Sources: Bryant, Kiner, Pauling return for Cincy

Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion Oct. 8, will start against SMU on Saturday, sources told ESPN.

Bryant, who suffered the injury late in the game against South Florida and was replaced by Evan Prater, had returned to practice after a bye week under the school’s concussion protocols.

No. 21 Cincinnati (5-1) carries an 18-game American Athletic Conference winning streak into Saturday’s game against SMU (noon, ESPN). The Bearcats have bounced back after losing the opener at Arkansas.

Bryant will be aided by the return of tailback Corey Kiner, sources told ESPN. Kiner, an LSU transfer who missed the USF game with a hand injury, is the team’s second-leading rusher, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with five touchdowns this season.

The Bearcats receiving corps will also get a boost with the return of redshirt freshman Will Pauling from a knee injury, sources told ESPN. He started the opener at Arkansas and had six catches in Cincinnati’s first two games before suffering the injury.

Tyler Scott, the Bearcats’ leading receiver, will be a game-time decision with an ankle injury, sources told ESPN. He has 500 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns this season.

In coordinator Gino Guidugli’s offense, Bryant has led Cincinnati’s offense to a breakout season at 38.2 points per game. That’s a higher output than the Bearcats have averaged at any other point in Luke Fickell’s tenure at Cincinnati, including last year’s College Football Playoff run when they scored 36.4 points per game.

The Bearcats have 19 plays from scrimmage of more than 30 yards in their six games. That trends higher than the 33 plays of 30-plus yards in 14 games last season.

Bryant has thrown 15 touchdown passes, had six passes intercepted and completed 65.9% of his passes for 1,561 yards through six games. He’s on a better statistical track than Desmond Ridder, who led Cincinnati’s run to the College Football Playoff in 2021 with 30 touchdowns and 3,334 yards.

Bryant beat out Prater, one of the most highly regarded recruits in school history, for the starting job this summer after transferring back to Cincinnati from a one-year cameo at Eastern Michigan.

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