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Projecting the Depth Chart: The Secondary

A group that was hurt by injuries in 2015 should be stronger in 2016. But who will get the bulk of the playing time?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

We are still neck deep in the summer, so the pageantry of college football remains a distant speck on the horizon, but as that horizon draws nearer, we can begin to put the pieces together of what the Cincinnati Bearcats will look like when they hit the field against Tennessee-Martin on Sept. 1.

For the secondary, there is a fair share of certainty and intrigue, with two spots likely locked up and a few players vying for the other starting spots in the defensive backfield.

Definite Starters

Zach Edwards, S

After playing in 39 games during the last three seasons, including 12 starts last year, there’s nothing that could keep Edwards out of the starting lineup, aside from an injury. (*knock on wood*). One of the top tacklers in the American Athletic Conference and a safety that can go from putting a running back down behind the line of scrimmage one play (10.5 career tackles for loss) to stepping in front of an errant pass the other (seven career interceptions), Edwards’ spot is secure.

Linden Stephens, CB

Stephens has a starting job locked up entering his junior season thanks to his strong finish to 2015. He started in the last seven games and was the most productive contributor in the secondary not named Zach Edwards or Leviticus Payne.

Grant Coleman, CB

Coleman, a junior, played in 13 games in 2014 and accumulated 56 tackles and two passes defended. He started in the first four games of the season before losing the rest of the year to injury. He is healthy now and should reclaim his starting job.

Position Battles

The fight for the second safety spot is a three-man race. Tyrell Gilbert is the returning starter, as he was a first-teamer during the last eight games of the 2015 season. However, Carter Jacobs (33 tackles, forced fumble) played in 13 games last season and will get plenty of playing time, even if he doesn’t start. Mike Tyson started in four games a year ago and recorded 32 tackles, but he lost out on the starting job to Gilbert down the stretch.

While it isn’t a fight for a starting job, there is still some uncertainty surrounding the second team corners. JJ Pinckney, Alex Thomas, Chris Murphy and Christian Angulo are the players with the best chance to win those spots. Pinckney started in the final five games of 2015 and recorded 18 tackles and four passes defended. Thomas, who was one of several secondary players banged up, saw action in nine games, including three starts, and made 23 tackles. Angulo is a former two-star recruit who redshirted last year and may get more looks than Murphy (a junior who played in just one game in 2015) since he presents a bit more upside.

Final Projection

First Team

Zach Edwards, S

Tyrell Gilbert, S

Linden Stephens, CB

Grant Coleman, CB

Even though Jacobs is a solid player, Gilbert’s production as a starter can’t be ignored. Assuming he continues to show that type of talent during summer camp, he should be the safety that gets to flank Edwards.

Second Team

Carter Jacobs, S

Mike Tyson, S

Alex Thomas, CB

JJ Pinckney, CB

Even if this projection is right out of camp, it won’t hold all season. Angulo may not be the starter right away, but if he shows he belongs early on, the redshirt freshman will get more playing time. At safety, Jacobs didn't get a start last year despite injuries in the secondary so projecting him as a starter is a stretch. However, seeing him on the field consistently is not, seeing as he played in all 13 games a year ago.