4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CINCINNATI DEFENSE
– There’s the defense that was supposed to rise up and rock under head coach Luke Fickell. The Bearcats allowed 158 fewer points than the 2017 version while leading the AAC in total defense, scoring defense and run D. With seven starters back, look out. However …
– Three starters are done on the front four, with the loss of DTs Marquise Copeland and Cortez Broughton the big issue. The sophomore tackles of last year have to rise up and rock, but Curtis Brooks, Elijah Ponder and Marcus Brown have decent size and got in enough work last year to be ready.
Junior Michael Pitts is the lone returning starter, but he needs to do more to get to the quarterback. Kevin Mouhon is back after missing last year hurt.
– Leading tackler Malik Clements is gone after coming up with 68 tackles from his spot on the strongside, but the linebacking corps gets the other two main men back. 235-pound senior Bryan Wright returns in the middle after coming up with 55 stops, 5-10, 205-pound Jarell White was second on the team with 58 tackles, and senior Perry Young – when he’s back from a knee injury – has the talent to be a statistical star in place of Clements.
– The secondary was supposed to go through a few youthful growing pains last season. Instead, it was a machine that lead the AAC in pass efficiency defense – and it gets everyone back. S James Wiggins led the team with four picks and was fourth on the team with 54 tackles, and junior Darrick Forrest has all-star talent, too.
The corner situation is a slight concern after a slew of bumps and bruises this spring, but if everyone is fine, the combination of Coby Bryant and Cam Jefferies will be among the league’s best, and excellent sophomore Arquon Bush needs a spot, too.