CINCINNATI — University of Cincinnati linebacker Darrian Beavers sat in a Nippert Stadium bleacher seat Tuesday morning and looked over the field with a favorable perspective on what has transpired through five games.
"Extreme fun," Beavers said. "Bringing back the fans. Bringing back the people that I've played with since I've been here. We all came back for another year – just the super seniors they've been calling us. Just the environment around here. The buzz that we're getting. The national attention that we're getting this year. I mean it's just amazing. It's a blessing to play for this program."
Beavers, a graduate student and 2017 Colerain High School graduate, is the Bearcats' second-leading tackler (36), including 3.5 sacks. He has forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles for the Bearcats.
Beavers primarily plays a Will linebacker position but has the ability to move up and play a stand-up defensive end on third downs. That versatility is an asset to the Bearcats' defense.
"He's done a really good job," UC coach Luke Fickell said. "I mean he's grown a lot. He's got a real future in football."
UC (5-0), ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll – the highest ranking in program history – plays host to University of Central Florida (3-2) at noon Saturday.
It was against UCF last season that Beavers had a career-best 12 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Beavers, who earned his degree in criminal justice, elected to return to UC for another year of eligibility that was granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"For me personally, just to get another year of playing football, to try to better myself to get myself to the next level," Beavers said.
"And for the program we just had a bad taste in our mouth about playing Georgia down in Atlanta (in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl). We just had a bad taste in our mouth after losing that game. We're up – I feel like we gave the game away – and I felt like a bunch of us like didn't want to end our college career on that. So we wanted to come back for another year and hopefully go to the playoffs this year."
Beavers, a former Colerain wide receiver and safety, is in his third season at UC after playing two years at the University of Connecticut. He gained a great deal of experience playing safety, linebacker and defensive end at UConn, which has helped him at UC.
He has earned accolades from the coaching staff for his production and versatility on the Bearcats defense.
"Sometimes you get that guy that is in his fifth year and they think, 'This is who I am and this is what I do,'" Fickell said. "And the great thing about Darrian is he's kind of accepted all the different things we're asking him to do, realizing that if he can continue to grow in what he's doing, he's got a real future in the game of football."
Beavers went from 6 feet 1 inches tall and 160 pounds his junior year of high school to 6 feet 4 inches and 260 pounds this season.
"It's crazy how my body has changed since high school," Beavers said. "Like I said, I give all my credit to (UC director of football sports performance) Brady Collins for that because he pushed me past my potential that I could see myself. He really took care of me and made a plan for me and I've been succeeding in that."
Beavers hopes that success will continue for the Bearcats and he completes his final chapter of college football in his hometown with many familiar faces on the roster and staff.
That consists of a strong Colerain connection including UC sophomore linebacker and leading tackler Deshawn Pace and UC student assistant Kyle Bolden, who is helping to coach the linebackers.
"It's been a blessing that I can play for the school that I grew up watching and my family can come to the games and see me play," Beavers said.
Colerain coach Shawn Cutright and Lakota West coach Tom Bolden, a former Colerain head coach, are proud of what Beavers has accomplished.
"It's always nice when those guys are not only successful on the field but successful off the field and in the classroom and do a good job," Cutright said. "Always makes you feel good about your program how those kids represent you and the brand that you have."