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Projecting the Depth Chart: Defensive Line

There are a lot of players to choose from.

NCAA Football: Houston at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A good defensive line can carry a defense. Being the first line of defense against the run and the group that can most easily break a quarterback’s timing by way of pressure, the men in the trenches have a major effect on each and every play in a way other defenders do not. That’s why it will be vitally important for the Cincinnati Bearcats to nourish and develop their defensive line contributors and put forth the best combination of players at every crucial down. I don’t think Luke Fickell or defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman need a reminder of that, but we will see how things shake out in the next few weeks and how the rotation will look. With what we do know in mind, let’s take a look at where the depth chart will likely end up.

Definite Starters

Cortez Broughton, DT

This is an easy one. A layup, if you will. Broughton was a second-team All-American Athletic Conference defensive tackle last season when he had 42 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as well as an interception and two passes defended. There might not be a better defensive player on the roster right now, although Tyrell Gilbert, Marquise Copeland and Perry Young may have something to say about that.

Kevin Mouhon, DE

If you lead the team in tackles for loss (or any category for that matter), you’re going to be given all the chances in the world to be a starter. Mouhon had a team-best 9.5 tackles for loss last season and is someone who could very well break out and become a star under Fickell and company.

Position Battles

Due to the fact that they have a host of defensive ends with experience, the Bearcats will have a lively rotation at that position, which means the summer will be filled with competition for the second starting gig as well as the posts on the second-team. While Kimoni Fitz makes the most sense as the defensive end on the other side of Mouhon, Copeland, Landon Brazile, Mark Wilson and even Caleb Ashworth have a claim.

As for the second defensive tackle spot, Copeland could actually fit there and make the decision at defensive end a bit easier, but senior Lyndon Johnson and sophomore Norman Oglesby will have something to say about that.

Final Projection

First Team

Kevin Mouhon, DE

Cortez Broughton, DT

Marquise Copeland, DT

Kimoni Fitz, DE

Although Copeland is listed as a DE on the roster, I’d expect the staff will try to get him in as much as possible and if that means using his versatile strengths by putting him inside, so be it. After all, Copeland is the team’s top returning tackler. Fitz had 1.5 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss last season and has proven himself to be a much more effective and potential packed player than some of the other DE prospects, even if the margin isn’t all that large.

Second Team

Landon Brazile, DE

Lyndon Johnson, DT

Norman Oglesby, DT

Mark Wilson, DE

Johnson and Wilson are both seniors so their experience should keep them from disappearing into the depths of the talent pool on the line. Plus, Wilson actually made some plays a year ago, finishing with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Brazile and Oglesby deserve a shot at understudy roles due to their potential and relative experience advantage, but Ashworth, as well as redshirt freshmen Marcus Brown and Curtis Brooks will get looks as well.