When opponents take on the Cincinnati Bearcats, they will have the difficult task of dealing with one of the best safety tandems in the American Athletic Conference and the country overall, with James Wiggins and Darrick Forrest handling the starting roles. Although the Bearcats have such a talented duo, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other safeties that will line up on the other side when UC is on offense. Here are the three best they will play this season with a few honorable mentions.
Honorable Mention: Manny Bunch (Tulsa), Bryson Powers (Tulsa), Davondre Robinson (East Carolina), Tyler Coyle (UConn), Nick Roberts (USF), Tyrez Lindsey (Memphis), Beny Walls (Temple), Mike Brown (Miami-Ohio), Nazeeh Johnson (Marshall), Quentin Lake (UCLA), Deontay Anderson (Houston)
Gleson Sprewell - Houston
The 2018 season was the first in which Sprewell got to make a serious impact for the Cougars and he took full advantage. His combination of tackling strength and pass defense prowess was nearly unmatched on the roster, as he finished with the third-most tackles of any Cougar (81) and also found time to collect three interceptions, six pass breakups and nine passes defended. He had at least seven stops in each of the last six games of the season and put all of his powers on display in the regular season finale against Memphis when he had nine tackles and two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. With Sprewell and Deontay Anderson, the Cougars definitely have a safety tandem to rival the Bearcats. UC will find out for sure on Oct. 12 when they visit the Cougars in Houston.
Jordan Fuller - Ohio State
Fuller’s health was in question over the last few months but that appears to be in the past now and that means the Bearcats and the rest of Ohio State’s opponents will need to be ready for the second-team All-Big Ten safety. UC will travel to play the Buckeyes on Sept. 7, making it the most difficult game on the schedule, and Fuller’s play is one of many additional reasons it will be a tremendous challenge. Now a senior, Fuller has averaged 75.5 tackles, 2.75 tackles for loss and 1.5 interceptions over the last two years. As a junior, he tied for the top spot on the Buckeyes with 81 stops, including 61 solo efforts and 2.5 for loss.
Richie Grant - UCF
Wiggins only made the all-AAC second team last season and part of the reason was because Grant was so good. The first-team all-conference safety was unstoppable for the Knights. He surpassed the century mark in tackles and as impressive as that is, it pales in comparison to his six interceptions and three forced fumbles. Getting back to his tackling ability, he had at least 10 stops in four games, including 12 total in UCF’s matchup with UC and 12 solo tackles alone against Memphis. When you can bring players down like that and jump on mistakes from opposing quarterbacks at such an accelerated tempo, it makes things easier for the entire defense but not so much for the opposing offense, which is a role the Bearcats will fill on Oct. 4 at Nippert Stadium.