It was a storybook season for the Bearcats last season, becoming the first group of five teams to reach the College Football Playoff. They went undefeated in the regular season, with their key win coming against highly ranked Notre Dame on the road. With the success Cincinnati had, they lost several players to the NFL, including top 100 picks, Ahmad Gardner, Alec Pierce, Bryan Cook, Desmond Ridder and Myjai Sanders. Even with the losses to the NFL, head coach Luke Fickell returns one of the top teams in the nation that could have several top-100 picks again. The Bearcats have the talent to repeat as AAC champions and be one of the top teams in the nation. Here are their top prospects to watch this fall by position:
QB Ben Bryant
After transferring from Cincinnati to play last season at Eastern Michigan, Bryant is back with the Bearcats. On tape last season, Bryant consistently showed that he is an NFL player from the neck up. He goes through his progressions well and always looks calm under pressure. Bryant also has an NFL arm and can make a number of tight-window throws. His ball placement was very impressive, allowing him to throw receivers open. There was a lot to like about Desmond Ridder’s game last season and the same can be said with Bryant. He has the tools to be a top-100 pick and be viewed as a potential starter.
WR Tre Tucker
The best way to describe Tucker is electric. He has speed for days and should compete to have the top 40-yard dash time in the draft. Tucker will be able to contribute on special teams as a return man early in his career. His hands are natural and Tucker is able to create consistent separation. He isn’t a "gadget" player and with added play strength, Tucker projects as a starting wide receiver at the next level.
It would not be shocking if Whyle ends up as a first-round prospect come April. He brings a combination of size and speed for the position that is hard to find. As a receiver, Whyle consistently creates separation and can win vertically. Teams will struggle to cover him at the next level, as he is too athletic for a linebacker and too big for a safety. Whyle also showed he is a willing blocker. If his ceiling hits, Whyle has all the makings to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL and a Pro-Bowl caliber player.
CB Arquon Bush
Because of Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, Bush was delegated to the slot. He was fantastic in that role, recording three interceptions and six pass deflections. His tape didn’t disappoint either. Bush is a fluid mover with good route recognition ability. He was able to diagnose routes quickly and make plays on the football. His run defense and willingness as a tackler also stood out. Even with his success in the slot, Bush should translate well to the outside. He is scheme diverse and versatile. Bush should be a big-time riser this fall.
Other Players to Keep an Eye On:
- TE Leonard Taylor
- C Jake Renfro
- G Lorenz Metz
- DL Jowon Briggs