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Cincinnati Bearcats Football Season 2011 In Review | Defensive Backs

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST

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Alternate Title: So I might have been wrong about this.

One of the sore spots for me in terms of the consistency of the Bearcats in recent years has been the play of the secondary. Like every other defensive position group the secondary has been a victim of Brian Kelly's recruiting. Not just in terms of quality but quantity as well. In 2010 there simply weren't enough DB's who contribute. That got better in 2011 and as a result the performance of the secondary improved in 2011. To wit.

Year Yards Yards Per Attempt Completion % TD INT Rating
2011 3394 7 60.2 17 16 124.27
2007-10 Average 3000 6.8 61.1 19 18.5 121.99

The most impressive thing about the secondary in 2011 was the way they dealt with the injury bug. 2010 was a mess in terms of injuries, for the entire team, but for the secondary in particular. Dominique Battle was coming off a pretty good sophomore campaign in 2009 and was expected to be the bellweather in 2010. It didn't come off that way. Battle was injured during fall camp, missed the opener against Fresno State, came back for the N.C. State game and then tore his MCL against Oklahoma and was lost for the year. After that Kerry Coombs kept experimenting with corners, trying to find the right combination, but it never quite happened. On top of that the safeties suffered injuries that forced Chris Williams a corner/nickle back by trade to fill in at both safety spots at various times. When the safeties were healthy they looked lost and were frequently victimized by even the most pedestrian of passing attacks.

In 2011 things were different because the weirdest thing happened. As the season wore on the secondary got better. Take a look at the game logs from this season and pay close attention to the passer rating stat on the right hand column. Passer rating defense peaks after the West Virginia game and begins to decline afterwards. That wasn't the trend for the last two years. As seasons progressed the secondary always seemed to get worse under Kerry Coombs. That trend in and of itself was enough to make me want to see the end of Coombs on the UC staff, at least as a position coach.

But this year was probably his best as a college coach. It's not a huge stretch to make there. All you need to do is look at Dominique Battle and how this group responded to his loss compared with the response in 2010. Last year the loss of Battle ignited what was a three month long dumpster fire of secondary performances. Battle was a guy who had the respect of everyone because of how well he played in 2009. He had the conch of leadership and when he was forced to retire it no one picked it up. This year same scenario. He tore his ACL against USF and Deven Drane stepped into a starting role and funnily enough the secondary got better. Now I should mention two Caveats about this. 1) I am of the opinion that Drane is the most singularly talented defensive back on the roster and the heir apparent to Mike Mickens. 2) Drane and Battle waged a long campaign in camp for the right of the Boundary Corner. When the season began they basically rotated series. But I still think it shows how far the secondary came in terms of depth and how far Coombs came in his ability to manage a situation in which it would have been all too easy for one of his guys to check out.

The secondary gave up more passing yards in 2011 than at any other point in the last five years*. But I don't particularly care for raw yardage when it comes to evaluating the performance of a secondary. Far more important are yards per attempt and rating. In both cases the Bearcats fare well 44th in passer rating and 56th in yards per attempt. Both are strong showings considering the choice to adapt an attacking defensive style that put a ton of pressure on the secondary.

*In fact the most in school history. But it should be noted that of the top 10 marks for passing yards allowed all of them have come since 1994.

I Was Wrong Again

I gave the group a 5 in the pre season and had this to say

My feelings about the Defensive Backs are similar to those I have about the offensive line. There is enough talent on hand to fashion a competent secondary. But I don't have a lot of faith in the staff to put the best 4 on the field or to call a defense that puts the secondary in a position where success is a reasonable expectation. The defensive line will be much better this year and the secondary will certainly benefit from what appears to be a revitalized pass rush. The numbers will be better this year because they can't get much worse. But the biggest question mark for this team for me is the secondary. I have a good feel about where the rest of the positions stand, but I am in the dark here. It will be better, no question. But how much better?

As it turns out quite a bit better. The post season rating for the group is an 8 from me. What's your take. What's your rating and why?