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GWINNETT GRADS: Improving Mouhon a pass-rush force for Cincinnati football

Houston Cougars quarterback John O’Korn (5) is sacked by Cincinnati Bearcats defensive lineman Silverberry Mouhon, a Norcross grad, during the second quarter at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY)

Houston Cougars quarterback John O’Korn (5) is sacked by Cincinnati Bearcats defensive lineman Silverberry Mouhon, a Norcross grad, during the second quarter at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY)

The usual holiday schedule for Silverberry Mouhon, back in Gwinnett hanging out with his family, has been replaced by the bowl life the past two seasons. Specifically, the Belk Bowl life.

Mouhon’s Cincinnati Bearcats are in the Charlotte bowl for the second straight season — they play North Carolina today at 3:20 p.m. — for a week of bowl activities like riding in a NASCAR vehicle and visiting the local children’s hospital. The Norcross grad’s Christmas day included a team dinner, a party to autograph footballs as a team and a trip to see “Anchorman 2.”

“Sure, everybody wishes they were home,” Mouhon said. “But we’re a football family and we enjoy spending time with each other.”

This Belk Bowl is a bit different for the Bearcats, though. They have a new head coach in Tommy Tuberville, a change after playing for Butch Jones and then an interim coach in last year’s bowl because Jones already had bolted for Tennessee.

It’s also a different Belk Bowl for Mouhon, who has gone from seldom-used reserve as a freshman to Cincinnati’s top pass-rusher as a sophomore. The 6-foot-4, 248-pound defensive end has 37 tackles and a team-high 9.5 sacks, 8.5 more than he had last season.

“We had a fun time this year,” Mouhon said. “We had a new coaching staff come in this year and we’ve played well on defense. It’s a more comfortable defense for me. I adapted to it pretty quick. … I tried to work hard and during the season it paid off.”

Mouhon’s strong play — he ranked 17th in NCAA FBS in sacks, earned second team All-American Athletic Conference honors and was voted the Bearcats’ top defensive lineman — has played a major role in an impressive defensive unit. Cincinnati (9-3) ranks ninth nationally in total defense (allowing 313.2 yards per game), 12th in scoring defense (19.5) and fifth in rushing defense (98.7).

An improving Mouhon has been a key piece in the unit’s defensive line rotation.

“I was OK last year, but Coach (Robert) Prunty has helped a lot,” Mouhon said. “He’s emphasized using my hands, getting a jump off the ball. He explains how pass rushing is a gift and I’ve been blessed with the gift. But Coach Prunty has really taught me a whole lot about how to use the gift.”

As for opening Christmas gifts, a holiday bowl put that on delay. But a trip home is coming shortly after the Belk Bowl, which will offer his first chance to visit in person with younger brother Kevin Mouhon, a linebacker who just helped Norcross to its second straight Class AAAAAA state championship.

“I can’t wait to come home next week after the game,” Mouhon said. “After we play, I’m ready to spend some time at home.”

BASKETBALL

Jack has career day

Peachtree Ridge grad Brittany Jack posted a couple of career highs last weekend in Alabama’s overtime victory over Troy.

The 6-foot junior forward scored a career-best 12 points and added four rebounds in the win. She also played 26 minutes, the most during her Crimson Tide career.

Jack began her college career at Samford before transferring to Alabama.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.