Five Cincinnati Bearcats football players who could make a leap in 2023

Five Cincinnati Bearcats football players who could make a leap in 2023

CINCINNATI — For the first time since Scott Satterfield was announced as Cincinnati’s head coach in early December, things have finally gone down a bit for the Bearcats. The transfer window is closed, the first day of the signing period is over and a recruitment dead period runs through February before spring training begins in early March.

“It was wild. From the time we were hired until now, we really haven’t done much work with our team,” Satterfield said this week. “We hired a group of coaches and staff and then we recruited, so I’m really looking forward to this downtime. Now we finally have the chance to hang out with our players here. … What motivates them? Where can we play these guys, in what positions? For us as coaches, this is the first time we get to see these guys and how they can fit into our program.

The Bearcats have added a number of transfers amid the coaching transition, and at the same time Satterfield and his new staff have been fortunate to retain a number of key starters and roster contributors from last year. , especially in defence. There should also be ample opportunity for a few returning players previously under the radar to emerge as vital pieces for Cincinnati this fall, like the leaps made by Dontay Corleone, Bryon Threats and Gavin Gerhardt in 2022.

Here are five game-changing potential candidates returning to Cincinnati and how they could fit into the Bearcats’ new look in 2023:

Smith is probably the most obvious choice for this roster considering he rotated some to safety last season and was expected to start alongside Threats even before the coaching change. Smith had 20 tackles in 2022 and notched his first career interception in the loss to Louisville. He showed incredible range and ball-peddling skills in the secondary in practice and games, including stalking a James Wiggins-style interception on a deep ball at Higher Ground in August that was the one of the highlights of the pre-season camp. Like Threats, his running mate on safety, Smith is a heavy hitter and has been a valuable special teams contributor in 2022 who should help secure new defensive coordinator Bryan Brown’s aggressive, offensive style. But Smith can also be a bit of a joker on the pitch and will need to keep his emotions in check with an expected increase in playing time.

Armorion Smith (27) had 20 tackles in 2022 and had his first career interception against Louisville. (Brett Rojo / USA Today)

The top-rated prospect for UC’s recruiting class of 2021 certainly looks the part in terms of measurables and athleticism. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Metayer has all the makings of the next stellar tight end for the Bearcats. Snaps have been limited in 2022 due to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a few weeks, as well as having a pair of senior starters ahead of him in Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor. But with both now departed for the NFL, Metayer is set to be heir apparent in 2023. He underwent postseason surgery in December, so it will be worth watching whatever he can do at the prom. spring, and he’ll have to compete with other returner Payten Singletary and WKU transfer Joey Beljan for snaps. But a healthy Sharecropper should be an important part of new coach/offensive coordinator Tom Manning’s offensive equation as Cincinnati enters the Big 12.

Few college footballers have had an in-depth odyssey like the one Jones went on with the Bearcats. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the 6-foot-8, 320-pound giant with a sturdy beard and glorious mullet, but Jones arrived in Cincinnati as a quarterback. The Kentucky native was one of the top 500 prospects and the highest-rated rookie in the UC 2019 class — ahead of Tre Tucker and a skinny player named Ahmad Gardner — after setting a bunch of records as a quarterback at the Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington. Jones wore a redshirt as a quarterback in 2019, then moved to tight end in 2020 before finally settling on the offensive line in 2021. That required further development, and he was slowed by a foot injury in 2022, but with an exodus of initial starters and contributors for Cincinnati and glaring tackle holes, Jones has a chance to land one of the starting spots this season.

The younger Dingle brother on the UC roster worked his way to a second-team linebacker spot in 2022, appearing in 12 games and recording 13 tackles on defense and special teams. Satterfield and his team know the Louisville native very well, having recruited Dingle in the 2021 class, and at 6-4, 240 pounds, Dingle has the height and athleticism that should fit well in either spot. inside linebacker of Brown’s 3-4 forward. With Ivan Pace Jr., Wil Huber and Ty Van Fossen all gone from last year’s roster, there’s a vacancy in the middle that Dingle should be ready to fill.

Despite only being credited with just one game appearance and a tackle in 2022, Lewis has quickly earned the trust of the former coaching staff as a true rookie behind Deshawn Pace and Van Fossen at the hybrid dollar position. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, the Michigan native has big size, instincts and physical tools. The question is where he fits best into Cincinnati’s new defensive scheme. Is there a security? A versatile nickel corner in this field-side linebacker position? An inside linebacker? The good news is that Lewis likely has the skills and talent to play one of these roles, which could be his ticket to entering the field in some way as a disruptive playmaker in 2023.

(Top photo by Chamon Metayer: Katie Stratman/USA Today)

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