- 40 total tackles
- 3 interceptions
- 2 passes defended
- 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
- 1 defensive touchdown
Cincinnati morphed into a mistake-creating defensive team in 2016. The Bearcats forced 24 turnovers from opponents, which may have ranked only sixth in the American Athletic Conference, but was tied for 24th in the country. It was a marked improvement from the previous season when they ranked 110th in the country in takeaways.
Safety Tyrell Gilbert was at the forefront of the miscue reclamation project and was also one of the more consistent producers for UC’s defense as a whole. We’ll get to his ability as a tackler, but where he really made an impact was in capitalizing on opponent mistakes. He ranked third on the team in interceptions and also managed to force two fumbles and recover another. His two passes defended were nowhere near the top of the charts, but his five forced turnovers tied with Mike Tyson for the most on the team.
Gilbert’s development as a playmaker was excellent to see but not totally unexpected. Even though he had zero interceptions in 2015, he ranked second on the team in passes defended, showing that he was able to get between an opposing receiver and a pass attempt. This year he was able to bridge the gap between deflection and interception.
As far as hitting opposing ball-carriers, Gilbert was fine if not exceptional. He recorded 40 total tackles (down from 50 the previous season), with 24 falling into the unassisted variety. He ranked 10th on the team in tackles, but did not make any impact when it came to creating negative plays, failing to even assist on a tackle for a loss let alone a sack.
Of course a full review of Gilbert’s season cannot ignore his two missed games late in the season. Gilbert suffered a knee injury in UC’s loss to BYU and then sat out the UCF and Memphis game. He came back to play against Tulsa in the regular season finale but did not start the game, something he had done in eight of the first nine tilts of the campaign.
The Best of the Best
Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee-Martin
Gilbert was all over the place against the Skyhawks. He recorded a career-high nine tackles and also returned an interception for a touchdown. It was a much-needed score for the Bearcats, as it sealed the game in the final quarter and also made up for a rather sorry scoring effort from the UC offense.
Sept. 10 at Purdue
In what was probably UC’s most complete game of the season, Gilbert was a standout on defense. All five of his tackles were of the solo variety and he also secured an interception.
Oct. 22 vs. East Carolina
The Pirates probably left Nippert Stadium with nightmares of Gilbert swirling in their heads. The safety recorded seven tackles, forced a fumble and brought in his third interception of the season.
For Next Year
It was good to see Gilbert come back and play against Tulsa, with the hope that the injury he suffered against BYU won’t linger into the offseason or spill into the 2017 campaign. If he is healthy, Gilbert will become an even more important part of the UC defense under first-year head coach Luke Fickell as he will be a leader in the secondary following the departure of senior Zach Edwards. While interceptions and forced fumbles are tough to project, Gilbert should take to the role with aplomb as he continues to develop as a junior.