Cincinnati Football: Luke Fickell discusses new defensive changes

Cincinnati kicks off the regular season tomorrow against Arkansas and there’s no doubt the defense needs to play up to its potential to pull off an upset. Despite a lot of roster turnover, Luke Fickell has the team reloaded and ready to go for Saturday.

Deshawn Pace is on the verge of a breakout season but his older brother and fellow linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. might have just as much of an impact in his first year with the program since deciding to transfer from Miami (Ohio) during the offseason.

Fickell recently explained his thoughts on the elder Pace brother per Cincinnati Athletics.

“I don’t know if I knew exactly what to expect. Sometimes when guys walk in, there is a little bit of time it takes to feel comfortable. He’s done a phenomenal job at buying into everything we’ve done from changing his body to playing two positions. I think that’s allowed the entire program to really recognize and accept him.”

Following two relatively nondescript years at Miami, Pace developed into one of the conference’s best defensive players and earned All-MAC recognition last season with a team-high 125 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception.

Cincinnati Football: Luke Fickell discusses new defensive changes

The secondary has more than enough talent to remain competitive without Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant but it’s one of the few uncertainties for Fickell and the coaching staff as we wait and see how the unit holds up against the Razorbacks.

Arquon Bush, Jaquan Sheppard and Taj Ward are expected to start at cornerback, while Ja’von Hicks and Bryon Threats take up the safety spots. During his media availability this week, Fickell mentioned Sheppard’s ascension via Cincinnati Athletics.

“There’s a guy that has earned everything. He’s been in a situation that has been tough being behind a great player but he handled it, didn’t bail and stuck with us. He has done a really good job all through camp and is going to have a really big year.”

On the defensive front line, Cincinnati is planning to start Jowon Briggs, Jabari Taylor and Malik Vann. Led by a group of energetic and talented veterans, there aren’t a lot of holes on the Bearcats’ defense as it prepares to take on the Razorbacks.