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August 13, 2011Cincinnati football led the BIG EAST in scoring offense a year ago. To retain that title the passing attack must replace 1,000-yard receiver Armon Binns.
Two marginal threats, Ben Guidugli and Marcus Barnett also exhausted their eligibility.
"Losing basically three starters with D.J. basically our only experienced receiver back we have to replace some guys," said WR Coach T.J. Weist. "Our philosophy has always been we are going to play the best guys no matter what year they are."
Which receivers will see their playing time increase? Can a freshman play? Can Anthony McClung find more snaps despite playing behind D.J. Woods?
To answer these questions BearcatReport.com ranks receivers by attributes.
Best Route Runner
#10 Chris Moore (Freshman) - In his first week of official practice Chris Moore has impressed teammates and coaches with his body control and speed.
"Chris Moore is a good deep threat," said senior wideout Woodard. "He gets deep really well with top-end speed. He needs to get off his breaks really well."
Moore's routes still look dodgy at times, but when the ball nears he leaps from the page like a comic book hero.
"I think Chris is very athletic," said Coach Weist. "He has got to work on his routes. He has to work on his route technique but that will come. It is hard to teach guys a natural instinct to go get the ball. He has a pretty good instinct to just go up and make athletic catches."
By far Moore's best day was Tuesday. He caught two touchdown passes in skeleton, the second by overpowering his defender midair.
#9 Max Morrison (Freshman) -- The recipient of hundreds of Maty Mauk passes the last three years Max Morrison has a very real to play football at Cincinnati. Getting on the field this season will be difficult, but Morrison is faster and sharper in his cuts than expected.
Morrison has impeccable timing on his breaks, but does lack the dynamic change of direction of a Shaq Washington or Alex Chisum.
#8 Kenbrell Thompkins (Junior) -- His spring practice session began with a bang. Thompkins was bulked up from his lanky arriving weight and ready to compete. Many days Thompkins looked the premiere scoring threat on the team.
Unfortunately his progress was stunted mid-spring.
"He has had some injuries that have slowed him down in terms of getting into great shape," said Coach Weist. "Right now he is getting into good shape. Kenbrell has always been the competitor. He has always been the player guys rally around."
Thompkins is very, very aggressive with feisty defensive backs like Deven Drane and Reuben Johnson. He cowers from no man and his bravery inspires the entire unit.
"He just has to get back in the swing of things and get back going full speed," said Coach Weist. "He is healthy and ready to go."
When the endurance returns Thompkins should be special. Right now UC plans to start him.
#7 O.J. Woodard (Senior) -- When Woodard slid into the starter's role following Binns' graduation it looked to be by default. He only caught two passes last year.
"A sleeper guy this year is O.J. Woodard," said Frey. "He is one of those 110% guys. He is flying around all the time."
Woodard is not very fast, but knows where to be at all times. He owns his space and shields defenders away from the ball well. Woodard has less "wow" factor than Marcus Barnett did, but provides a more reliable presence.
#6 Anthony McClung (Sophomore) -- The year 2010 was destined to be a spectacular freshman season for an Indianapolis Pike freshman. This prophecy did come true just for the wrong guy.
Dyjuan Lewis was forced to sit out the season (eligibility) while his high school teammate surged into the spotlight.
Anthony McClung did not even play until week four. On the biggest stage of the season (hosting Oklahoma in Paul Brown Stadium) McClung made several special receptions.
"Anthony McClung is another crisp route runner," said Frey. "He runs good hard routes and he is a force to be reckoned with as well."
Coach Weist enjoyed the freshman's season and expects more in 2011. Judging by the first week of camp neither Coach Weist or the UC fans will be let down.
#5 Damon Julian (Junior) -- What he lacks in playbook comprehension Julian makes up for with skill and height. Ideally Julian will finish the month better than he started it once he absorbs the system.
In the rare instance he is able to instinctively react rather than think and react Julian shines.
#4 Alex Chisum (Freshman) -- Two-time State Champion Alex Chisum will be called upon to play this season as UC looks to give Collaros' play-making receivers.
"He needs to work on his breaking point a little bit, but he is doing real well getting in and out of his breaks," said Woodard. "He just needs to critique the little things, but that is how every freshman is coming out of high school. They need to work on the little things."
Chisum has a bright future in football thanks to his length, speed, and persistence. His greatest impact this season looks to be mid-season.
#3 Danny Milligan (Junior) -- St. Xavier graduate Danny Milligan is listed 5'9". He might be that tall. Maybe.
The reason you routinely see him on the field is his footwork. Kicker-receiver-returner-punter Milligan sells his fakes so well he creates distance with much, much shorter strides.
Most athletes would scoff at the title but Milligan is an outstanding practice player. He did not catch any game passes last season but excels every day every snap in practice. Perhaps 2011 will be his break out season.
#2 Bruce Horner (Junior) -- A converted cornerback Horner has settled in nicely this fall. He routinely wins the drill. He does not have the best hands but dusted many fellow DB's.
Horner can burn with the best of them and gets out of his cuts frighteningly fast.
#1 D.J. Woods (Senior) -- By all accounts the best route runner in the program. Woods has long, elegant strides helping him explode off each foot. He instantly creates separation and outsprints virtually every conceivable cornerback.
Woods was the second most productive receiver in 2010 amassing nearly 900 yards through the air. He stuffed 146 yards on North Carolina State and pinned 171 on Oklahoma. Though his production tailed off in BIG EAST play Woods continuously provided the most headaches to singular defenders.
Though he spent his junior year in the slot Head Coach Butch Jones is starting to move him around the field more.
"It definitely helps us because D.J. is a technician," said Coach Weist. "He has such good technique that he can jump to the outside and make some different plays against corners in some one-on-one matchups. Now we can use his skills from one-on-one standpoint."
Moving Woods outside creates matchup problems, but also enables UC to play McClung, Abernathy, Milligan, and Washington more. The quartet will lineup in that position exclusively and need Woods elsewhere.
As McClung emerges he has to see more time and this move helps him the most.
"It allows us to take him, who we consider to be a playmaker on our offense, and have the ability to move him around," said Coach Weist. "So they can't always say 'D.J. Woods (their leading receiver is always on the inside).'"
Coach Weist obviously understands the weapon he has in D.J. He is not alone.
"D.J. runs his routes really well," said Woodard. "He is really clean in his routes and knows how to get open."
Even safety Drew Frey readily admits Woods' prowess.
"You put me on the spot," said Frey. "D.J. Woods is a great route runner. He works hard in practice. He is a consistent guy so you are always going to get 100% from him."
Missed the list: Shaq Washington, Dyjuan Lewis, Ralph David Abernathy, Tomaz Hilton.
Up Next: Best blocking WR