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Defensive depth still a problem

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Butch Jones began spring practice talking about building up the depth of his defense. He ended it discussing the same subject. Yes, some strides were made during UC's 15 practices, but the defensive depth chart still will be something to work on as the Bearcats begin their summer workout regime in preparation for next season's fall camp.

 

From the Sugar Bowl starting lineup, the Bearcats said goodbye to Ricardo Matthews, Alex Daniels, Curtis Young, Andre Revels, Brad Jones and Aaron Webster. They also lost Craig Carey and Marcus Waugh. All of them were important, solid members of the UC squad

 

That leaves Derek Wolfe, J.K. Schaffer, Walter Stewart, Drew Frey and Dominique Battle as the underclassmen starters to return. John Hughes and Dan Giordano - both of whom made a good impression last year - also will look to make an impact. It's a good base to be sure.

 

But obviously, UC needs more defensive talent. That's what Jones wanted to see throughout the spring. He didn't exactly get what he wanted.

 

"It's an ongoing process," Butch Jones said. "It continues to be a work in progress. This summer will be big for a lot of individuals, especially with some people on the defensive line - to get in shape and to get bigger, faster and stronger. Our captains and leaders of the team will run our practice this summer. They have to learn the system more. There were times (during the spring game) where we struggled getting lined up right. That can't happen."

 

During the spring game, some unfamiliar names popped out at you if you perused the final defensive statistics. Alex Delisi (he's a junior linebacker) led the team with eight tackles and a sack. Ricardo Thompson (junior linebacker) had six tackles, as did Will Saddler (redshirt freshman defensive back). Maalik Bomar (sophomore linebacker) had five tackles, while relatively unheard of players such as Steve Hancock, DeMarkus Bracy and Aaron Roberson each contributed a sack.

 

Still, Jones wasn't too happy with his second-team defense's performance in Bearcat Bowl IV.

 

"I still wasn't pleased with the tackling," Jones said. "A lot of our mistakes occurred with the second defense. You have to get that corrected, because as you know, you're one step away. We'll go back and we'll look at this again. To have a chance to be really successful and have a great defense, we have to get off the field. You get off the field by being a great tackling team."

 

One bright spot was the interception by Sean McClellan, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman from Moeller who picked off Chazz Anderson and made a nice runback. He's one potential depth builder.

 

"I don't know if I am right now," McClellan said. "The only thing I have to worry about is getting better."

 

As does the rest of the defense to build that much-needed depth.

 

"Our No. 1s are doing a great job, but the 2s and 3s will continue to have to step up," McClellan said. "We'll just have to work real hard in strength and conditioning. There's still a lot of work to do."

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