- 25 tackles
- 4 interceptions
- 3 passes defended
Cincinnati was a middle of the road team in the American Athletic Conference in terms of passing defense in 2016, allowing 233.3 yards per game through the air. However, that didn’t mean the Bearcats struggled to create mistakes from opposing quarterbacks. In fact, they finished up the year second in the AAC and tied for 11th nationally in interceptions (17). Mike Tyson, who we’ve talked about already, was a big reason why, as he had five interceptions. But Tyson is gone, so who will fill the interception void?
The easy answer is Alex Thomas, who will enter his junior year after a sophomore campaign in which he stole four pass attempts from the air. He averaged 11.8 yards per return on those four picks, which ranked second on the team, and also had three passes defended. It was a huge step forward for the Lauderdale Lakes, Florida native. Thomas played in nine games in 2015 and had zero interceptions and just a single pass defended.
The 6’1” 180 pound cornerback also increased his tackle total from his freshman season to his sophomore one, with 16 solo stops and nine assists for a total of 25 in 2016 compared to 11, 11 and 22 in 2015.
The Best of the Best
Sept. 10 at Purdue
Although he only had two tackles during a 38-20 triumph against a Big Ten opponent, Thomas also had an interception and a pass defended.
Sept. 15 vs. Houston
Maybe the Cougars won this game but Thomas did help try to reverse that decision. He finished with a season-high five tackles, intercepted a pass, which he returned 22 yards, and deflected a pass.
Oct. 8 at UConn
It was another day with just two tackles for Thomas, but he made up for that a little with an interception he returned 25 yards.
For Next Year
As mentioned above, with Tyson gone, there will be a need for more players to create turnovers. Thomas showed skill in that regard, even if interceptions are somewhat random and can’t be projected entirely. What Thomas really needs to work on is avoiding penalties and covering receivers one-on-one. If he can do that, he will be a lethal defender under new head coach Luke Fickell.