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It's Buckeyes to Bearcats for 3 Cincinnati football players this season

One came from Elder High School's "Pit, one from near Tampa, the other near Charlotte. All three came 109 miles from Ohio State's "Horseshoe" to the University of Cincinnati's intimate Nippert Stadium.

The trio of Buckeyes-turned-Bearcats are Joe Royer, Kye Stokes and Evan Pryor. All three transfers could be head-turners in the upcoming season.

Elder Panthers Luke Kandra and Joe Royer will be reunited as part of the 2024 Cincinnati Bearcats. Royer transferred from Ohio State Jan. 8. They hope to recreate this pose for the Bearcats this season.
Elder Panthers Luke Kandra and Joe Royer will be reunited as part of the 2024 Cincinnati Bearcats. Royer transferred from Ohio State Jan. 8. They hope to recreate this pose for the Bearcats this season.

Tight End Joe Royer

Royer was a top recruit out of Elder who in 2019 led the GCL-South with 70 catches for 1,258 yards and 15 touchdowns. He caught four passes in 14 games at Ohio State including two vs. Georgia in the 2022 College Football Playoff Semifinal. Injuries and the passing of his mother played a part in missed time.

Now some 30 pounds heavier than his Elder Panthers days Scott Satterfield is high on the 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end.

"Joe has the potential to be one of the better tight ends in our league," Satterfield said. "The way he can move with that size, he's got a chance to be really special."

Royer rejoins former Elder teammate Luke Kandra who was the first to call him after entering the portal.

"I love being back home and being part of this Bearcat team," Royer said. "It means the world to me to come back and play for the city I grew up in and for all of my family and friends."

Royer calls it a blessing to live right next door to his father. The family frequented Buckeye games, but now the drive is dramatically shorter. As for animosity for leaving Columbus, he hasn't heard it and at this point wouldn't care.

New transfers, tight end Joe Royer (left) and quarterback Brendan Sorsby could be a formidable duo in 2024.
New transfers, tight end Joe Royer (left) and quarterback Brendan Sorsby could be a formidable duo in 2024.

Even in his hometown, Royer has some familiarity as UC General Manager Zach Grant was at Ohio State as well as others from the personnel department like Jack Griffith and Cass Simmons. From Mickey Marotti's strength department, there was Niko Palazeti, now Director of Football Sports Performance for the Bearcats.

"I spent three years with Niko," Royer said. "When I was up there, I typically worked out with him the most of any other strength coach. I already had a great relationship with him. Good and bad, because Coach Marotti's instilled in him a hard little off-season program. It's not easy. I love Coach Niko. I love what he's about. He gets us ready physically and mentally to play football."

Royer said the most recent winter conditioning was some of the toughest work he's done.

Kye Stokes answere a question during his introductory press conference in February next to fellow transfers Jared Bartlett (West Virginia) and Derrick Canteen (Virginia Tech). Stokes is one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to come to Cincinnati.
Kye Stokes answere a question during his introductory press conference in February next to fellow transfers Jared Bartlett (West Virginia) and Derrick Canteen (Virginia Tech). Stokes is one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to come to Cincinnati.

Safety Kye Stokes

In two seasons with the Buckeyes Stokes played 11 games and will have two years of eligibility. He was recruited by Kerry Coombs to Ohio State and likely swayed by his presence here in Cincinnati.

The former four-star recruit and consensus Top 35 safety had 12 tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in 2022. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is originally from Seffner, near Tampa. He likes Cincinnati but the number of Floridians on the roster has also agreed with him.

"I just needed a change of scenery, a fresh start," Stokes said. "I think this was the best opportunity for me. Everyone has a specific skill set. They fit into a puzzle a certain way."

Stokes mentions that he's close with fellow transfers Derrick Canteen (Virginia Tech) and Logan Wilson (North Texas).

As a whole, he thinks this Big 12 unit can take on anyone in front of them.

"I think we can compete in any league against any team any day," Stokes said. "What I've seen so far, I honestly don't understand how they went 3-9 last year. That's why I'm here, that's why we're here, so we make sure that doesn't happen again. We can compete with anyone in college football, from the 'Bamas of the world or Ohio State."

Evan Pryor runs vs. Minnesota last November for Ohio State. HE's now a Cincinnati Bearcat with three years of eligibility.
Evan Pryor runs vs. Minnesota last November for Ohio State. HE's now a Cincinnati Bearcat with three years of eligibility.

Running back Evan Pryor

Pryor at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds gives the Bearcats added speed at running back in addition to Corey Kiner's bruising style. The former four-star recruit was the nation's No. 2 all-purpose back and the No.4 ranked player in North Carolina coming to the Buckeyes. His best season in Columbus was gaining 98 yards in four games in 2021.

"Me and Chance (Williams of Grambling) bring different dimensions to the offense," Pryor said. "I feel like our speed in the backfield, complimented with what Corey does will help take us over that hump."

Pryor has three years of eligibility and appears happy working in the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium.

"I like it, there's more of a home feel to it," he said. "Being in Columbus, it's a big program, big school just like Cincinnati but I feel more at home here in the environment, being around students every day and being able to come in every day and be around these guys."

Like Royer, he enjoyed reconnecting with Palazeti in the weight room. When he was a freshman, Palazeti was in charge of freshman lifts. He's also excited about joining an offense that averaged over 217 yards rushing last season per game.

"We're ready!" Pryor said. "We've got a fork and knife in hand!"

Spring game notes

The game at noon, April 13 is free. Parking can be purchased for $5 to the Corry and Calhoun lots. Day-of-game parking is available in Campus Green for $10. There is also some construction to be aware of as the brick walkway between Sheakley Lawn and the Trabert-Talbert Tennis Center in front of the Lindner Center is being redone.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Trio of transfers from Ohio State could impact UC Bearcats football