From the very beginning of Bryce Jenkinson’s freshman season, it was clear he would be playing a major role for the Cincinnati Bearcats. The 6’1", 235-pound linebacker played in the first three games of the 2015 season before fixing himself a regular spot in the starting lineup. His first start against Memphis was a strong way to, well, start, as he recorded six solo tackles. After that, he was the linebacker leaned on most heavily outside of Eric Wilson and perhaps Kevin Brown.
Jenkinson, a three-star recruit, was a tackling machine during his high school days in Greenville, Ohio and he continued the tradition in his first campaign in black and red. He finished with 59 total tackles last season, tying him with fellow linebacker Brown for third-most on the roster. His six-stop effort against Memphis was the first of five games in which he had at least five tackles. Jenkinson’s tackling prowess is particularly impressive considering he has a proven ability to bring down runners in space without help from his fellow defenders. He finished with 30 solo stops, compared to 29 assisted. To put that into context, Wilson, the team’s leading tackler, had 51 solo tackles and 55 assisted. Of course, getting closer to the action will ultimately lead to more assists as there are just more bodies flying around closer to the line of scrimmage, but its good to see Jenkinson can get the job done by himself when the need arises.
In UC’s 37-13 win over UConn last October, Jenkinson put forth his best performance of the year, registering a team-high eight tackles to go along with a sack. It was his only sack of the season and the only one to come from a linebacker during the entire campaign. In 2016, that should be an area emphasis for him and the rest of the unit.
Speaking of areas for improvement, Jenkinson was much better against the run than the pass last season. However, he still managed to collect an interception and a pass breakup. That interception, as well as a single forced fumble, were Jenkinson’s contributions to UC’s rather lackluster results in turnover creation. In all, the Bearcats created 14 turnovers, the second-lowest total in the American Athletic Conference.
As the 2016 season approaches, Jenkinson, now a sophomore, will have every opportunity to help improve not only those turnover numbers, but the overall production of the defensive unit. Based on his work as a freshman, he will do just that.