Expectations are through the roof this season for the Bearcats as they return their deepest and most talented roster, probably of all time. In this multi-part series, I’ll examine each of the position groups, expectations, potential break out stars, and weaknesses. This week we’ll examine the Linebackers led by Hometown Hero and UConn Transfer Darrian Beavers.
The Bearcats had a significant loss as 4 year starter and Luke Fickell’s first Hometown Hero Jarrell White graduated and made his way to the CFL. The Bearcats return 2 of their 3 starters as Joel Dublanko and Darrian Beavers opted into a super senior year. Ty Van Fossen is the presumed starter opposite Beavers, but a talented freshman Deshawn Pace has been pushing him for playing time at Camp Higher Ground. A glut of talented players including the other 2/3 of the 3 Amigos along with Pace, Daved Jones and Jaheim Thomas are waiting in the wings. With a new Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, Mike Tressel, will the Bearcats continue to run their successful 3-3-5 defense or elect for Tressel’s 4-3 defense? It sounds like as today stands, the 3-3-5 will return with a few new wrinkles, including an unexpected pass rusher in former Tight End Wilson Huber.
Darrian Beavers transferred home from UConn after two seasons for the Huskies and it couldn’t have worked out better for both parties. Beavers has bulked up from from a 218 pound safety recruit up to 255 lbs and has the size and athleticism of an NFL linebacker. Beavers finished last season with 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and 2 interceptions. Beavers is a player that can go from one side of the field to the other as well as rush the passer and stop the run. He’s a 3 tool player that’s going to be a match-up nightmare for the opposing offense. He’ll stand out as he’s rocking the 0 jersey this season.
HAHAHAHAHA up 42-10 and calling fake punts, Luke Fickell is a KING pic.twitter.com/TnEK4fVUFM
— Barstool Cincinnati (@UCBarstool) November 14, 2020
Joel Dublanko cut his teeth as a linebacker, but last year it was a big special teams play against ECU that drew the ire of ECU’s Head Coach. In the 4th quarter, with a huge lead, ECU lined up to defend a punt and Dublanko made the right read as the personal punt protector and rushed for 29 yards. Dublanko isn’t only a great rusher, but he had 51 tackles last season, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and a sack. Dublanko manned the Middle Linebacker position and doesn’t seem to show any signs of letting it go for this season. Dublanko has been a steady piece at MLB and I look for that to continue into 2021.
As of today, we may have a 1a and 1b type of situation at the linebacker spot opposite Beavers. Last year Ty Van Fossen made a big impact late in games, including a fumble recovery in the Peach Bowl, but it sounds like he’s being challenged for playing time by Deshawn Pace. The Ohio native, Van Fossen, had 28 tackles last season and the 1 fumble recovery previously mentioned. Van Fossen filled in nicely for Jarrell White when needed, but will need to take a step forward to hold off freshman Deshawn Pace.
Former Tight End Wil Huber has been mostly a Special Teams player over his career, but reports from Camp Higher Ground have him as a pass rushing specialist. Huber may be a wildcard for this Black Cats defense.
Along with Pace, there’s a pile of talented recruits who haven’t had much playing time. Second year freshman Daved Jones from Lakota West and Jaheim Thomas should get some run this season as well as special teams player Brody Ingle from LaSalle High School. Mike Tressell also brings along a recruit from Michigan State, who will walk-on this season in Devin Hightower. A couple true freshman Cameron Junior, whose father has quite an NFL pedigree having played in the league for 13 years including two Pro Bowl seasons, and Bearcat Legacy Jack Dingle are going to have to really stand out to work their way through all the talent in the Linebacker room.
I’d be a bit remiss if I didn’t mention Spring Game legend and future Heisman Trophy contender Ryan Royer as well. Royer is a special teams and scout team stand-out who walked on to the team, is getting an Engineering degree and is an absolute mad man. I look for Royer to get some run late in a few games and get some playing time on Senior Night.
The Linebacker position had some big question marks with Jarrell White departing and a new Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, but a pile of talent and a Luke Fickell led team has this question mark of a position looking like a strength heading into the 2021 Season.
Only one position group remains and it sounds like there’s been some battles in the trenches in West Harrison, Indiana to solidify the Offensive Line going into the season.