Binns goes from shadows to spotlight for Cincinnati

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

If defenses want to focus their attention on Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard, then Armon Binns will happily take advantage of his increased opportunities.

Binns has emerged as the Bearcats' No. 2 receiver of late, catching four touchdown passes in his last three games. He is seeing a lot of one-on-one coverage as opponents have thrown double teams at Gilyard.

"I guess they're kind of taking their chances on me," Binns said. "I'll keep going until they change it up."

The junior knows a little something about being overlooked.

All the way up to late January of his senior year of high school in Pasadena, Calif., Binns had no solid scholarship offers. Fresno State had pulled its initial overture. Signing day was fast approaching.

So Binns took things upon himself and mailed out tapes of his play at Pasadena High School, where he caught 39 balls for 745 yards and 11 touchdowns. A week after getting the tape in the mail, Cincinnati's coaches were on the phone with Binns' parents.

"They said they couldn't believe I hadn't already committed somewhere," Binns said.

Binns thought Cincinnati was a basketball school, but he liked the pass-happy spread offense that new coach Brian Kelly had installed. He took his visit and committed on the spot.

He saw limited action his first two seasons behind Dominick Goodman, coming into this year with two career catches. Now he is playing the same role that Goodman filled by using his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame.

"He's playing a lot more physical," Kelly said. "He's playing to his size. We knew it was just a matter of time before he could do the things Dominick did for us, and that's go get the football in one-on-one situations.

"He's getting so many of them now, because [defenses] don't want D.J. Woods to run wild and they don't want Mardy Gilyard to run wild."

Binns said he picked up plenty of pointers by watching Goodman, who left school as Cincinnati's all-time leading receiver.

"I learned a lot about body positioning and getting DBs on your back," he said. "And one thing Goody was really good at that people don't know was route-running. He taught me a lot about sealing defenders."

Binns has 29 catches for 385 yards on the season. He had two touchdown catches in the first half at South Florida, both of them difficult grabs in traffic. It's still hard to believe that a tall, talented receiver who played in the shadow of the Rose Bowl could go so unnoticed in high school, but Binns holds no grudges.

"I'm glad things worked out the way they did," Binns said. "I feel like I'm in a very good situation and on a team that's on the rise, obviously."

Of course, the No. 8 Bearcats are in contention for the BCS title game, which just so happens to be in Pasadena this year. That's something that's certainly crossed Binns' mind a few times.

"I can say that's kind of what drives me," he said. "We want to play in the national championship game no matter where it's at. But it makes it a lot better that it's in my hometown."