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Cincinnati Football: Improving the Bearcats Defensive Line in 2016

The Bearcats defensive line had some serious gaps in it for most of the season. Ranking as one of the worst in the country, there was a lot to be desired by Bearcats fans in the form of a pass rush and a disruptive front line against the run game. The question is, will it get any better this upcoming season?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bearcats were one of the worst teams in the entire country on the defensive line. The rush defense was in the latter half of the country's rankings and they managed only 13 sacks on the year. In comparison, the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide had a whopping 52 on the season. They were tied for being the fourth worst team in the country at rushing the passer ahead of only South Alabama, Wyoming, and UNLV. Yes, they were that bad, yet despite the atrocity that was the defensive line last season, Bearcat fans have a lot to look forward to.

Last season, the Bearcats had a solid 18 defensive linemen competing for the starting job, but just two of them were seniors and they only had two juniors as well. That leaves ten freshmen and four sophomores to fill in the much needed gaps across the defensive line. The Bearcats had two freshmen on the line last season and will be returning another starter so, if anything, fans should expect a huge improvement over the disaster that was last season.

Silverberry Mouhon - 2015: B, 2016: N/A

With only one starter leaving the line next year, it is hard to imagine that it will make much of an impact, right? It's only one guy, after all. Not really though, because Silverberry Mouhon was the only experienced linemen the Bearcats had last season. Mouhon was the only bright spot for the majority of the season, but it is hard to expect more from him when he was the lone senior on a defensive line with no experience or depth, all while trying to keep control of 14 underclassmen. He finished the year with 4.5 sacks and a solid 42 tackles. He was the majority of what the Bearcats called their pass rush and hopefully an underclassman can step up and fill his shoes.

Alex Pace - 2015: C-, 2016: B-

He will be the only returning starter that is an upperclassman next season, so he will be in for a wild ride when camp comes around. Having to step into such a huge leadership position could be tough, but it is expected that he will mold into a well-selected leader and can bounce back from his poor performance last season. On a defense that managed only 13 sacks total, it is easy to understand if his statistics are lower in regard to the caliber of which the defense played, yet only 27 tackles and zero sacks leaves a whole lot to be desired by any defensive line coach. Hopefully for the Bearcats' sake, he steps in to fill the shoes of the departing Mouhon.

On the Rise

The roster is absolutely loaded with young guys waiting for an opportunity to get their careers moving. There are now ten underclassmen on the roster (freshmen or sophomores) for the 2016 season and the Bearcats are trying to mold them quick enough to compete with numerous junior college transfers and recruits. With that in mind, there are a few guys worth looking forward to that could make a significant impact. Both Cortez Broughton and Kimoni Fitz saw serious playing time as freshmen last season and could find themselves ready for a serious breakout performance in their second season. Young talent usually means sloppy play, so I would expect that the Bearcats will be far from dominant this upcoming season, but anything is better than last year.