In less than a week, the UCLA Bruins will be heading to Nippert Stadium to mark the start of the 2019 football season for the Cincinnati Bearcats. After looking over the defense and the offensive line, we’re now going to be taking a look at the tight ends.
Josiah Deguara, a relatively unknown player at the tight end position for his first two years with the Bearcats, bursted out onto the seams to begin his junior season. At 6’3”, the Folsom, California, product helped Desmond Ridder early in the season as the wideouts struggled to get open. Deguara seemed unstoppable through the first six games as he racked up 296 receiving yards, but faded in the second half of the year as defenses started to lock onto him. Deguara will once again be the Bearcats number one tight end, but in Mike Denbrock’s newly minted “K” position, he’ll be given more opportunities to make big plays down field and across the middle.
Speaking of the “K” position, redshirt freshman Josh Whyle will have the chance to make an immediate impact this year. Recovering from a collarbone injury his freshman season, Whyle has impressed the coaches during fall camp and has put himself into the position where he will get meaningful playtime in relief for Deguara. At 6’6”, Whyle has the height that NFL scouts salivate over, and if he’s able to put everything together, he’ll be a player that no defense wants to try to stop.
While the Bearcats continue to develop new weapons on the outside, the in-line tight ends have also been making an impact throughout camp. Bruno LaBelle, the junior from Montreal, Quebec, is a player that doesn’t come to mind right away for Bearcat fans when thinking of impactful players, but should, as he was instrumental in creating the run game last year. Even though he only caught seven passes for 45 yards last season, he showed his ability to keep defenses on their toes and not give away whether the play was a run or a pass. LaBelle is a player who doesn’t always get the publicity he deserves, but in a big year for Luke Fickell and his staff, they’ll be sure to use him in as much as possible.
Backing up LaBelle will be sophomores Leonard Taylor and Wilson Huber. Taylor is a former 4-star recruit and has high athletic ability, but struggled to see the field last year as he only had three receptions. Just like Taylor, Huber only had two receptions last season. But unlike a Taylor, he proved to be a consistent backup for LaBelle in the run game as an in-line blocker. Both players will get a larger role this year, but look for Taylor to have a solid all-around season and Huber on crucial run plays.