This class has seen it all. Two different head coaches, sudden collapses and resurgences, College Gameday, Paul Brown Stadium, and much more. It’s safe to say that these seniors won’t forget their time here in Cincinnati.
After coming off an AAC championship season in 2014, 2015 had high expectations yet again, but fans were also weary after being blown out by Memphis and Miami the past year. An early season injury to Gunner Kiel against Memphis gave freshman Hayden Moore his time to shine, and boy, did he shine. Setting a UC single game record with 557 yards, Moore was the real deal, until he wasn’t.
Moore only got to start the next two games, but led the Bearcats to a significant win against Miami as the fans stormed the field on a Thursday night special. After that, the season went sour. Kiel got his job back, but Moore still made several more appearances, throwing for 249 yards against USF and getting the start against SDSU in the Hawaii Bowl.
Other freshmen made several key contributions as Kahlil Lewis had 53 receiving yards in a crowded wideout position. Tyrell Gilbert shined, totaling 50 tackles, while Cortez Broughton recorded two tackles for loss. Other than the Memphis game, this season was pretty forgetful, and fans all around Clifton were calling for Tuberville’s head.
2016 was a full-blown nightmare. Fans were ready to see the end of Tommy Tuberville in Clifton, and many were rooting against the Bearcats so it could happen quicker. That didn’t stop Kahlil Lewis from breaking out as the sophomore standout tallied 605 receiving yards and five touchdowns to go along with 107 rushing yards. Many eyes in Cincinnati opened up to the potential of Lewis, and he served as a sliver of hope in such a grey season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Marquise Copeland stood out as the stud for Robert Prunty’s (who?) defense. Totaling 59 tackles, two forced fumbles, and 4.5 tackles for loss, Copeland had very big upside and high NFL talent if he kept improving. Gilbert regressed slowly after a hot freshman year, but Cortez Broughton improved significantly as he tallied up 2.5 sacks and an interception.
Hayden Moore played in most of the games during the course of the season, but was above average at best. Losses against UCONN and Tulsa killed any desire for a Tommy Tuberville turnaround and the Bearcats would finish 2016 at 4-8 and in the search for a new head coach. Who would lead the Bearcats football program back into a powerhouse among the Group of 5? Several different candidates had been mentioned, but very few knew who the Bearcats would choose. On December 10th of 2016, everything would change.