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Returning Player Refresher: Coby Bryant

Bryant earned his starting role and is now one of the key members of the defensive secondary.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If there was any concern that Coby Bryant wouldn’t able to live up to his promotion to a starting role last season, he washed away all those doubts when the Cincinnati Bearcats played the Temple Owls in October. Although the final result would not go UC’s way, Bryant came to play in Philadelphia. He intercepted a pair of passes and also recorded three passes defended and proved that it was no coincidence that he was starting on the outside every week.

The rest of Bryant’s sophomore season did not feature as many forced turnovers or batted balls but it was still a strong effort overall, especially considering the meager playing time he was allotted as an understudy in 2017. During that first year on campus, the Akron, Ohio native got onto the field 12 times but his impact was fairly limited, with only four tackles to his name. Once Linden Stephens played his final game with the Bearcats, however, there was a need to find new starters at cornerback and Bryant was able to win himself the job.

The 2018 season started well, with Bryant having at least one pass defended in each of the first three weeks of the year. Even though the Temple game put Bryant on the map, he did well enough for himself during all 13 games of the year to help the Bearcats transform into one of the better passing defenses in the American Athletic Conference. As a combined secondary, Bryant and company allowed only 190.5 yards through the air per game and a league-leading passer rating of 109.56. Bryant can’t take all the credit for that, but with his 11 passes defended and nine pass breakups, which both ranked second on the team, he did more than his fair share of stymieing opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers alike. Bryant also had two interceptions, but as we already went over, both of those came against Temple.

As far as tackling goes, Bryant doesn’t have many improvements to make. In fact, when it was up to him to make the play, he usually came through, with 30 of his 33 tackles classified as solo efforts. However, whether it was due to decisions about scheme or a lack of success on his part, Bryant did not have much of a chance to impact opposing backfields, with zero tackles for loss. That can obviously be forgiven since his primary job is to defend the pass but it would be interesting to see him used in more blitz packages in his junior season.

Like fellow cornerback Cam Jefferies, Bryant should be locked into a starting role this season. It would be far too much to ask that every game feature the type of production he managed against Temple last fall, but we all know the potential is there every time he steps onto the field and that means the UC defense has one less thing to worry about.