It is an undeniable fact that the biggest play of the 2017 season for the Cincinnati Bearcats was the handiwork of Malik Clements. In UC’s matchup against Miami-Ohio on Sept. 16, the Bearcats were down 17-14 with a little more than a minute to go. Then Clement intercepted a pass from RedHawk quarterback Gus Ragland and returned the ball 14 yards for a touchdown that won the game and the Victory Bell for the Bearcats.
While he did not have another interception the rest of the season, Clements clearly made his mark on the campaign. He also happened to play some fine safety all year even when he wasn’t winning games with his ability to create turnovers.
A former three-star recruit, Clements has consistently contributed to the cause for the Bearcats, playing in 13, 12 and 12 games in his first three seasons, respectively. In 2017, he got the most playing time and turned in his best year to date. He recorded a career-high 60 tackles, including one for loss and also had a pass deflection. His best game of the year came against Miami (obviously), but he also had 18 tackles in the season opener against Austin Peay and tallied 10 more against Navy on Sept. 23.
His production waned a bit once October came around, as he averaged three tackles per contest in the last six games of the year, including six combined against Tulane, Temple and East Carolina.
The 6’0”, 208-pound safety is entering his senior season in 2018 and will be tasked with building on his continued progression both as a player and as a leader. For a secondary that isn’t stuffed with experience, Clements is going to have a major role in dictating how effective the Bearcats are defensively, especially against the pass. He may not be able to match the single-play impact of that interception against Miami, but he doesn’t have to create such an epic moment to have a successful year.