Just one week away from its 2011 season-opener against Murray State, a defensive unit expected to be ruled by upperclassmen is dealing with a teen invasion.
Widely considered to be the unit's strongest group, the defensive line has been hobbled with injuries to veterans Greg Scruggs, Brandon Dunn, Roy Philon and B.J. Butler. The senior captain Scruggs' time away has reportedly been the most extensive, but he's expected to return to the fold by Saturday. Of the four, only Butler (unspecified knee injury) appears in danger of missing next Thursday's game.
"There are some concerns, some issues," defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said. "But football is a physical game and there are going to be some bumps and bruises. Hopefully we should get those guys back pretty soon."
The bright side to this is that it's afforded younger guys like B.J. Dubose, Jamon Brown and Deiontrez Mount some additional reps and prepared them for the opportunity to contribute immediately. The official U of L football blog notes that all three will likely burn their redshirts.
"Jamon Brown, Deiontrez Mount are getting additional reps and we had to train Randy Salmon to do some different things in the scheme of the defense," Hurtt said. "You’ve always got to find the positives in what seems like a negative situation."
Brown, a 325-pound man-child from Fern Creek, is currently running with the second team.
But the line isn't the only spot where freshmen are making a push to see the field right away.
On Wednesday, junior free safety Shenard Holton - who finished second on the team in tackles a season ago - announced on both Twitter and Facebook that he had lost his starting job, and that the culprit was a freshman. Miami native Jermaine Reve began camp second on the depth chart, but it's fellow Florida native Calvin Pryor who many are claiming is the new starter.
Despite all this talk, it's hard to believe this is anything more than an attempt to send a message. Holton is easily one of the most talented defensive players on the team, and him not running with the first team a week from now would be a shock.
And then there's the corner position, where the new rumor (Internet!) is that the true freshman tandem of Andrew Johnson and Charles Gaines has unseated the veteran duo of Jordan Paschal and Anthony Conner.
Regardless of who the first 11 Cardinals to play on defense next Thursday are, it has become very apparent that the number of teenage defenders who will see the field for Louisville in 2011 is going to be higher than it's been in quite some time.