September 12th 2009. That was the last time a Cincinnati Bearcats defense stepped onto the field without Walter Stewart in the starting lineup. In between that day, where the Bearcats hung 70 on Southeastern Missouri State, have come 41 games, and 41 starts for Walt. His loss is big, to say the least.
But the Bearcats do have a capible back up, two of them actually. Brandon Mills has 16 career sacks, and 28 TFL. He has played in every game since early in the 2009 season. This is not a guy who will be shocked by anything that he sees tonight. That being said, this has not been his best season. Just 1 sack and 1 TFL on the season.
The other option to start in Walts stead is Silverberry Mouhon, a redshirt Freshman from Norcross, Georgia. Mouhon has as much talent as any young defensive linemen in a Bearcats uniform over the last half a decade. Defensive line coach Steve Stripling loves Silverberry, and his potential, and he has seen plenty of live, relevant reps this season. But as with Mills, the production isn't great. Mouhon has 5 tackels on the year with no TFL's or sacks, though he does have a pass breakup and hurry on the season.
Coming into the season I thought that the Bearcats depth up front would be even better than it was last year. So far that has been true, sort of. By that I mean that the rotation is even deeper, UC routinely plays 9 guys in the rotation, which is more than last year. But this injury will be the first really big test of the theory. Brandon Mills and Silverberry Mouhon are going to have big spotlights on them. That spotlight is so big because the guy they are playing so routinely fills it. Its a big space to fill.