The Bearcats rely heavily on their deep, talented defensive line to keep opponents in check. Like Vanderbilt, UC rotates defensive linemen regularly to keep them fresh. Along the front four the Bearcats starters average about 277 pounds.
Big East Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe anchors the line. The senior defensive tackle stands 6-foot-5 and tips the scales at 300 pounds. Wolfe, who ranks sixth nationally in tackles for loss with 19 ½, also has 9 ½ sacks. Wolfe, a beast in the weight room, has also earned All-America honors from several news services including Scout.com.
"When you look at our defensive front, it starts with Derek Wolfe," said Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. "He's a weight room guy and he's in great physical shape. He's playing at a whole nother level in terms of effort, intensity, running to the football."
At the end position, junior Walter Stewart (6-5, 244) has six sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Stewart's big game was against West Virginia when he had 2 ½ sacks. Dan Giordano mans the other end position. Giordano, (6-4, 260) also has impressive numbers with 8 ½ tackles for loss and five sacks. He has seven quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
Backups Jordan Stepp (6-1, 273), Brandon Mills (5-10, 245), Rob Trigg (6-3, 265) and Monte Taylor (6-5, 266) keep the pressure on while the starters get rest. These five reserve defensive lineman have combined for a remarkable 16 ½ tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
Middle linebacker J.K. Schaffer (6-1, 232) is the team's leading tackler with 105. Schaffer, who earned first team All-Big East honors, has 12 tackles for loss and 3 ½ sacks.
Junior Maalik Bomar (6-1, 220) is the starter at the weak side linebacker position. Bomar, who has 55 tackles on the season with 3 ½ for loss, has two fumble recoveries and three passes defended. True freshman Nick Temple (5-11, 214) is the Bearcat's starting strong side linebacker. The youngster has 27 tackles including two for loss.
Freshman Clemente Casseus, Corey Mason, Dwight Jackson are the linebacker backups.
Sophomore cornerback Deven Drane (5-10, 180) has 39 tackles and three interceptions so far in the 2011 season to pace the Bearcat secondary. The opposite cornerback, junior Camerron Cheatham (5-9, 190), is fifth on the team in tackles with 57. He has two interceptions and eight passes defensed. Junior safety Drew Frey (6-3, 203) is his team's second leading tackler with 67. He's got a pair of interceptions and has broken up six passes. Wesley Richardson (6-0, 200) is the lone senior starter in the secondary. Richardson is third on the team in tackles with 66 and has one interception to go with a lone forced fumble.
In truth, the UC rushing defense is probably not as great as its ranking and the Bearcat passing defense is probably not as poor as its ranking. There's an obvious reason for this; ten of the 12 teams Cincinnati has played rely heavily on the pass.
Vanderbilt's game plan for Cincinnati should be simple, open up the Bearcats by taking advantage of size mismatches in the UC secondary. Get the ball to the likes of Brandon Barden, Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Then pound the ball at the Bearcats using work horse Zac Stacy.