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July 24, 2008

Countdown to Camp: Defensive Backs

BearcatLair.com will preview fall camp extensively over the next two weeks. Our countdown has included previews at every position and individual looks at players who must step up to make 2008 a success. If you are not yet a premium subscriber, click here to start your free seven-day trial today!

With the return of Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith at cornerback, the Bearcats have two stars to build around after the graduation of starting 2007 safeties, Haruki Nakamura and Anthony Williams.

After being chosen as a Playboy All-American in 2007, Mickens enters his final season with 2008 preseason All American status while Smith was named to the 2nd team All-BIG EAST squad last season. The two veterans should be joined by Brandon Underwood assuming the Ohio State transfer gets all of his academic work done after losing a substantial number of credits in the switching of schools.

DeAngelo Smith
Position Coach Kerry Coombs

Key Losses Haruki Nakamura, Anthony Williams

Projected Starters: Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, Brad Jones, Cedric Tolbert

Sleeper Watch Drew Frey

Incoming Freshman Dominique Battle, Camerron Cheatham, Patrick Lambert, Quincy Quetant, Jared Rains
In 2007, Smith and Mickens combined for 14 interceptions; no FCS duo had more than twelve. Smith actually tied for the national lead with eight picks.

Underwood gives the Bearcats some quality depth at cornerback, but Brandon's play could even necessitate a move of Smith to safety, which he's played in the past. If that scenario plays out, Cincinnati has very little experience behind the Big Three.

Junior Brad Jones got his feet wet on defense last season recording 22 tackles, but Jones spent as much time at safety as cornerback in the spring. Local walk-ons Justin Moore from Colerain High School and Ruebon Haley from Mt. Healthy would be next in the pecking order of returnees. Haley is the fastest player on the squad with sub 4.4 forty speed.

Because of the lack of depth at cornerback, Cincinnati added three prospects in its 2008 recruiting class. Heading the list is Bruce Horner, who got a leg up on the competition by enrolling at Cincinnati for spring quarter and participating in fifteen spring football practices. Horner is still somewhat slight of build but impressed the UC coaches last spring.

Dominique Battle was the most hotly recruited of this freshman trio and chose the Bearcats over Indiana, Purdue and Syracuse. Battle was rated a three star recruit by Rivals and could ascend quickly up the depth chart.

The smallest of the newcomers is Camerron Cheatham at 5' 8" and 165 pounds, but the Kalamazoo, Michigan star may also be the fastest with forty yard dash times in the 4.4's.

The most veteran safety returning is Cedric Tolbert. The senior played in all thirteen games in 2007 and recorded an impressive 46 stops as a sub. Tolbert will go into fall practice as the starter at free safety. Cedric's counterpart is Brad Jones, although Jones could also see time at cornerback as mentioned earlier.

Challenging Tolbert will be Aaron Webster. The junior suffered a knee injury in 2006 but returned to the field to play in seven games last season. Webster now looks to be completely healthy, and at 6' 3" and 200 pounds, the Detroit star could start to reach his immense potential in 2008.

Brad Jones' main competition at strong safety should come from redshirt freshman Drew Frey. The only player in Clinton Massie history to play football for a BCS school bounced back nicely from shoulder surgery and had an impressive spring. The youngster could be very special with his combination of size (6' 4"/215) and speed (4.5). If Frey doesn't win a starting role, he could still see playing time in the nickel package.

Another safety with a nice blend of size and speed is Deon Reed. The redshirt freshman is looking for a home after starring as a running back at Hamady High School in Michigan. Reed did also play in Hamady's defensive backfield so he does have some experience to draw from.

The Bearcats also added three true freshmen who will at least start their college careers at safety. Patrick Lambert was rated a three star prospect by Rivals after setting numerous tackling records in Florida.

Quincy Quetant chose the Bearcats over a number of other BCS schools including Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Quetant stands 6' tall and weighs 190 pounds.

Jared Rains could play on either side of the ball but will start his Bearcat career on defense as a safety. Rains is not particularly tall and his listed height of 5' 11" may be generous, but the son of Bearcat great, Dan Rains, definitely has the look of a football player. Dan Rains played for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, and this apple didn't fall very far from the tree.

Countdown to Camp

  • 7-21 Linebacker
  • 7-22 Offensive Line
  • 7-23 Defensive Line

    BearcatLair.com will preview fall camp extensively over the next two weeks. Our countdown has included previews at every position and individual looks at players who must step up to make 2008 a success. If you are not yet a premium subscriber, click here to start your free seven-day trial today!



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