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Returning Player Refresher: Cortez Broughton

Broughton was a breakout star in 2016 but he regressed last year. As a senior, he has one more shot to be the player he hinted at as a sophomore.

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

Expectations were high for Cortez Broughton last year. While new head coach Luke Fickell had a whole lot to work on with the Cincinnati Bearcats, Broughton wasn’t somebody he had to worry about. Coming off a season worthy of a second-team All-American Athletic Conference honor, the defensive tackle from Georgia was pegged as one of the best in the business. Athlon Sports named him to the pre-season all-AAC first team and they were not alone.

Those expectations were not met, however, as Broughton had a perfectly fine season but not one that would merit the type of postseason accolades he appeared destined to earn. Broughton’s totals in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks all deteriorated from 2016 to 2017, as he finished with 34, 3.5 and 1.0, respectively. Those were numbers somewhere between his redshirt freshman (28 tackles, 2.0 TFL) and award-winning sophomore campaign (42 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks).

The year started off well enough. Broughton had 1.5 tackles for loss, including a sack, after the first two games of the season, but his production just stopped from there.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story for a defensive tackle. It’s a bit easier for defensive ends to rack up big sack totals. However, Copeland’s drop in counting statistics came along with a drop in his effectiveness in the middle of the defensive line. He was not the disruptive force he had been in 2016 and instead of moving others around, he was the one being moved more often.

There’s still every reason to believe that Broughton can get back to or even exceed the work he did in 2016. With a new defensive line coach in Steve Stripling, Broughton may blossom back to the all-league talent he can be. He will also be part of a largely experienced front seven and that could do wonders. A high tide rises all ships and all of that.

The 2018 season will certainly start differently than last year’s did for Broughton, at least expectation wise. The top defensive lineman mantle has been passed to Marquise Copeland, but with less pressure on his shoulders, in his senior year, Broughton has a real chance to go out and build those expectations back up. He’s going to have to or else it will be too late.