Jaylyin Minor, Perry Young and...? That’s what you’ve come here to read; to find out who that third (or fourth) starter will be. As we discussed last week, the Cincinnati Bearcats are decidedly green at linebacker this season, a year after being fortunate enough to employ both Eric Wilson and Antonio Kinard. With mostly freshmen and sophomores on the roster, this might be the throw-blindfolded-at-a-dartboardiest projection I’ve ever made. Here it goes.
Minor is the odd man out in an odd way. If you look down the UC roster, once you get to the linebacker section you’ll notice a bunch of FR designations. What will stick out like a sore thumb is the SR next to Minor’s name. As the elder statesman, Minor will be called upon to play a major role for the first time in his career. Sure, he played in 10 games last season, but now he is going to start and be on the field a whole lot more. He can cement his place by improving as a pass rusher and tackling effectively.
Speaking of players and their tackling ability, Young is blessed in that area. He had 42 tackles a year ago while playing a hybrid between linebacker and safety. It appears he will be leaning more toward the linebacker side of the coin as a sophomore, which speaks to how much Luke Fickell and his staff need backers. Young will likely play on the outside, which means he also needs to work on getting into the backfield and causing havoc.
Even though I think Minor and Young are pretty much locks for starting gigs, I also think they will have to earn those spots. So don’t be surprised to see players like R.J. Potts, Ty Sponseller and Jarell White push the upperclassmen. The battle for the third spot on the depth chart will be the most interesting, as Potts and White are both highly regarded recruits while Sponseller is a redshirt freshman eager to make an impact.
Something tells me that Fickell is going to look at this season in the same way a cook would look at a wall onto which he just threw spaghetti. He’s going to see what sticks. The best way to do that would be by throwing highly regarded recruits into the fray early on and seeing if they can hold their own. Potts was one of the best recruiting additions of this past winter and the former safety should be given a shot to prove himself right away.
Yup. That’s a lot of youth. White and Bolden both have never been at the collegiate level and Sponseller only has the fact that he redshirted last year giving him any type of experience advantage. But these are the three youngsters after Potts that have the best chance at being impact players down the road. In addition, its entirely possible that Tyrell Gilbert will be given a chance to shift down from safety to give more flexibility and depth to the rotation.