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Louisville football officially announces the return of 4 juniors

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 University of Louisville Signing Day Class received an early lift when four starters off one of the nation's top defenses decided to return to school for the 2016 season.

Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown and linebackers Devonte Fields andKeith Kelsey officially told the media on Thursday that they wanted to return to school and prepare for an opportunity to win an ACC Championship.

Each player submitted evaluation papers for the NFL Draft, but none received a first or second round projection, and were advised to return to school next season.

With the four starters announcing their intentions this afternoon, the Cardinals will also return 14 others starters off a team that went 8-5 and won the Music City Bowl with a 27-21 win over Texas A&M on Dec. 30.

"We have a chance to be a really good team next season," Kelsey said. "We have a lot of players returning and with the young players stepping up, we have an opportunity to have a great season, but it starts in the offseason."

Kelsey is the team's top returning tackler with 107 stops last season and has totaled 194 over the last two years. A first-team all-ACC performer, Kelsey
One of the most dominating players in the nation during the final seven games of the season, Fields knew he was going to return to school no matter the circumstances.

"I knew that I was going to come back to school," Fields said. "I want to earn my degree and hope to win an ACC Championship."

The Fort Worth, Texas, native led the Cardinals with 11.0 sacks and just missed tying a school record with 22.5 tackles for loss. His 11 sacks were tied for ninth nationally, while he ended the year second in the country in tackles for loss. After recording two sacks in the first nine games, Fields was credited with nine over the final four contests.

Harvey-Clemons, a starter in all 13 games, recorded 88 tackles and was second on the squad with three interceptions, notching a pair in the season opener versus Auburn and one in the finale versus Texas A&M. Despite putting up solid numbers, Harvey-Clemons still knew he could get a lot better by returning to UofL.

"I talked it over with my family and coaches," Harvey-Clemons said. "I really didn't have the season that I wanted to have. I feel like I can do a lot better. Once these guys told me they were coming back it was a no brainer for me."

Brown, who made 40 tackles and 6.5 TFL, returns to anchor Louisville's defensive line, who loses Sheldon Rankins, a possible first-round NFL Draft selection and Pio Vatuvei.

"I felt in my heart it was best for me to come back," said Brown.

Fields talked it over with his teammates before he decided to come back for his senior season.

"I called these guys over the break to see where their mind was at," Fields said. "Another reason was to get my degree in December. We've also got a chance to win the ACC championship and that's what we're preparing for. We've got a great team coming back and I'm thankful for the second chance."