Linebacker | 2005-08
In Mark Dantonio's second year at Cincinnati the Bearcats lost a ton of talent and contributors to graduation. The usual response for most coaches in those situations is to turn to the veterans, craving experience on a roster of inexperience. Even if the inexperienced players might have higher ceilings. That is not what Dantonio did though. He might have led a fairly conventional staff, one that eschewed risk at most opportunities, at least on Offense.
On defense though Dantonio took a big risk. That 2005 was really young and made younger by Dantonio's decision to start three unheralded true freshmen Mike Mickens, Terrill Byrd and Corey Smith, one at each level of the defense. Those three would be the backbone of the Bearcats success in the Brian Kelly era defensively. Each started well north of 40 games in their career. Of the trio Smith is the forgotten man and its easy to forget just how good he was for the defense.
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