Two of the biggest breakout stars for the 2018 Cincinnati Bearcats were safeties James Wiggins and Darrick Forrest. Wiggins was a second-team all-American Athletic Conference performer and made more than a few clutch plays, including four interceptions. Forrest didn’t have as decorated a campaign but still finished with 49 tackles and an interception. What is even more promising for the Bearcats is that both starting safeties will be juniors this season, meaning they have two more seasons to get even better.
With such a solid foundation in the defensive secondary, the Bearcats really took a step forward in 2018 when it came to defending against the pass. They allowed less than 200 yards per game through the air and an AAC-low opponent quarterback rating of 109.56. They also tied for fourth in interceptions (12), with Wiggins obviously playing a large role in making that possible.
The Bearcats should be eager to keep their defensive success from last season going, whether its in rushing the passer or making it difficult for said passers to complete throws even when they escape the pressure. With such a goal in mind, the Bearcats have made the secondary one of the real areas of focus for the 2020 recruiting class. Three-star cornerbacks Deshawn Jones and Devin Neal are both players who will help on the outside and Deshawn Pace is a three-star safety who already calls the city of Cincinnati home. With the addition of Todd Bumphis to their ranks, the Bearcats have another player who can help in the secondary.
Bumphis’ commitment also falls in line with recruiting in-state, which is something Luke Fickell and his staff have been concentrated on since day one. A three-star safety/wide receiver from Toledo, Ohio, Bumphis is ranked the No. 50 2020 prospect in the state and a top 100 player at safety, according to 247 Sports. Much in the same way fellow 2020 recruits Jones and Norman Love could potentially play multiple positions, Bumphis has played wide receiver in high school at St. Francis De Sales, so his commitment could also be a boost to the offense if Fickell and company decide to go in that direction.
Taking a look at the entire 2020 class as it now stands, the Bearcats are in fantastic shape. They are still ranked No. 1 in the AAC by 247 Sports and are now sitting in the 43rd spot nationally according to Rivals and 247 Sports.