Versatility is something not every defender has. If you are a bruising defensive tackle, you can’t switch to play cornerback every other snap. For the few special players that are able to slot into multiple positions, there can be ample opportunities to contribute. Such is the case for Tyrell Gilbert, who is a hybrid-style safety/linebacker. He is not solely a member of the secondary, nor is he just a guy on the front seven.
After playing safety pretty much exclusively in his first two years for the Cincinnati Bearcats, Gilbert played some strong side linebacker last year, competing with Jarell White for the starting job down the stretch. Now that UC has some spots to fill at safety, Gilbert could be shifted back and forth more often, since he clearly has the skill set to excel in both areas.
To do that, though, he’ll need to be a bit more effective than he was last year. After making a major impact in 2015 with 50 tackles and six passes defended and in 2016 with three interceptions, Gilbert finished with 43 stops as a junior and did not rack up a single pick. He did make more inroads in terms of creating pressure, which makes sense considering his change in position. He set a career-high with three tackles for loss and even recorded his first career sack, doing so in the season opener against Austin Peay. However, he did not have a single TFL in the final six games and both of his pass deflections came in one game against Miami-Ohio.
Even if the interceptions didn’t come, Gilbert still continued a trend of being able to create turnovers, as he forced and recovered two fumbles.
Gilbert, who joined UC as a three-star recruit in 2014, is going to be a leader for the Bearcats in 2018, both because of his experience and because of the talent he has. While 2017 wasn’t the best year of his career, it was still a solid one and illustrated just how much he brings to the table. He may play safety. He may play linebacker. He may play both. What’s clear is that he is going to be an important piece of the defensive puzzle.