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MACON — The Cincinnati Bearcats defensive line features familiar faces anchoring it in 2022. There are high expectations for a group that has been a strength of the previous four Bearcats teams, including last year's College Football Playoff team.

Here are five bold predictions for this year's defensive line.

1. Malik Vann, Jowon Briggs, and Jabari Taylor will combine for more than 15 sacks

This one is achievable. The big three combined for 8.5 sacks last year, but that was playing behind Curtis Brooks. This year, they will be the ones anchoring the defensive line, generating pressure on quarterbacks. It's their defensive line now, and they're here to get after opposing quarterbacks.

2. There will be a First Team All-AAC selection on this D-Line

Just like Curtis Brooks last year, someone on this year's defensive line will rise to the top of the American Athletic Conference rankings. This year's group of players is the next in a long line of successful defensive linemen in the Luke Fickell era. There's no reason to expect this year's group can't reach the level of postseason accolades those who came before them did.

3. Eric Phillips will make a splash this year

When I think of Phillips heading into this year, I think of Deshawn Pace's rise last year. Like Pace, Phillips hails from Colerain High School, and it feels like he could be poised for a breakout in his third season with Cincinnati.

4. The Bearcats will lower their rushing yards allowed per game from last year

If there was one weakness on last year's Bearcats team, it was their run defense. The Bearcats allowed 149 yards per game on the ground, barely ranking in the top half of the conference and the country. But if Malik Vann and Jowon Briggs are occupying the middle of the field, that number could drop this season.

5. At least one lineman will become an NFL Draft prospect

Just like Curtis Brooks last year and so many others over the years, there's a decent chance someone from the D-line room will catch the eye of NFL scouts. Vann, Briggs, and Taylor have learned from great defensive linemen over the years who have gone on to the NFL. Now, it's their turn.

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