at Cincinnati, he’s thrilled with his decision to stay close to home.
“I don’t want to say that I knew it was going to happen, but everything the coaches talked about while I was being recruited was leading in this direction,” he said. “I love it here and I wouldn’t change my decision if I could.”
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you’re on Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard