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Kimoni Fitz: An Appreciation

It took a while but Kimoni Fitz finally had the breakout season the Bearcats were looking for in 2018.

Cincinnati v Central Florida Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Career Numbers

  • 128 tackles
  • 17.5 tackles for loss
  • 6.0 sacks

Calling Kimoni Fitz a late bloomer may seem like an apt description, but you could similarly argue that he just needed the opportunity in the right defensive scheme to reach his full potential. Following a senior season in which he became one of the best and most productive lineman on a loaded defensive front, Fitz certainly gave more evidence to the latter theory.

Before 2018, however, Fitz had to work his way up. A three-star defensive end prospect from Virginia, Fitz was given a chance to play right away, just not a very meaningful one. He did appear in 11 games as a true freshman in 2015, but he wasn’t playing every snap by any means. He still managed to finish the year with 15 total tackles, including two for loss.

Such a promising debut was cause for optimism and Fitz continued to pad his resume in 2016. He started seven times on a defensive line that featured Cortez Broughton, Marquise Copeland and Kevin Mouhon, while making 12 appearances overall. Although the Bearcats themselves were unable to succeed that often, Fitz improved on his freshman numbers, setting career-highs in tackles (37), tackles for loss (3.0) and sacks (1.5). Considering how ineffective the Bearcats were at rushing the passer, Fitz was one of the better contributors.

Unfortunately, when Luke Fickell took over as head coach for the 2017 season, Fitz received a bit of a demotion. He still played in all 12 games of that 4-8 season, but he only made one start. As you might expect, such a drop in playing time took a toll on Fitz’s production. He did not have a single sack and finished with only 24 tackles. But there was hope to be found. Despite playing less, Fitz managed to accrue a career-high in tackles for loss (3.5), showing that he had the potential to be a threat in creating pressure and negative plays.

That potential was tapped into fully this past season. Fitz started all 13 games at defensive end for the Bearcats and he was joined by a number of familiar faces like Broughton and Copeland. With Fitz given a full-time starting job for the first time and with the changes Fickell and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman made to UC’s defensive strategy, a breakout was bound occur and occur it did. Fitz smashed his personal bests in tackles (52), tackles for loss (9.0) and sacks (4.5), ranking second on the team in tackles for loss and third in sacks. A lot had to happen for Fitz to get to that level of play, but it sure was worth the wait.

Cincinnati v Connecticut Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The Best of the Best

Nov. 7, 2015 at Houston

This was the standout effort of Fitz’ first year at UC. He tallied five total tackles against the Cougars. Unfortunately, it was in a loss.

Sept. 1, 2016 vs. Tennessee-Martin

Fitz announced that he was ready for a bigger role in a major way. He not only recorded his first career sack but managed four total tackles and 1.5 stops for loss.

Nov. 5, 2016 vs. BYU

Fitz wouldn’t record another solo sack the whole season after the Tennessee-Martin game but he did have a then career-high six tackles in this one.

Sept. 30, 2017 vs. Marshall

The Thundering Herd thundered past the Bearcats, but not without Fitz slowing them down a bit. All four of his total tackles were solo efforts and two of them went for loss.

Sept. 22, 2018 vs. Ohio

During UC’s big comeback, Fitz wasn’t able to bring down Ohio’s signal caller, but he did have eight total tackles.

Sept. 29, 2018 at UConn

A career-high 2.5 tackles for loss made this a banner day for Fitz.

Oct. 6, 2018 vs. Tulane

Surprisingly, Fitz did not have a single sack in the first five games of the year. That all changed when he got his first against the Green Wave.

Nov. 3, 2018 vs. Navy

He would have to wait nearly a month for his next sack, but with eight total stops and 1.5 sacks, this was the start of something special.

Nov. 10, 2018 vs. USF

Here’s the proof. Fitz had seven tackles and a sack against the Bulls and would add five tackles and another quarterback take-down the following week against UCF. This three-game stretch yielded 20 tackles and 3.5 sacks in total.

A Final Goodbye

It is really too bad that Fitz didn’t find himself until his senior season. If he had one more campaign, there’s no telling how much better he would have been. But there’s no point dwelling on the what ifs. You can blame the coaching or his lack of opportunity, but Fitz himself had to develop before he could become the devastating defensive end he was in 2018, even if it took a little longer than he might have liked. For the 2018 Bearcats, he finished that development in plenty of time.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to correctly state that Fitz ranked third in sacks for UC in 2018.