Cincinnati aiming for top LB group

Cincinnati linebacker Nick Temple has one bold proclamation for this upcoming season.

"The linebacker corps -- I feel like we're going to do a lot of damage this year to other teams," Temple said in a recent phone interview. "I feel like we can show everybody in Cincinnati and the world that we can be the best linebacking corps."

It is easy to see why Temple is so confident. Let us take a quick look at the starting linebackers.

Temple is going into his third season as a starter. Last year, he had 54 tackles and scored the game-clinching touchdown on an interception return in the Belk Bowl win over Duke. Two years in a row, Temple has made a huge interception in the bowl game.

Middle linebacker Greg Blair was an All-Big East selection in his first year as a starter, leading the team with 138 tackles and nine for loss. He has been asked to slim down to be more effective this season, and should be a preseason candidate for Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

One starter has to be replaced in Maalik Bomar, who was second on the team with 85 tackles last season. The Bearcats have heaped much praise on his replacement, Jeff Luc, a Florida State transfer. Out of high school, Luc was rated the No. 11 overall prospect in the nation by ESPN. He played in 19 games for the Seminoles before deciding to move on to Cincinnati and sitting out last season.

Temple says of Luc, "He's fast. I like the way he runs. Every down, he comes with power. He's really good."

Temple is expecting a much bigger year out of himself as well. With the change in coaching staff has come a change in some of the things the Bearcats will do on defense. Though they will run out of the same 4-3 base, Temple says he is going to be used more inside the box to assist in stopping the run.

"It's a little different from playing outside in space," Temple said. "You have to be more physical down there. But it's more fun. I feel like I can make more plays now."

Given the talent, Cincinnati should have one of the best linebacker groups in the league. We'll wait and see just how good they can be.