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Cincinnati Bearcats Football Season in Review: Joel Dublanko

Dublanko produced the best season of his career in 2019 but was still lower on the depth chart than he might have liked.

Connecticut v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Numbers

  • 34 tackles
  • 3.5 tackles for loss
  • 1 sack
  • 1 forced fumble

The Cincinnati Bearcats have had a wealth of talent at linebacker during the last few seasons, especially during the tenure of Luke Fickell and Marcus Freeman. While that has been excellent for the team as a whole, it has made the competition to get into the lineup a ferocious one. That means that some players, even ones who have been at UC for a long time, haven’t always gotten a shot at a full-time gig. Joel Dublanko is the poster child for that sentiment. He first arrived at UC in 2015 and has certainly gotten playing opportunities in the years since, but his production has never reached an exceptional level. Before 2019, he had all of 35 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss combined.

That’s why last year seemed like a significant step forward for a player who will be back in 2020. Dublanko was still playing in the shadow of other linebackers like Bryan Wright, Perry Young and Jarell White, but he had his best statistical season by far. He tallied career-highs in tackles (34) and tackles for loss (3.5) and produced his first sack ever. He also forced a fumble for the first time in his career while contributing in all 14 games of the campaign. It’s been a slow and steady rise for Dublanko, but his time may finally arrive in 2020.

The Best of the Best

Sept. 28, 2019 at Marshall

Good games don’t necessarily have to end in career-defining numbers. Dublanko was a consistent force in this victory, racking up five tackles.

Nov. 9, 2019 vs. UConn

In writing these season in reviews, I’ve noticed that quite a few players had great games against UConn. What a coincidence. I wonder if it is because the Bearcats crushed the Huskies. You can count Dublanko among the Bearcats who showed out in this one. He posted a season-best seven tackles, including a sack, which made up the bulk of his 1.5 tackles for loss.

Nov. 16, 2019 at USF

Dublanko built on his big game against UConn by logging five tackles, including a half a tackle for loss.

For Next Year

Now that Wright and Young have completed their careers at UC, the depth chart is going to get a shakeup at linebacker. White will still be there to claim a starting role, but the rest of the guys on the roster have a shot at taking up the mantle left behind by Wright and Young. Dublanko has to be near the top of the list when it comes to contenders for a starting role next season. He certainly has experience on his side and that will help, but it won’t be enough on its own. In order to secure his spot, Dublanko just needs to improve on the strides he already made last season. That means upping his tackling skills, creating more pressure and perhaps adding a bit more flexibility by showing some pass defense skills.