Coming into the 2018 season, anticipation was high for the running back position as Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren II were both coming off of breakout freshman seasons. A lingering injury, however, derailed the season for Gerrid Doaks while Michael Warren II took over the starting job on his way to over 1,300 rushing yards.
Someone still had to fill in the number two position on the depth chart, and that belonged to Charles McClelland. Early in the season, the reps at the position were split pretty evenly between McClelland and Tavion Thomas, who was the second highest recruit in the Cincinnati class for 2018, while McClelland was ninth. Glimpses of both players were shown in blowouts such as Alabama A&M and UCONN, mainly because Michael Warren II was getting most of the touches per contest. Why fix something when it isn’t broken?
Charles McClelland finally got his chance to shine against Temple, and shine he did. McClelland showed bursts of speed against Alabama A&M, but against such a weak opponent it was hard to get a clear look at how fast he truly was. McClelland ran for a 42 yard touchdown to give the Bearcats a 17-10 lead over Temple, and even though they didn’t pull out the victory, this game would serve as the spark for McClelland’s season.
Charles McClelland served as the primary number two running back through out the rest of the season as he brought a different skill set to the position, combining his speed with his agility in the open field. His ability to make tacklers miss in the open field was seen against Virginia Tech as he caught a screen pass and cut up field to score a 38 yard touchdown. He led the team with 47 receiving yards in the Military bowl to cap off a season in which he totaled 593 yards from scrimmage.
McClelland will always be able to cut by defenders, but his true position on this Cincinnati team lies in the slot. At wide receiver, if he develops his hands and route running, he could provide the explosiveness the Bearcats were missing last season. With Jayshon Jackson developing into an everyday playmaker, McClelland could provide as a crucial number two target for Ridder as teams keyed in on Deguara and Lewis last year, creating the need for more depth in the wideout position.
We’ve all seen McClelland’s ability to run by defenders, but moving him to wide receiver could put a lot less pressure on Ridder and would unclog the log jam of running backs the Bearcats have been faced with. Charles McClelland came into the season with relative unknowingness, but after he torched opposing teams on the ground in 2018, he now has the opportunity to become an explosive asset for Mike Denbrock’s offense in his second season.