State of the Beacats Football Program Part3

We've looked at the coaches and the offense in our "State of the Bearcats Football Prorgram" stories so far. Now we take a look at the defense in Part 3.

The questions are huge whey you start to look at the University of Cincinnati on defense. Gone are ten key players and the coordinator who helped the Bearcats win their first Big East title and advance to the Orange Bowl.

But while there are many questions there are also some answers when you really breakdown who will be filling the shoes of former Bearcat greats Connor Barwin, Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith.

Gone is Joe Tresey who came to Cincinnati with Brian Kelly as the man in charge of the defense. Also gone is the 4-3 defensive scheme Tresey used that helped the Bearcats win the Big East title.

Enters Bob Diaco and the 3-4 defensive schemes Brian Kelly prefers to use. In the spring the players took to the system quickly and could prove to be a great move with all the new starters set to take the field.

Diaco is no stranger to Kelly and his coaching style having worked for Kelly in the past. Diaco is one of the top younger coaches in the country and should have plenty of success at Cincinnati.

Last season the defense did a great job during the first two quarters in holding teams down from scoring. But in the third and fourth quarter's team scored 30 more overall points per quarter against the defense. If the Bearcats hope to win another Big East title in 2009 this must improve.

Gone also is the top five tacklers from last season as Ryan Manalac, Mike Mickens, Torry Cornett, Corey Smith and Brandon Underwood have all finished their collegiate playing days. In fact the team lost eight out of the top ten tacklers from last years defense.

So what is the state of the Bearcats Football Program on the defensive side of the ball?

Known:The only full time starter coming back is senior Aaron Webster but that doesn't mean the Bearcats lack players with experience. Linebacker Andre Revels was seventh on the team in tackles playing in 13 games last season. John Hughes, Alex Daniels, Brad Jones, Ricardo Mathews and Drew Frey have each started at least one game during their career and played a lot of key minutes.

While the outside press may be looking at replacing so many starters as a major weakness they don't understand the quality of depth on the defensive side. With a change in defensive scheme and even more athletic players taking their places on defense this has a chance to be a very good defensive team.

The Battle: Look for a hard fought battle in the defensive backfield for 2009. Aaron Webster is established himself as the leader and could find himself in next years NFL Draft with a strong senior season.

Drew Frey has been on the verge of being a major player but injuries have derailed his chances. Much will be expected in camp and if Frey can't deliver he's got guys on his heals looking for their chance.

Brad Jones has waited his turn in back of Smith and Mickens during his career and now is his time to shine. Marcus Barnett made a surprise move in the spring to the defensive side of the ball after being an All-Big East performer as a freshman wide receiver two seasons ago. Barnett proved to be a quick study and took full advantage of Mickens and Smith being on campus helping him take a speed course in being a defensive back.

Both Jones and Barnett will have Dominique Battle chomping at the bit to get his chance as a fulltime player. After showing well as a freshman Battle is on track to be a star in the near future.

The same can be said about Camerron Cheatham who enjoyed a spring that turned members of the coaching staff heads.

There are also some new players who could play into these battles as well.

Will Be Missed: While there is talent left behind the loss of players like Terrill Byrd, Adam Hoppel, Connor Barwin and Lamonte Nelms was very big. Byrd provided great penetration in the middle with his strength and quick first step. Hoppel provided the power to hold off double teams while Nelms used his athletic ability to provide pressure.

While all three were vital to the programs success last season the play of first year defender Barwin could be the hardest felt. Barwin left his mark in the Big East and at Cincinnati in his only year of defense. One of the most fierce competitors to have worn the red and black in recent years, Barwin was a force on the edge and made many big plays that turned games towards the Bearcats way.

The Big Question: Will the new defensive scheme be one that helps the Bearcats win their second Big East title?

While there are 10 new players on defense the biggest questions is with the scheme itself. The 3-4 defense is the one Brian Kelly prefers to run and will be tested early as the Bearcats open with Rutgers.

If spring practice showed anything it was how the 3-4 schemes will allow for more athletes to be on the defensive side of the ball.


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