It’s Friday and you know what that means. It’s time for us to take a stab at projecting how the depth chart will shake out this season. This week, we’ve taken a deep look at the defensive line, so I’m sure you can figure out which positional group we’ll be looking at today.
The defensive line is going to be an exciting group this year. Not only did the Cincinnati Bearcats bring back Steve Stripling to coach the unit, touted prospect Malik Vann is finally ready to play and all of that is before you remember just how much experience and talent is on the line already. There are still many improvements that need to be made, especially in terms of creating pressure on quarterbacks (broken record, I know), but if there is a part of the defense that Bearcat fans should be most excited about, its this one.
Broughton and Copeland were both listed as starters at defensive end and defensive tackle at different times last year, but toward the end of the year, they started at defensive tackle. Mouhon made the change from linebacker to full-time defensive end and started 12 games there. Perhaps the actual positioning will change, particularly for Copeland and Broughton, but there’s no doubt that these three guys will be starters.
The fourth starter on the defensive line, whether he be tasked with playing defensive end or tackle, is a job that seemingly could be taken over by a number of players. That competition really speaks to the depth of talent on the line. Senior Kimoni Fitz or junior Bryan Wright, who is currently listed at linebacker but started six games at defensive end last year, would seemingly have an edge, but that may not be the case if some of the young guys are able to adjust quickly and impress. After the starters, all bets are off. There are certain guys who will definitely be given plenty of chances (Vann especially), but how the playing time is divvied up will shift from game to game.
Marquise Copeland, DT
Kevin Mouhon, DE
Cortez Broughton, DT
Kimoni Fitz, DE
Fitz started just once last year, doing so against UCF when he was slotted in at defensive end, which is the position he is best-suited for based on prior experience. Wright could very well be back in the mix as well considering his starting experience. If the Bearcats do go with either Fitz or Wright on the end with Mouhon, Broughton and Copeland would be asked to slide into the interior on a primary basis since they can shift back and forth.
It’s tough to pinpoint exact positions for the second team or even who is technically considered a “second-teamer.” What we do know is that Vann is not going to be left on the sideline. The most hyped recruit for UC in years played spring football and everything we’ve seen points to immediate playing time. Dan Hoard of GoBearcats.com wrote about Vann’s chances of playing right away back in April and got the following quote from Luke Fickell:
“He’ll play,” said Fickell. “What capacity will really be determined by how well he picks things up. I’d say the toughest two positions to play at a young age are O-line and D-line. The physicality and the speed of the game is much different in those areas than it is in high school.”
Brown, Brooks and Pitts all have in-game experience, which could help their cases for more than just a few spot appearances, but I expect guys like Jabari Taylor to get some playing time after redshirting in 2017 and plenty of mixing and matching as the season goes on.
How do you think the defensive line depth chart will look when the season opens? How should it look? Let us know in the comments or drop a FanPost.