In less than a month, the UCLA Bruins will be heading to Nippert Stadium to mark the start of the 2019 football season for the Cincinnati Bearcats. In preparation of that game, we’ll be going through each position group on the roster, and breaking down said group. Rounding out the offensive end, we have the quarterbacks.
After one of the most impressive freshmen campaigns in Cincinnati history, Desmond Ridder returns to Nippert Stadium as one of the most hyped young talents Clifton has ever seen. It’s crazy thinking back to this time last year, when fans weren’t really sure whether or not Ridder could even win the starting quarterback job over Hayden Moore in the first place. However, Ridder quickly proved any doubters wrong, leading the Bearcats to a 6-0 start, and eventually a 11-2 final record.
Simply put, Ridder was exceptional last year. The 2018 AAC Rookie of the Year put up 2,445 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season, while only throwing five interceptions and maintaining a 62.5 completion percentage. He also ran for 583 yards and five touchdowns as well. While this is great and all, there’s still a lot of room for Ridder to improve as a whole.
His inconsistency at times was a major issue, especially when Ridder was needed the most. In Cincinnati’s two losses last year, Ridder recorded his worst games in both completion percentage and passer rating. Adding to that, Ridder didn’t throw a single touchdown pass in either of those two performances. He also showed some poor decision making skills at times when pressured, which led to sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. While his deep ball still needs some work as well, these problems stemmed primarily from the fact that Desmond Ridder was still a pretty raw talent last year. With one season under his belt, and another offseason to prepare, Ridder is ready to blossom as the next great Cincinnati quarterback. I can assure you that this year, Desmond Ridder will be right up there with the likes of Houston’s D’Eriq King and Memphis’ Brady White when it comes to the American’s top quarterbacks.
Backing up Desmond Ridder will be Ben Bryant, a redshirt freshman who saw limited time last season, but is a pretty clear candidate to take over when Ridder eventually departs. Bryant was one of the more prominent commitments the Bearcats landed in the class of 2018. He put together a pretty impressive list of scholarship offers, which included schools such as Georgia, Wisconsin, Ole Miss, and West Virginia. Nevertheless, Bryant chose Cincinnati. He was rated a three star, and was ranked as the 30th overall pro style quarterback. While Bryant probably won’t be seeing the field a whole lot this year, I can rest assured knowing that the Cincinnati has one of the better backup quarterbacks in the conference.
Rounding out the quarterbacks this year is Jake Sopko. Sopko is currently a redshirt junior, who unfortunately hasn’t seen a whole lot of playing time in his career. While he may not have made a ton of noise on the recruiting trail in high school, he was noted as an accurate prospect with a great long ball, who could eventually develop into a really nice pro style quarterback. Although there isn’t a ton to talk about Sopko, the fact that this is Cincinnati’s third string quarterback is actually pretty impressive. Sopko is just another layer of depth to one of the more impressive quarterback groups in the American Conference.
Desmond Ridder is arguably the team’s most important piece for this season. Coming off a stellar freshman season, he has some extremely high expectations. However, we all know football is a team sport. He’ll need support from his teammates and fellow quarterbacks to succeed this year, but whether or not he can rise to the occasion is a factor as to how the Bearcats will finish the 2019 season.