Changes up and down the Cincinnati Bearcats’ staff will mean shifts for most positional groups. Everyone on defense has to get used to a new defensive coordinator. Well, two technically, since Robert Prunty and Jeff Koonz will be co-coordinators.
Koonz will work particularly closely with the linebackers, as he also has the title of linebackers coach. He has plenty of experience with the position. He spent the previous four years coaching the linebackers at Louisiana Tech and was in charge of the Texas Longhorns’ unit in 2006. He inherits a group at UC that didn’t do a ton in terms of creating negative plays and is a bit short on experience outside of a pair of returning starters.
Before we talk about the guys Koonz will get to work with, we’ll have to touch on the players (well, player) who won’t be there.
Kevin Brown is the only real loss at the position, but he leaves a sizable hole to fill. As a senior, Brown played in 13 games, starting in the first four. He finished the year with 59 tackles (a career-high) and also snagged an interception. His one tackle for loss and zero sacks didn’t do much to improve UC’s struggles in both areas, however.
Koonz is fortunate enough to have two returning starters. But they aren’t just any starters. Eric Wilson led UC in tackles last season (106) and is a contender for All-American Athletic Conference honors. Bryce Jenkinson started in nine games in 2015 and played in all 13. Along the way he picked up 59 tackles (third on the team) and a sack. It was the only one recorded by a UC linebacker.
Kevin Mouhon, a former four-star recruit, got on the field early for UC and even made a pair of starts during his freshman season. He only finished with 18 tackles and did not show much in terms of pass-rushing, a skill he hopefully will improve upon. That is doubly important now that his brother, Silverberry Mouhon, is no longer rushing the passer on the defensive line. Junior Jaylyin Minor (30 tackles) is another somewhat proven contributor, while Antonio Kinard returns after playing sparingly in 2015. Finally, even though Mike Tyson is listed as a safety, he may slide down and take some snaps at linebacker.
UC is taking a bit of a gamble with one of its top recruits. Tyquan Statham, who was ranked the No. 6 running back in Georgia by Scout and the No. 43 athlete in the country by 247Sports, will be playing outside linebacker for the Bearcats as a freshman. Ty Sponseller, who was a three-star recruit like Statham, is another true freshman linebacker that’s new in town. A relatively local prospect, the Mason, Ohio-native was ranked the No. 5 outside linebacker in Ohio by Scout.