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Returning Player Refresher: Tyrell Gilbert

Zach Edwards has a stranglehold on one safety spot, but Gilbert has the inside track on the other after an impressive redshirt freshman season.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

You couldn’t really ask for much more from Tyrell Gilbert last season. Gilbert, the redshirt freshman was an excellent understudy to Zach Edwards and made more plays than most upper classmen out of the safety spot.

The former three-star recruit covered ground like a madman and made plays all over the place, racking up tackles, swatting balls out of the air and even snagging a ball or two that happened to go amiss. A starter in eight games and a participant in all 13, the 6’1" safety recorded 50 tackles, 23 solo and 27 assisted. That ranked fifth on the team and was more than Leviticus Payne and Silverberry Mouhon, two more prominently featured defenders. He had at least five tackles in six games, including a pair of eight-stop efforts against BYU and Tulsa. Unfortunately, he did not do much in terms of creating pressure, an issue that plagued UC as a whole. Gilbert had just one tackle for loss and no sacks.

However, while he didn’t apply pressure to opposing backfields, he did keep tight watch on opposing receivers, getting to balls before would-be targets on a semi-frequent basis. In total, he registered seven passes defended and six pass break-ups, ranking second to Edwards in both categories.

It would have been nice if he could have caught a few more of those. His one and only interception of the season came against UConn when he snatched away a throw from Bryant Shireffs during UC’s 37-13 victory over the Huskies.

As Gilbert enters the 2016 campaign, he will be competing for playing time at the safety spot opposite Edwards. Carter Jacobs, who played in 12 games last season, is his primary adversary in that position battle, but Gilbert’s proven ability should give him a leg up.

Assuming he is given first shot behind Edwards, Gilbert obviously needs to continue to wrap up receivers and other assorted ball carriers like he did last year while making smart plays on the ball. If he can create a bit more havoc in the opponents backfield and turn a few of those pass break-ups into interceptions, he could put together a season to rival Edwards.