Thanks to Eric Wilson, Jaylyin Minor and now Perry Young, the Cincinnati Bearcats have gotten used to having one or two very good linebackers on the roster every year. But they aren’t the only ones. As the Bearcats traverse their 2018 schedule, they will be challenged by some pretty stout defenses and some of those are built around the guys in the middle of the attack.
Its nothing new. Last year, the Bearcats dealt with Vontae Diggs (UConn), Shaquem Griffin (UCF) and D.J. Palmore (Navy), just to name a few. Here are some of the best linebackers they will face in 2018.
Honorable Mentions: Shaun Bradley (Temple), Brad Koenig (Miami-Ohio) and Nico Sawtelle (USF)
Greg Reaves (USF)
Positions are just a construct. Reaves played defensive end for much of last year but he was recruited as an outside linebacker. Since he is currently listed as a linebacker on USF’s roster, I’m going with that. If that doesn’t work for you, just swap Reaves with UCLA’s Jaelan Phillips, who was recruited as a defensive end but is now listed as a linebacker, or one of the worthy candidates in the honorable mentions.
No matter where he is on the field, Reaves, who has a pretty great story, is going to be very productive. After securing himself a scholarship prior to last season, he rewarded his believers with 14 tackles for loss and four sacks. Maybe he isn’t technically a linebacker, but he is still one of the best defensive players in the American Athletic Conference.
Pat Jasinski (UCF)
Florida is for linebackers, at least in the AAC. Jasinski is going to make it easier for the Knights to move on from both Shaquem Griffin and Chequan Burkett, who were both all-league linebackers in 2018. Even with Griffin and Burkett as teammates, Jasinski stood out, leading the Knights in total tackles (104) including eight for loss and a sack. He is a front-runner for all-AAC first-team honors in 2018.
Kyran Mitchell (SMU)
Mitchell did so much break out last year as continue his progress forward. In 2015 he had 40 tackles (4.5 for loss) in eight games. In 2016 he bumped that production up to 67 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks. Last year was his crowning achievement, as he ranked second among AAC linebackers with 14.5 tackles for loss while setting a career-high with 4.5 sacks. Not only does Mitchell excel at creating negative plays for opposing offenses, he is also a solid defender against the pass. He had three pass deflections last year and UC knows better than anybody how he can jump on a mistake, as he intercepted a pass from Hayden Moore that ended UC’s attempts at an overtime victory against the Mustangs.