Heading into this year Gunner Kiel is going to have his pick of the litter at wide-out. Let’s break down the currently stacked roster, shall we?
• Shaq Washington: Standing at 5’9” and 174 lbs., the little “do-everything” slot receiver returns for his senior year. Shaq was Gunner’s safety net last year. Any time Kiel had any sort of problem he looked #19’s way. In 2014, Shaq racked up 66 catches for 761 yards and 4 TDs. He has caught a pass in 26 straight games. His 150 career receptions sits 5th all-time at UC. He needs 55 catches in his senior season to top UC’s leader, Mardy Gilyard. I think you get where I’m going…. Shaq does not put up huge videogame numbers, but he is a pest in a good way. His hands are reliable and he helps move the chains. Defenses must always pay attention to him. He will break Mardy’s reception record this year. Maybe he will add another ESPN Top 10 play like this one.
• Chris Moore: At 6’1” and 190 lbs., this senior did not possess size and speed numbers that jump off the page, but then came his O$U coming-out party last year. Against the Buckeyes he had 3 catches, 221 yards, and 3 TDs (also a 40-yard TD was called back). He can run fast in pads, has a talent for locating the ball in stride over defenders, which few receivers can do, and has great tattoos. What more could you want from a receiver? He finished 2014 with 30 catches for 673 yards and 8 TDs, averaging a ridiculous 22.4 yards per catch. After last year, we can only wait to see how he wants to finish his senior year by torturing defenses at any wide out position.
• Mekale McKay: Towering at 6’6” and 195 lbs., this senior and Arkansas transfer can run the go route with the best of them. He also has one hell of a gold grill, something I definitely cannot pull off. Oozing with talent, McKay has the physical tools to play at the next level. However, his hands need LOTS of work! It seems like he catches all the tough ones and drops all the easy ones. Last year he had 44 catches for 725 yards and 8 total TDs, averaging 16.5 yards per reception. Let’s see if the offseason and the jugs machine pay off. Every team needs that big, tall, lengthy deep threat, and McKay is that guy for UC.
• Johnny Holton: This 6’3” 190 lb. guy is a speedster, running a 4.3 40-yard dash with ease. Of course he’s fast – he’s from Miami, Florida. We’ve written extensively about Holton and his journey through life. He averaged 20.6 yards per kick return last year, and had one return called back against The U. He also caught 29 balls for 431 yards and 5 TDs. His role with end-arounds, running plays, and slot plays can stretch any defense, and aid all the other receivers on this team by creating space.
That wraps up the top-4 receivers that could seriously start on any team in country. But the Bearcats are so deep at wide-out this year they actually have a great second platoon of receivers, as well.
• Max Morrison: At 6’1” and 173 lbs., this senior and lean machine possibly has the best hands on the team and runs crisp, clean short routes. In a nutshell, between his route running, hands, and fundamentals, and McKay’s raw talent, you could create Megatron’s brother or something like that. Unfortunately for him, as you can see, this team is so stacked at receiver he simply does not get the show-time he may receive on another team. Last year he still hauled in 43 balls for 445 yards and 4 TDs.
• Alex Chisum: It seems like the 6’3” 195 lb. Chisum has been around Clifton forever. He played with Zach Collaros, Munchie Legaux, and now Gunner Kiel. He has been plagued by the injury bug, with a medical redshirt in 2013. Coming out of high school, he was a stud and a top-100 receiver. Last year he had 20 receptions for 203 yards and 2 TDs. Hopefully he can get more opportunities this year when the starters are rested or the offense needs fresh legs.
• Nate Cole: This 6’1” junior will get his chance next year after the convoy of seniors leave. He still managed to haul in a few TDs last year.
• Jeremy Graves: As with Cole, this 6’2” 190 lb. junior will get his chance next year.
• Tshumbi Johnson: At 5’11” and 175 lbs., this Florida native and sophomore did not see the field last year and was redshirted in 2013. He was the #39 athlete in the nation coming out of high school. All this time to learn the system and learn from the current receivers makes us think next year will be his breakout year. This pure athlete has all the tools to replace Shaq or become RDA VI in his prime, plus he has a cool first name, however you pronounce it. Johnson will be causing problems for defenses soon enough.
• Transfer Jordan Cunningham: Former 4-star receiver and Under Armour All-American Jordan Cunningham is transferring to UC from Vanderbilt. He will have 3 years of eligibility left after sitting out next year, and could be an immediate contributor.
• Fresh Fish: Freshman Brayden Beard, Daniel Cobb, Brandon Hergott, Kahlil Lewis, Braxton Neal, and Justin Sawmiller will not see the field for quite a while.
Wow, just writing this makes me realize just how many weapons Gunner Kiel will have next year running the Bearcat offense. 2015 will be the year of the receiver at UC. Bearcat Nation cannot wait to watch the show begin.
By Andy Smith