It is an obvious thing to say, but the fact remains that rushing the passer is a critical part of any defensive strategy. Keeping an opposing quarterback uneasy leads to bad decisions, wobbly passes and broken plays, which in turn lead to shorter gains and turnovers. Expectations for Cincinnati football are sky high and still rising this season and for the Bearcats to live up to the hype, they will need to get strong play out of their defensive line.
That task won't be incredibly easy, even for a team that ranked second in the American Athletic Conference in sacks last season (35). Of those 35 sacks, 9.5 are no longer residing on the defensive line, or the roster in general, since Terrell Hartsfield graduated. There are plenty of bodies ready to plug in and take a shot at ensuring that the Bearcats remain a squad that scares opposing quarterbacks. Let's take a look.
Silverberry Mouhon - Senior Defensive End No. 92
Mouhon is versatile enough to play both on the inside and the outside but he is most effective as an edge rusher. He dominated the league as a sophomore, racking up 9.5 sacks and was expected to be even better last season. However, he was a bit disappointing in terms of production, with his sack total slashed to four, while he managed only five tackles for loss, a considerable drop from the 12.5 he recorded as a sophomore. With Hartsfield gone, Mouhon is now the top pass rusher on the team and will see his fair share of double teams. He clearly has the talent to be a top defensive end in the league and a return to his 2013 form would be huge.
Mark Wilson - Sophomore Defensive End No. 56
Behind Mouhon, the choices at defensive end are extremely green, with five freshman listed on the roster at the position. That is good news for Wilson, who reshirted in 2013 and then saw some sporadic time as a freshman in 2014. He recorded a sack and played in nine games last season. He is a former two-star recruit.
Landon Brazile - Freshman Defensive End No. 47
A three-star recruit from last year's class, Brazile is a long fellow, standing at 6-foot-6. He was ranked as the No. 49 prospect at defensive end by Scout.com and the No. 69 overall prospect in Ohio by 247Sports. He redshirted in 2014.
Bryan Wright - Freshman Defensive End No. 95
Wright leads a group of very promising freshman defensive ends that Tommy Tuberville brought in this season. He is an exceptional athlete, as he played quarterback in high school and also played basketball for three years. He is a 6-foot-3, 238-pound prospect that ranked as the No. 9 player in Rival.com's Top-25 prep rankings.
Kimoni Fitz - Freshman Defensive End No. 51
Fitz was an extremely productive player in high school and is one of a number of three-star prospects on the defensive line. He also ranked as the No. 41 overall prospect in Virginia by 247Sports. Playing for Dan River High School, he recorded an incredible 29 tackles for loss and 15 sacks as a senior. He clearly likes and knows how to get after the quarterback.
Caleb Ashworth - Freshman Defensive End No. 55
Yet another three-star recruit, Ashworth hails from Dry Fork, Virginia. He posted impressive numbers throughout his high school career (386 tackles, 36 sacks) and was ranked the No. 38 recruit in Virginia and the No. 98 defensive end in the 2015 class by ESPN.
It should be noted that is very unlikely that all of the young guys will get a shot at a great deal of playing time this year, but having so much depth in not only numbers, but talent and youth puts Cincinnati in a good position.
Chris Burton - Sophomore Defensive Tackle No. 94
Burton played in 13 games in 2014 after redshirting in 2013. He recorded a sack and seven total tackles. He is a former three-star recruit and a tight end in high school, so he has the ability to shift positions.
Alex Pace - Junior Defensive Tackle No. 99
Hakeem Allonce - Junior Defensive Tackle No. 90
Last season, Allonce redshirted after coming over to Cincinnati as a junior college transfer from Pierce College in Los Angeles. He was rated a three-star recruit and named the No. 16 junior college defensive tackle by 247Sports. Now he gets a chance to prove his worth and fit into the rotation.
Lyndon Johnson - Junior Defensive Tackle No. 98
Johnson stands in the same position Allonce did a year ago. He is a junior college transfer from Holmes Community College in Mississippi. He had 30 tackles, six sacks and nine tackles for loss last season en route to earning First-Team All-State honors by the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges. He should be a nice addition to the unit. Oh and here is where you can insert your obligatory joke about president Lyndon B. Johnson.
Sione Tongamoa - Junior Defensive Tackle No. 50
Another junior college transfer, Tongamoa was a 2013 First-Team All-Golden Gate Conference honoree at Merced College after totaling 70 tackles, including 16 for loss.
Cortez Broughton - Freshman Defensive Tackle No. 96
Broughton is a former two-star recruit who played in two games last season before medically redshirting due to a season-ending injury.
Chris Ferguson - Freshman Defensive Tackle No. 63
Ferguson also redshirted last season, although not due to a medical hardship. He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school.
Norman Oglesby - Freshman Defensive Tackle No. 97
Oglesby is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11, 265 pounds, but he is still a three-star recruit and considered by some as the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect out of Indiana.
Keith Minor - Freshman Defensive Tackle No. 52
Minor is a two-star prospect that played on both the offensive and defensive line in high school.
Sophomore Beau Harmon and freshman Tyler Lyon are also defensive lineman on the roster, but are there for depth more than actual playing time.