March 27, 2009

Spring Preview: Receivers/Tight Ends

There is both good news and bad news when it comes to the wide receiver positions for the Bearcats, but the good certainly far outweighs the bad. The one big loss is the graduation of Dominick Goodman and finding someone to replace his program record 84 catches last season, but Brian Kelly has a number of very attractive options and two returning starters to build around.

The emergence of Mardy Gilyard at the "X" wide receiver position was a major reason the Bearcats ranked No. 26 in the country in passing offense last season, and the senior-to-be came very close to putting himself atop Cincinnati's seasonal records for both catches and yards. Gilyard's 1,276 receiving yards surpassed Jon Olinger's old mark by 162 yards, and only Goodman's sensational 84 grabs kept Gilyard from also owning the program's season reception record after pulling in 81 balls. Tom Rossley previously held that record for three decades after catching 80 passes in 1968.

Backing up Gilyard this spring is Orion Woodard. The New Jersey speedster is considered one of the fastest players on the squad and is versatile enough to move to defense if a need arose. But the sophomore-to-be will most likely provide depth at this spot and contribute on special teams.

After catching 62 passes as a redshirt freshman, Marcus Barnett rebounded from a serious injury sustained in the 2007 Papajohn's.com Bowl to haul in 30 passes at the "Z" position, but he'll have plenty of competition for playing time as D.J. Woods continues his physical and mental adjustment to BCS caliber college football.

Barnett has proven to be a very capable receiver but there's no denying Woods' immense potential after he caught 14 passes last season. This shapes up to be one of the great spring battles, and both players should benefit from the tough competition.

Dominick Goodman leaves some huge shoes to fill, but Armon Binns has patiently been waiting for his chance to win a starting role, and it looks like he'll get it at the "W" slot this spring. The junior-to-be has only two catches in the last two seasons combined, but there is no denying the California kid has all the ability to be an excellent BCS wideout.

Although Binns may line-up with the first group when practice starts on Tuesday, he'll have competition from two very different players. Charley Howard is a veteran and former walk-on who has some starts on his resume while Lynell Payne had multiple BCS offers and redshirted as a true freshman last season. Payne has to be looking at this spring opportunity as a chance to show the staff what he can do. But both receivers have good size and adequate speed and will want to position themselves favorably on the depth chart before newcomers like Jamar Howard and Josh Jones arrive this summer.

Danny Milligan rounds out the scholarship receivers and will try to make his move this spring as well. Milligan is much smaller than all of his competitors, but the St. Xavier product was a major producer in high school and has always found a way to get the job done. He was also recognized last season as the team's Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year.

With the move of Marcus Waugh to inside linebacker, that leaves only three tight ends for this spring with Ben Guidugli leading the pack after catching 18 balls for 229 yards last season. The Highlands product looks to be in fantastic shape heading into spring and gives the Bearcats a solid threat as a receiver.

As Kazeem Alli prepares to head into his final season as a Bearcat, he's coming off his best year as a receiver when he caught 12 balls for 124 yards. He had 8 catches the previous two seasons combined. Although many look at the 6' 2"/255 to 260 pounder as only a blocker, many Bearcat football fans will never forget his touchdown grab in overtime that beat the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown last year.

Possessing maybe the best potential at this position is Adrien Robinson. The sophomore-to-be has great size and speed and no doubt is hoping to have a break-out spring. Robinson appeared in seven games last season making 1 catch for 12 yards.

Walk-on Luca Romeo will help provide depth at the tight end/H-back position.

This completes out spring preview of the Bearcat offense.


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