Before 2018, Bryan Wright had never recorded a quarterback sack. As we’ve mentioned when catching back up with fellow linebackers Perry Young and Jarell White this week, rushing the passer is something with which most of this part of the roster for the Cincinnati Bearcats has not had a ton of success. However, despite his lack of quarterback pressure in 2016 and 2017, Wright was the exception to the rule last year as he helped supplement the work of the defensive line by being one of the best pass rushers on the team regardless of position.
In total, Wright racked up five sacks, six quarterback hits and 8.5 tackles for loss. He led the team in quarterback hits, ranked second in sacks and third in tackles for loss. Tales of his prowess as a pressure producing linebacker reached beyond Nippert Stadium as well. Although he did not earn any accolades for his work, he tied for the third-most sacks and the 12th-most tackles for loss among linebackers in the American Athletic Conference, according to cfbstats.com.
As mentioned, prior to 2018, Wright had not had as much luck with creating pressure for opposing backfields. He also hadn’t had a ton of chances to prove himself overall, both due to injury and a lack of playing time. A 13-game starter in 2018, Wright had played in 14 games total over the previous two years after redshirting in 2015. With a starter’s slate of minutes to work with, he certainly exhibited that he was more than capable of destroying opposing offenses and their game plans, supplying 55 total tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to go along with his burgeoning pass rushing numbers. Of those total tackles, 26 came by way of solo efforts and 29 were assisted, showing that Wright worked well with his teammates and within UC’s schemes to bring ball carriers down.
Wright was at the peak of his powers right from the word go in 2018. In a stunning season-opening victory against UCLA, Wright kept the Bruins on edge all game by securing two sacks and three total tackles for loss. He would provide strong efforts throughout the season, of course, such as when he had eight solo tackles and a sack against SMU, but he was at his most devastating against the Bruins. I wonder if they’ll remember that when the Bearcats host UCLA to begin the 2019 campaign.
Due to the fact that he was often sent rushing in to break up blockers on the offensive line and pressure the quarterback, Wright’s work in pass coverage was not always highlighted or required last season. However, he has shown that he is capable in that area before. In 2017 he had three passes defended and an interception. His role changed a bit in 2018 but if he has to drop back and cover more in 2019, he should be able to handle the responsibility just fine.
Now that Cortez Broughton, Kimoni Fitz and Marquise Copeland are gone, Wright will be leading the charge on the pass rush for the Bearcats along with Michael Pitts. For a defense that should remain one of the stoutest in the AAC, Wright’s efforts in creating pressure will be paramount to their success, especially if he can push his fellow linebackers to greater efficiency in that area as well.