The Cincinnati Bearcats have a wealth of interior defensive lineman this season, with both of their starters at defensive tackle from last season back in 2016. One of those starters is Alex Pace, a 6’2", 295-pound gap-plugger who will be at the forefront (quite literally) of the efforts to breathe life into UC’s pass rush and run defense.
Pace was a three-star recruit out of high school when he came to UC in 2012. However, he did not play in a game that season (red shirt) and then continued to sit out in 2013. He finally got into 12 games during the 2014 season and by 2015, he was firmly planted in the rotation as a starter at defensive tackle. He played in 13 games and started 12 of those last season, with the matchup against Tulsa the only game in which he was not slotted in from the jump. Along the way he accumulated career-highs in tackles (27) and tackles for loss (4.5). He also forced a fumble and found a way to get a hand on a throw from an opposing quarterback, recording a single pass defended.
But what Pace didn’t do much of was put pressure on the quarterback. Granted, defensive ends generally make life more hellacious for opposing signal callers, but posting absolutely zero sacks while playing as many snaps up front as Pace did is difficult to swallow. It is especially troubling considering Pace was a leader for a defensive line that did not do a great job of containing the run game. UC ranked ninth in the AAC in run defense (192.08 ypg).
Its difficult to pinpoint Pace’s best game of the 2015 season. He never recorded more than three tackles in a game, but was never held without a stop. His 4.5 tackles for loss tied for the third-most on the team, but he never had more than one in a game. In general, a defensive tackle’s work does not always show up on the stat sheet. There’s no statistic for how many running lanes Pace might have plugged or blocking schemes he disrupted. With that said, there is clearly work that needs to be done in 2016 by Pace and the defensive line as a whole.