The Career Numbers
- 140 tackles
- 1.5 tackles for loss
- 20 passes defended
- 6 interceptions
When Alex Thomas was suspended indefinitely before the 2017 season, it meant the Cincinnati Bearcats were going to have a harder time defending against the pass. It also meant that Linden Stephens was without his partner on the edge. While the Bearcats didn’t necessarily completely reinvent themselves in terms of pass defense, Stephens still came through and was once again the team’s top performer at cornerback and perhaps the secondary overall.
It started with his ability to read routes and battle with receivers to make passes go incomplete rather than settle into opponent’s hands. Stephens came up with eight passes defended in 2017, which was a career-high. Stephens also set a personal best in tackles (51) and had at least one interception for the fourth-straight year.
In addition to those numbers, Stephens played all 12 games for the second-straight campaign. It is that level of reliability that really colored his UC career. Stephens played in 92 games over the course of four seasons with the Bearcats, despite coming to campus without a great deal of recruiting fanfare in 2014. He played in nine games as a freshman, then 11 as a sophomore before the last two seasons. Along the way he had 20 passes defended and six interceptions.
The Best of the Best
Oct. 24, 2014 vs. USF
Stephens recorded his first career interception and also accumulated three tackles. He would have that many stops in each of the final four games he played that year.
Oct. 31, 2015 vs. UCF
In this Halloween contest, Stephens did just about everything. He had five tackles (which was a career-high up to that point), recorded his first and only career tackle for loss and also snagged an interception.
Sept. 1, 2016 vs. Tennessee-Martin
Stephens started 2016 off right, netting a season-high seven tackles and a pick.
Oct. 1, 2016 vs. USF
He didn’t intercept a pass and the Bearcats lost but Stephens still put up five tackles and two passes defended.
Sept. 16, 2017 at. Miami-Ohio
A career-high four passes defended accounted for half of his total for the entire season. He also had three tackles as the Bearcats won the Battle for the Victory Bell once again. Stephens played in all four wins against the RedHawks during his tenure.
Oct. 21, 2017 vs. SMU
With eight tackles, Stephens set a career-high, which he would match in the season finale against UConn. Stephens also recorded his sixth and final career interception.
A Final Goodbye
Steady and reliable, Stephens may never have received the notoriety he deserved, but he definitely played some fine football in the UC secondary. It is frightening to think just what some of the talented wideouts in the American Athletic Conference the last few years would have done against the Bearcats if Stephens wasn’t there to stand in their way. The Euclid, Ohio native was easily the best cornerback for the Bearcats during the end of the Tommy Tuberville era and the beginning of the Luke Fickell one. A major challenge this offseason will be finding someone to replace him.