FootballScoop is proud to announce that Perry Eliano and Colin Hitschler are the 2020 FootballScoop Defensive Backs Coaches of the Year presented by AstroTurf as selected by prior winners.
At the most basic level, pass defense is about keeping the opponent out of the end zone and swiping as many passes as possible. In 2020, No one did that better than Cincinnati.
For starters, the Bearcats allowed seven touchdown passes across their 10 games. Cincinnati was one of 14 teams nationally to allow seven or fewer scoring strikes, and among the other 13, none defended as many attempts as UC's 355. One in every 50.7 pass attempts hoisted upon Cincinnati found the end zone, a mark that made the Bearcats the stingiest in the country.
Cincinnati made it to their fourth game before surrendering their first touchdown pass, and allowed all of two scoring tosses over their first seven contests. Only one opponent threw more than one.
On the flip side, Cincinnati employed one of the greediest secondaries in all the land. The Bearcats pawed 16 interceptions, one of seven teams to secure as many. They were the only team to do so and permit less than 10 touchdown passes, and only two teams (Indiana and Louisiana) beat Cincinnati's ratio of one pick every 22.2 attempts. The Bearcats snagged at least one pick in all nine of 10 games, including five in a 28-7 win over South Florida.
Opponents completed 189 of 355 attempts, a 53.2 percent hit rate that ranked Cincinnati ninth nationally. Those 189 completions went for 2,135 yards, placing UC fifth at 6.0 yards per attempt. Put together, Cincinnati's 101.26 passer rating was third nationally among all teams, and first that defended a minimum of 350 attempts. Cincinnati was also the only FBS team with twice as many picks as touchdowns allowed.
The Bearcats held seven opponents under a 100 passer rating, and held three to near 70 or below. Army completed just nine of 21 passes for a middling 94 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. There was the aforementioned USF game, where the Bulls completed 21-of-41 throws for 208 yards (51.2 percent, 5.1 yards per attempt) with no scores and five picks. Cincinnati's best game came against East Carolina, where the Bearcats limited the Pirates to nine completions in 21 tries for just 87 yards with no scores and three picks.
In all, Cincinnati forced eight of their nine FBS opponents below their season-average passing efficiency, and limited four foes to season lows.
Seven different Bearcats captured interceptions this season, and six of them snagged multiple. Senior corner Coby Bryant led the team with four, a number that tied for first in the American Athletic Conference. Junior corner Ahmad Gardner finished second on the club with three picks.
As a unit, Cincinnati ranked 13th in the country in total defense (324.6 yards per game), fourth in yards per play (4.57) and eighth in scoring defense (16.8 points per game) en route to the program's first American title and a Peach Bowl berth.
Bryant and Gardner were named the First Team All-AAC cornerbacks, and senior James Wiggins earned a First Team nod at safety. Safety Darrick Forrest was an Honorable Mention All-AAC performer.
Eliano, Cincinnati's safeties coach, joined the staff ahead of the 2020 season. He played at Stephen F. Austin and began his coaching career as a GA at SFA. After obtaining his first full-time job as the wide receivers and running backs coach at Central Arkansas in 2003, he has made a living coaching defensive backs and special teams at Sam Houston State, Central Arkansas, UTSA and New Mexico. He spent 2016-17 as the defensive coordinator at Bowling Green.
Hitschler was a wrestler at Penn and broke into football coaching as a training camp assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undergraduate. He spent 2010 as a player personnel assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs, then broke into college coaching as a co-special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Salve Regina University. His first FBS job came as a GA at Arkansas State in 2013 and, after three years at South Alabama, Hitschler joined Cincinnati's program as a quality control. The 2020 campaign was his first as safeties coach.
The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by AstroTurf are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Mark DeBastiani and James Rowe [Appalachian State], Alex Grinch and Roy Manning [Oklahoma], Matt MacPherson [Northwestern], Patrick Toney and LaMar Morgan [Louisiana] and Eliano and Hitschler) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year's winner.
Previous winners of the Defensive Backs Coach of the Year award are Tim Billings (Wake Forest, 2008), Everett Withers and Troy Douglas (North Carolina, 2009), Chad Glasgow and Clay Jennings (TCU, 2010), Ron Cooper (LSU, 2011), Bill Busch and Kendrick Shaver (Utah State, 2012), Jeremy Pruitt (Florida State, 2013), Dave Wommack and Jason Jones (Ole Miss, 2014), Mike Reed (Clemson, 2015), Charles Clark and Joe Tumpkin (Colorado, 2016), Anthony Campanile (Boston College, 2017), Bryan Brown and Greg Gasparato (Appalachian State, 2018), and Mickey Conn and Mike Reed (Clemson, 2019).
3rd Nationally - Pass Efficiency
1st Nationally - Pass per TD ratio
5th Nationally - Yards Per Attempt
Only Team With 2:1 INT-to-TD Ratio
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