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 Safeties led by Hometown Hero Ja’Von Hicks.
— UNKNOWN9 (@ArquonB) December 22, 2020
It’s incredibly difficult for a program like Cincinnati to retool itself when they lose two positional players to the NFL Draft, but the Bearcats are in good hands going into 2021 with a pair of Senior Safeties. Hometown Hero Ja’Von Hicks, who started the entire 2019 season for an injured James Wiggins, and Peach Bowl stand-out Bryan Cook manning the backend of the secondary along with him. The bigger questions lie behind those two, with very little game experience behind them.
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Former Colerain Cardinal Ja’Von Hicks was thrust into a starting role in the 2019 season after current NFL player James Wiggins tore his ACL in the week leading up to the season. Hicks made the most of his opportunity in his role, grabbing 5 interceptions and recovering 5 forced fumbles, including 3 of his own. Hicks filled in nicely for Wiggins and was a big part of the Birmingham Bowl Championship season for the Bearcats. Hicks got limited run in 2020, playing in 9 out of 10 games and totaling a fumble recovery and 13 total tackles. Hicks is a known quantity for the Bearcats and I look for him to get back to his ball hawking roots for the Blackcats defense
Heart of a lion pic.twitter.com/VrGLFZABR6
— UNKNOWN9 (@ArquonB) January 2, 2021
Opposite Hicks is another Hometown Hero from Mt. Healthy High School via Howard University, Bryan Cook. Bryan Cook is another guy who found his way to Clifton via the Transfer Portal. Cook made his Bearcats debut in the 2020 Birmingham Bowl and played in a reserve role for the ‘Cats in 2020, getting a start in the Peach Bowl for an injured James Wiggins. Cook played a big role in the game slamming a Georgia receiver to the turf en route to 7 tackles in that game, 26 total for the season. Cook is a guy I expect to take a big step forward this season and be a big playmaker on the Black Cats defense.
Backing up Hicks and Cook are legacy Jacob Dingle, who’s father played for the Bearcats from 1990-1993 as well as walk-on from Mason High School Will Adams. Both of these guys have made most of their plays on special teams for the Bearcats, but were the next two up, at least in the spring game. The Bearcats also have a trio of true freshmen coming in this season in Amorion Smith, Bryon Threats, and Isiah Cox, who all could earn playing time on the second team defense or special teams. The Bearcats have two strong starters with a lot of question marks behind them. Safety is one of the first positions we’ve examined with depth issues and as we continue this series, we will start to see more and more concerns for this squad.