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Cincinnati Bearcats Football Position Preview: Secondary

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The Bearcats defense, as a whole, has taken a lot of heat this offseason as everyone questions their ability to support Cincinnati's high-powered offense. Led by senior Adrian Witty, the Bearcats secondary finds itself pretty experienced entering the 2015 season.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Almost all successful defenses in college football have a strong secondary. If you cannot cover deep balls and commit to run defense on a consistent basis then it is going to be a long day for any secondary in the nation.

The Bearcats secondary looks to improve from last season after allowing a disappointing 27.2 points per game, ranking them 69th in the FBS. On top of that, the defense allowed 255.4 passing yards per game as well as 183.7 rushing yards per game, which ranked them as the 94th overall defense in all of the FBS. This came as a surprise to many after the Bearcats defense ranked 9th in the FBS during the 2013 season. First year defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale, who was previously the secondary coach, knows the defense is going to have to step up if they want to improve on their 9-4 record the last 2 seasons. "We've got a lot of speed," Clinkscale told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We're athletic. We're tall. We have very good football players; we've just got to put it all together. We've got to coach them better, which we'll do this year."

Adrian Witty- Senior Cornerback, Captain #8

After missing most of the 2014 season with a leg injury, Adrian Witty looks to bounce back and lead a secondary that struggled last season. The 5-foot-10, 192 pound senior from Deerfield Beach Florida is the most experienced cornerback on the team as he has seen time since his freshman year in 2011. Witty is a quick, physical cornerback who is not afraid to take some chances on the outside, if he is tested. Look for Witty to have a big year, after coming off a disappointing injury last season.

Leviticus Payne- Senior Cornerback, #9

Payne is listed as a cornerback on the Bearcats roster, however, he has assumed the role of starting strong-side linebacker, where he has excelled. Payne is arguably the most versatile player on the Bearcats defense and can be characterized as a hard nose physical player who isn't afraid to hit regardless of his 5-foot-10, 187 pound frame. Payne is definitely a hybrid for the Bearcats because he is quick enough to cover receivers, but is also physical enough to defend the run. Look for Payne to be a leader and catalyst of the Bearcats defense this season.

Grant Coleman- Junior Cornerback, #13

Coleman is a former walk-on from Columbus, Ohio who was inserted into the starting lineup after Witty went down with a season-ending injury in the first game last season. Standing at 6-foot and weighing 171 pounds, Coleman is not afraid to be physical with receivers and is a solid tackler on the outside; posting 56 tackles including a forced fumble in 2014. Look for Coleman to continue to get reps in 2015.

Zach Edwards- Junior Safety, #4

Edwards is coming off a strong 2014 season where he started 12 games and recorded 121 tackles including two interceptions and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-1, 200 pounder is a hard-hitting strong safety and has a knack for finding the ball. Expect big things from Edwards this year after an impressive 2014 season.

Andre Jones- Junior Safety, #29

Jones was inserted into the starting lineup at Ohio State, where he made nine consecutive starts. Jones made an immediate impact after being named a starter as he finished the year with 44 tackles, six pass deflections and one interception. Jones is a ball hawk who is expected to start for the Bearcats this upcoming season.

The future looks bright for the Cincinnati secondary as they bring back some key reserves for the upcoming season.

Key Reserves:

Aaron Brown- Sophomore Cornerback, #7

Brown appeared in 12 games last season, mainly on special teams, but the 5-foot-11 171 pounder from Miami, Florida is looking to see some time in the secondary this season. Brown is an under the radar recruit that was ranked a 3 star recruit by Rivals and Scout. Look for Brown to be a key backup for the Bearcats.

Bobby Brown- Sophomore Cornerback, #26

Brown, who is an Ohio native, saw limited time last year carrying the ball 11 times for a total of 80 yards. A 2-star recruit who was converted into a cornerback looks to step in on the defense and get some reps early in the season.

Jarred Evans- Senior Cornerback, #12

Evans saw limited time playing quarterback where he ran for 110 yards and 1 touchdown. Evans is a 3-star recruit who transferred from Santa Barbara Community College.

Tyrell Gilbert- RS Freshman Safety, #2

A 3-star recruit from Cincinnati, Ohio, Gilbert looks to step into a backup role for the Bearcats after redshirting his freshman year.