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Season in Review: James Wiggins

We wrap up our season review series with a look at a player who seemed to make every big play for the Bearcats.

Cincinnati v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Numbers

  • 54 tackles
  • 2.0 tackles for loss
  • 9 passes defended
  • 5 pass breakups
  • 4 interceptions

There are thousands of plays run every college football season but only a few of them stick in your memory months after the year comes to a close. For those that still live in the memories of Cincinnati Bearcats fans, James Wiggins played a starring role quite frequently. He sealed a comeback victory against Ohio University with an interception near the goal line. He returned an interception 86 yards for a touchdown to close out an overtime win against SMU. Then, in one of the more fitting ends to a game in recent history, he put the finishing touches on UC’s Military Bowl victory against Virginia Tech by picking off a pass with less than a minute to play.

In addition to those heroics, Wiggins stood out as a tremendous safety in the UC secondary. His ability to make plays went beyond stepping in front of a few passes. He tied with Malik Clements and Jarell White for the most solo tackles on the team (36) and tied for third in total stops (54). Although he didn’t make many of those plays in the backfield, he still had two tackles for loss.

Of course, as a critical member of the pass defense, Wiggins also made a tremendous impact when teams were able to get passes in the air. He had four total interceptions, with most occurring at just the right time, and his ability to anticipate where passes were going to be thrown let him capture nine passes defended and five pass breakups.

In addition to his work on defense, Wiggins also made some plays on special teams, returning 13 kickoffs and averaging 20.9 yards per return.

When added all together, Wiggins’ season was good enough to earn him second-team All-American Athletic Conference honors.

The Best of the Best

Sept. 1 at UCLA

After producing just a single tackle during 2017, Wiggins took full advantage of his newly expanded role, securing six solo tackles and an interception in the season opener.

Sept. 22 vs. Ohio University

Oct. 20 at Temple

Losing hurts but 10 total tackles, including eight solo efforts, along with a pass defended made Wiggins’ day look great on the stat sheet.

Oct. 27 at SMU

Nov. 17 at UCF

Nearly all of Wiggins’ tackles in this one (six) came without any help (five).

Dec. 31 vs. Virginia Tech

Wiggins only had three tackles but that interception elevated this effort into the stratosphere.

For Next Year

As with so many of the Bearcats on defense, Wiggins just has to keep making plays like he did throughout 2018. Turnovers vary wildly from season to season, so there’s no way to ensure that he will be able to make as many game-defining interceptions, but his natural ability to read offenses and put himself in the right place at the right time should only get sharper with another year under his belt. Wiggins is already a star and now he just has to build from there.