The Enigma Of The Cincinnati Bearcats Secondary

Jonathan Ernst - Getty Images

Simply looking at yardage allowed tells the viewer something about the Cincinnati Bearcats secondary, that its bad. Looking at more complete metrics tells a completely different story. The Bearcats secondary is good, really good, almost shockingly so. The question is why?

The secondary was supposed to be better. All offseason we assumed that the secondary would be better. Everyone on the two deep was back except for Wesley Richardson. Deven Drane and Camerron Cheatham returned, bringing with them a wealth of talent, and experience, that the Bearcats hadn't had at corner back in a while. Drew Frey was back at strong safety after finally turning the corner, and channeling his enormous potential into a first team All Big East nod. Chris Williams returned to man his blitz happy, nickle back position. The only major contributor from last years two deep that had to be replaced was Wesley Richardson. Arryn Chenault has more than filled Richardson's void. And Chenault isn't even the best case of addition by subtraction on the team. That is, of course, Kerry Coombs moving on to Ohio State. In his place the Bearcats hired up and coming coach Shannon Morrison to coach the corner backs, and moved Mike Elder to the position of Safties coach. The sum total of all these changes and additions was supposed to be the best defensive backfield since Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith and Brandon Underwood prowled the secondary in 2008.

So far that is true, but it isn't. Through four games the Bearcats have found themselves right where they were last year. Just look at the yards allowed.

Yards Allowed National Rank Big East Rank
2012 248 87 7
2011 261 99 8

The yards allowed don't tell the whole story though. Yards are completely devoid of context. It is impossible to tell if the yards were gained when a team went into catch up mode and started to throw the ball with reckless abandon. That was certainly the case against Miami and Pitt, two teams who put the ball up 90 times between them.

Nor do yards shed any insight into how hard opposing teams have to work to move the ball through the air. A better stat for that is yards per attempt, and the Bearcats are vastly improved over last year, down to 6.4 from 7. Same thing with completion percentage. Last season teams completed passes at a 60 per cent clip, this season the figure is down to 55 per cent.

Comparing this group to ones from the recent past, lets say 2009 through 2011, the biggest difference is simple. They make it harder on opposing offenses to move the ball. I could care less about the yardage allowed, far more important and enlightening is looking at the passer rating defense.

The Bearcats are currently 24th nationally, and 3rd in the Big East behind, in passer rating defense with a rating of 108. Only Rutgers and Connecticut have better secondaries, by that measure, in the Big East. And the Bearcats current passer rating would be the best since the 2008 group posted a opposition passer rating of 112.

Numbers are numbers, they only have the meaning that we as fans , and connoisseurs, of this game choose to give them. That's why the biggest difference in this secondary from last season to this one can only really be seen in the game. In the past this defense gave away a ton of free yards. Mostly in the flats, occasionally down the seams. This year those yards aren't so free.Thats why I think this defense is better, much better, than previous editions, at least so far.

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