The Cincinnati Bearcats had a magical 2021 season that landed them in the College Football Playoffs. They were the first non-power five team to make it into the CFP as the number 4 ranked team. Unfortunately they were paired with the power house Alabama. Cincinnati did put up a fight in their first appearance in the CFP, but fell short losing 27-6. Now going into the 2022 season not only Bearcats fans, but everyone wants to know do they have what it takes to make it back.
Cincinnati Lost Top Talent to the 2022 NFL Draft
The Bearcats had five players drafted within the first 100 players in the 2022 NFL Draft. Combined with four more players drafted in the later picks. Only two college programs had more players drafted in 2022. Those two programs being Georgia with 15 players drafted and LSU with 10 players drafted. As wonderful and accomplished this makes the Bearcats look, it makes you wonder can they replace that talent going into the 2022 season. Who do they need to replace in 2022?
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB
Cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was drafted fourth overall in the 2022 NFL draft by the New York Jets and for good reason. Gardner recorded 40 total tackles during the 2021 season and had nine total interceptions with two being returned for touchdowns over the span of his college career. But his biggest accomplishment was never allowing a passing touchdown while playing for Cincinnati, despite starting as a true freshman in 2019.
Alec Pierce, WR
Alec Pierce was drafted in second round at 53rd overall by the Indianapolis Colts. Pierce was Mr. Consistent at the University of Cincinnati and was a great go to for quarterback Desmond Ridder. During the 2021 season Pierce had 52 receptions for 884 yards and eight touchdowns. The Bearcats will need to find someone to replace his production and be the new go to for their next quarterback up.
Bryan Cook, S
Bryan Cook was drafted in the second round at 62nd overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Cook started every game during the 2021 season recording 96 totals tackles. 57 of those tackles being solo and two interceptions, including one against Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young during the 2021 Cotton Bowl. It will be hard to replace that tackle production at the safety position in 2022 and replace the leadership Cook brought to the field.
Desmond Ridder, QB
Desmond Ridder was drafted in the third round at 74th overall by the Atlanta Falcons. Ridder finished his college career with the third-most wins by a quarterback in college football history with 44. The senior quarterback recorded 3334 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2021. Ridder also rushed for 365 yards and six touchdowns. The four year starter will be missed under center and with 10,239 totals passing yards and 87 touchdowns over his college career, you have to wonder if the Bearcats have a plan to replace his production going into the 2022 season.
How the Bearcats Look Going into 2022
As of now we don’t seem to know who will be taking the snaps for Cincinnati at the beginning of the 2022 season. But they do have a good option in four start recruit Evan Prater. Prater Finished his high school career with 5,195 passing yards and 64 passing touchdowns. Cincinnati also has quarterback Ben Bryant. Bryant has transferred back to Cincinnati after transferring to Eastern Michigan for the 2021 season.
At Eastern Michigan Bryant recorded 3,121 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2021. As for the rest of big positions mentioned earlier in the article, we will have to just wait and see. The Bearcats do have some experience coming back at the wide receiver position in Tre Tucker. Tucker has yet to prove that he can take over as a WR1. Three star recruit Justin Harris is going to be on the field at cornerback with an expanded role. Can Harris replace the production of Gardner and Bryant?
Cincinnati Missing Too Much Going Into 2022
It may be very difficult for the Cincinnati Bearcats to make another CFP appearance in 2022. The combination of too many gaps in the roster to fill and not enough experience on the field works against the team. Plus being the first non-power five team in the CFP and losing doesn’t help. Head coach Luke Fickell has done amazing job since taking over the head coach spot in December 2016. However can he bring a team that looks to need at least one more recruiting class back to the top? I think one more recruiting class and entering the Big 12 conference for the 2023 season will help their chances in the seasons to come. As for 2022 the Bearcats do not look ready to repeat their 2021 success.
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