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Kevin Mouhon Moves To Defensive End

For the Cincinnati Bearcats one of the biggest goals of the spring season has to be improving the pass rush. If you just look at the sack numbers the Bearcats look alright. They ended the year 27th nationally with 35 sacks, but they simply were not a consistent team at getting pressure on passers..

To illustrate that take a look at the Bearcats pressure percentage numbers from 2014 relative to the previous five years.

UC Sacks UC Hurries Opponent Pass Attempts Pressure Percentage
2014 35 25 454 12.2%
2013 35 41 438 16.1%
2012 30 25 498 10.4%
2011 46 29 483 14.2%
2010 26 19 370 11.4%

The picture that those numbers paint is that of a defensive line that was pretty good at one particular thing, converting passing attempts into sacks (third highest sack rate from the last five years) but not good at getting down to down pressure on passers. That wasn't a huge problem from a competitiveness stand point in an offensively challenged league, but that showed up big time in the Bearcats games against good offenses like Ohio State and, to a lesser extent Miami. These numbers underscore that the Bearcats were OK along the defensive line, but they were some way off that standards set in 2014 and 2011.

Now the Bearcats are starting over completely along the defensive line. Three of last years top four defensive ends are gone. The only starter coming back is Silverberry Mouhoun who, even he would probably admit, took a step back as a Junior. The only other end on the roster who played non garbage time minutes was Mark Wilson, but even he was not in the rotation.

That's the context for the move of Kevin Mouhon, arguably the most celebrated recruit to sign with UC out of high school, from linebacker to defensive end. Mouhon the Younger actually started out his high school career as a defensive end before shifting back to linebacker before his junior year. Even after Mouhon moved back to linebacker he still played more of a hybrid position, part defensive end, part linebacker.

Now he is mostly a defensive end for the Bearcats*. For Tommy Tuberville and Steve Clinkscale this is all about improving the athleticism up front. That has been a long term concern for Tubs since taking over the program, and it has become a particularly acute problem for the Bearcats on the biggest stages and in the biggest games. Taking a guy like Kevin Mouhon and making him into a defensive end is one way to move in that direction.

*It makes no sense to stick guy with multiple skill sets and put him in one spot. My guess is that we see some Mouhoh the Younger dropping back in zone on occasion, particularly in nickle and dime looks, but his position is defensive end

Tommy Tuberville has been making personnel moves like this for his entire coaching life. He got his start at Miami in the 80's under Jimmy Johnson and later Dennis Erickson. Miami was famous for their love bordering on a fetish, of speed. Under those staff's corners who were a step slow they would take safeties, and safeties  who were a step slow and make them linebackers, and so on. The assumption behind it all, opponents can't hit what they can't catch.

That's the underlying theory behind this move, and it's not the only personnel move that is pointing in this direction. Cortez Broughton was briefly moved to strong side defensive end from defensive tackle during the bowl practices this year. Broughton has the foot speed, get off and lateral quickness to play defensive end at the 280 pounds he weighed last year. That experiment ended after bowl practices and Broughton is back at defensive tackle this spring. JUCO Lyndon Johnson is probably going to start out with the defensive tackles this year, even though he was billed as an end by Tubs on signing day.

The Mouhon the Younger move is all about getting more speed on the field in as many positions as possible. No defense has ever been hurt by being too fast. Moving Kevin Mouhon to defensive end doesn't solve the problem by any stretch, but it is representative of what the solution is, and that's the Miami approach.