How the UC Bearcats are rebuilding their defensive front

·2 min read

The University of Cincinnati football team is moving on from three key defensive linemen after their College Football Playoff appearance following the 2021 season.

Cincinnati Bearcats defensive end Malik Vann (42) celebrates a sack in the fourth quarter of a college football game against the UCF Knights, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Bearcats defensive end Malik Vann (42) celebrates a sack in the fourth quarter of a college football game against the UCF Knights, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

Defensive end Myjai Sanders was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Defensive tackle Curtis Brooks went to the Indianapolis Colts, and defensive tackle Marcus Brown graduated. For head coach Luke Fickell and defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, there are plenty of gaps to fill.

With 24 days left before Cincinnati faces SEC foe Arkansas on Sept. 3, the clock is ticking.

Luckily, the Bearcats have a solid base of defensive linemen in Jowon Briggs (junior), Malik Vann (graduate), Jabari Taylor (graduate) and Dominique Perry (redshirt sophomore).

“All these different dudes who can play some football,” junior center Jake Renfro said. “As an offensive lineman, we go against those dudes every day. We’re making each other better, fighting for those reps, getting really good work in.”

Renfro said the mentality, iron sharpens iron, really comes into fruition when facing people like Briggs, who he called one of the strongest guys he’s ever seen in his life.

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An ideal rotation includes breathing room. Six to eight guys who all have the same strengths and skill set and could easily swap in and out of the field with ease, with hesitation to roll and reach their highest potential.

Tressel said it’s of absolute priority on their list of preseason to-dos. He said they’ve shared how instrumental the guys are in each other’s careers, how Brown played just as big a role in Brooks being drafted as Brooks himself did, and now it’s up to them to reciprocate the words out on the field.

Fickell agreed. “Brooks got drafted because he’s a great player and because he played 52% of the snaps. Brown played the other 48%. The ability to have those guys balance, they could play as hard as they did and dominate in different ways.”

So the question remains: Who will be the sixth, or the seventh, even the eighth player in the lineup?

“We’ve got plenty of guys who are hungry. It’s as simple as that,” Taylor said. “We’re reloading. They’re just as ready as anybody else who was here before. It’s just being able to be mature, step up and know when it’s time, it’s time.”

Taylor leads by example and has made it clear, when he’s requested to extend a hand, he can and will.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bearcats football defensive line preview for 2022 season