ORLANDO - UCF will be facing a talented group of defensive players on Saturday. As a unit, Cincinnati’s defense ranks No. 12 by allowing just 294.2 yards per game. More importantly, that defense leads a team that is currently 5-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation.
There are many talented players to discuss, and here are the Bearcats that fans should know about.
Know the Following Numbers and Names
This list could have extended further, but each of the following players tends to find the football in a hurry.
92 NG Curtis Brooks
6 S Bryan Cook
20 LB Deshawn Pace
0 OLB Darrian Beavers
90 DE Jabari Taylor
41 MLB Joel Dublanko
6 CB Coby Bryant
1 CB Ahmad Gardner
42 DE Malik Vann
21 DE MyJai Sanders
There’s much discussion about Vann, Sanders and Beavers, and for good reason. They have combined for 12 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 60 tackles. Most likely, each of them will eventually don a NFL uniform.
Another defensive end to watch could be Taylor as he’s recorded 1.5 sacks coming off the bench. It’s a talented defensive end and outside linebacker group. They are truly talented, and they have help towards the interior.
Big Man in the Middle
For the Bearcats to play effective defense, especially when considering the success of Cincinnati’s edge rushers and blitzers overall, it starts with the big man in the middle. That would be Brooks, 6’2”, 285 pounds, and he’s active.
Brooks recorded 16 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one-half a sack, and one quarterback hurry so far in 2021. He’s more valuable than his statistics would indicate.
This version of a three-down linemen front requires speed and quickness. It’s not like the version that Alabama or Georgia operate with massive nose guards like the Bulldogs Jordan Davis, who is some place in the 360-to-380-pound range.
Brooks helps to create havoc by penetrating as well as taking up blocks. He’s the blue collar player that’s needed along the interior. Without him, Cincinnati’s defense would not flourish. There is something to note about Brooks during Cincinnati’s 52-3 victory over Temple. He did not record a tackle. Did not need to do so.
The Bearcats dominated so much many of the players came out of the game early. That will aid Cincinnati this upcoming Saturday versus UCF. One can be assured, big No. 92 will be ready to go when the Knights play the Bearcats.
Ball Hawks at Cornerback
Arguably the best cornerback in college football would be Gardner. He’s often left alone as teams attempt to throw in a different direction. A freshman that earned a starting nod and went on to become a First Team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America for his efforts as a sophomore, he’s back for more in 2021.
So far in 2021, Gardner amassed two interceptions, two passes broken up, and nine total tackles. Again, teams stay away from Gardner for a reason. Look for UCF to do the same this Saturday. The cornerback on the other side of the football field is really good as well, however.
Bryant holds his own. He’s totaled 20 tackles, one interception, six passes broken up, and one-half a tackle for loss. He sees more action because of Gardner, but he’s also been up to the challenge.
Speed to the Football
Forget the jersey numbers and names for a moment. Cincinnati’s defense is fast. As a unit, they run to the football and do so play after play. It’s a proud group that’s only allowing 12.2 points per game. Speed is a major reason why.
UCF out runs the majority of its opponents with all of the skill talent it possesses. That’s not going to happen this Saturday like usual. Sure, UCF still provides plenty of speed with a player like Johnny Richardson leading the way, but their impact could be different against a Bearcats defense with the speed to cut off running lanes quicker than most defenses are capable of doing. That speed helped to produce the following overall defensive statistics for the Bearcats:
34 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, nine interceptions (No. 5 nationally), and holding three of the five opponents they played to less than 200 yards passing.
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