Its a good thing new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is not only going to be the linebackers coach, but that he has a familiarity with the position. The Cincinnati Bearcats are going to need that type of expertise because the roster is not exactly stuffed with experienced players at the position. Besides Jaylyin Minor and Perry Young, every player listed at linebacker on the roster is a freshman, some of the redshirt variety and others in true form. That means some new faces are going to crop up on your television this season and here’s a guide to who’s who.
Sponseller is one of those redshirt freshmen. A local kid, Sponseller hails from Mason, Ohio where he became the fifth-best outside linebacker in Ohio and a three-star recruit.
Like Sponseller, Dublanko is a redshirt freshman. He played at IMG Academy before coming to UC and is originally from Aberdeen, Washington. He was a three-star linebacker and ranked the No. 20 inside linebacker in the 2016 class.
Potts was one of the biggest recruiting gets for Luke Fickell in his first winter with the program. A three-star recruit from Indianapolis, Potts committed on Jan. 15 and signed his letter of intent on Feb. 1. He was ranked the No. 33 safety in the 2017 class, but he will play linebacker, a position he should take to nicely.
Bolden didn’t have to go far to find his college home as he is a native of Cincinnati, playing his high school ball at Colerain. An outside linebacker by trade, Bolden was the No. 64 recruit in the state of Ohio for the 2017 class and turned down 13 other offers to sign with UC.
In the same way Potts has been shifted to linebacker, I could certainly see White moving to safety or maybe even corner since he is a bit undersized for the LB position. Backing that up is the fact that he played strong safety (and running back) in high school. With that written, the Cincinnati native was a three-star recruit for the 2017 class and the No. 23 prospect in Ohio as well as the No. 33 outside linebacker in the 2017 class. He committed to and signed with UC in the span of less than a month earlier this winter.
Another player from the Cincinnati area (Woodward High School), Baker can play both inside and outside linebacker.
Now, obviously not all of these guys are going to get to play this season. With Minor and Young, some of the starting gigs are likely already accounted for. I’d expect Sponseller and Potts to get the majority of the looks of this younger group. Potts was a big part of the 2017 recruiting class and even if LB is a new position for him I’d find it hard to believe that the staff won’t want to get him into the fray as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Sponseller was a three-star recruit who was redshirted, so he should be given a chance now that the roster is less filled with more experienced backers.
From there Bolden and White stand out as rookies who might get additional play and work into the rotation, although we could certainly see White take on a role in the secondary as well. For now, as a player coming out of high school categorized as an athlete, White will just fit in where he is needed and linebacker is certainly a spot where UC has needs.