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Returning Player Refresher: Darrick Forrest

Forrest will be a key member of Cincinnati’s secondary following his first year as a full-time starter.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 Alabama A&M at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last summer, Darrick Forrest was a player who seemed poised for a breakout season. He fulfilled that potential even if he wasn’t the most heralded member of the secondary. It’s not Forrest’s fault that safety James Wiggins ascended so quickly for the 2018 Cincinnati Bearcats’ secondary. However, as Wiggins earned the accolades, Forrest did plenty on his own to become a standout safety and a player the Bearcats will rely on as they attempt to find more success in 2019.

This will be Forrest’s third year on campus for the Bearcats and assuming he retains his role from last year, his second as a full-time starter. The former three-star prospect from Columbus, Ohio received a major promotion last fall. Although he had played in 12 games as a freshman, he earned much more playing time as a sophomore. After not starting during his freshmen season, he took over as one of the primary safeties by starting in 12 games and appearing in all 13 contests as a sophomore, including the Bearcats’ win in the Military Bowl.

As you might expect, with such a boost in playing time, Forrest was able to make tremendous strides in terms of production. He proved to be an effective tackler, both on his own and in combination with his fellow defenders. With 29 solo stops, he ranked sixth on the team and when you add in assisted efforts, he managed 49 total tackles, which ranked eighth on the team and was the second-most by any player in the secondary. His tackling ability was really on display in the postseason as he had six stops, including five solo tackles against Virginia Tech.

If there was a portion of his tackling game that was lacking, it was in creating negative yardage for opponents. Although he was obviously not tasked with rushing the passer or blitzing as frequently as players up front, it is still surprising that among his 49 tackles, not a single one went for loss. Perhaps he will get a few more opportunities to rectify that this season.

As for his work in defending the pass, Forrest was solid even if some of the counting numbers don’t stand out all that much. He finished the season with three passes defended, two pass breakups and an interception. That lone pick came at a fairly opportune time as well, as he caught an early fourth quarter pass from Miami-Ohio quarterback Gus Ragland near the Bearcats’ goal line, ultimately setting up a rushing touchdown for Michael Warren that helped UC extend what was a 7-0 lead en route to a 21-0 victory.

If last year was Forrest’s chance to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the UC secondary, this year represents an opportunity to build on his breakout season and be a leader for the younger players who will be attempting to follow in his footsteps. If he can take another step forward and add new elements to his game, the Bearcats will be that much better in the secondary and on defense overall.