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Returning Player Refresher: Perry Young

Young missed a large chunk of last season but was still one of the best defenders in the American Athletic Conference. He’s going to punish plenty of offenses with a full slate of games.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Navy at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Perry Young could very well be the best linebacker on the roster for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Unfortunately for him and the team at large, he wasn’t able to play all of last season as an injury limited him to eight games. Despite that, he still made it onto the all-American Athletic Conference first team. If he was able to do that with a limited schedule, expectations are that he will be even more exceptional at full health during his senior campaign.

Before we get to the 2019 season, however, its time to look at what exactly Young does that makes him such an important contributor for the Bearcats’ defense. Young’s most impressive skill is his tackling. If you need a ball carrier stopped, Young is perhaps the best choice on the entire team. He had 45 tackles last season in a shortened season, nearly splitting them between solo efforts (20) and assisted tackles (25). His most impressive stretch of the season in this area came in games against UConn, Tulane and Temple when he compiled 26 tackles combined, including at least eight in each contest.

It is important to remember that he put together those 45 tackles in eight games and still ranked ninth on the team and was fewer than 10 tackles behind the players ranked eighth through fourth. When he’s at full strength, Young racks up tackles even more efficiently. In 2017 he had 101 stops, including 56 of the solo variety.

In that 2017 season, Young also had nine tackles for loss. His space slowed in that regard last year and that’s even when taking into account the time he missed. He had only 2.5 tackles for loss and also contributed to his first sack of his career, although it was just a half a sack. Therein lies part of Young’s game that either isn’t being cultivated or is falling short. Young has not had much success as a pass rusher and the Bearcats could really use a major change in that regard this season. With defensive linemen like Cortez Broughton, Marquise Copeland and Kimoni Fitz gone, someone besides Bryan Wright and Michael Pitts is going to need to be aggressive on the blitz and keep opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. Young could easily fill that role.

As a linebacker, Young may not have the most sterling resume as a pass rusher but he is a pretty solid pass defender even before he’s been tasked with tackling whoever winds up with the ball. He has five career passes defended and works fairly well in space and in coverage.

There is no question that Young is a leader of this defense. It’s not just because he is a senior but because of his ability to impact an entire game or an entire season even when he’s not feeling fully healthy. Now that he appears to be past last year’s injury, the Bearcats should benefit from a full season of not only his effective tackling work but his leadership. If he can blend in some improved pass rushing and keep up or even improve his coverage against the pass, the Bearcats won’t miss a beat on defense. They could even improve.