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Way Too Early 2017 Football Depth Chart: Defense And Special Teams

Louisville’s defense is losing a few veteran stars. What young players could we see take over.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville’s defense has frustrated a good amount of fans over the last two years with Todd Grantham being rewarded with a raise during that time. Whether the criticism is fair or not, Louisville fans expect a dominant defense and that has only been the case some of the time. The Louisville defense had two games in 2016 where they allowed over 8 yards per play. That hadn’t happened once since Steve Kragthorpe was the head coach. Some new blood on the defense could also bring more speed on the field as well as more scheme versatility.



  1. Drew Bailey
  2. Chris Williams


  1. Kyle Shortridge
  2. G.G. Robinson


  1. De’Asian Richardson
  2. Caleb Tillman

The defensive line is one of the most interesting position groups on the team. DeAngelo Brown is the toughest player to replace on the team and the group as a whole struggled at just about everything outside of stopping interior run plays. The group needs to find a way to make more plays next year and I’m not quite sure how they do that.

One thing we could see is Chris Williams being a starter opposite Drew Bailey. Williams made a handful of impact plays when he was given the chance and he could provide the defense with another play maker up front. De’Asian Richardson is more of a space eater than a disruptor and the defense needs more guys that can cause havoc.

In my opinion, this is an area of the team that could take a big step back next season. We saw how the loss of Sheldon Rankins did to the defense as a whole and I think the loss of Brown will have a bigger effect. Brown was a key to the run defense which set the tone for the entire defense. This veteran line has to step up next year.



  1. Trevon Young
  2. Henry Famurewa


  1. Amonte Caban
  2. Isaac Stewart


  1. Stacy Thomas
  2. Malik Staples


  1. James Hearns
  2. Jonathan Greenard

The linebackers for Louisville have a lot of potential but they also have a lot of questions going into the spring. James Hearns has requested his draft evaluation but has not declared yet. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he chose to take the leap as he is already 23 years old and would be closer to 25 at the 2018 NFL draft. If he does return I think he will take over DeVonte Field’s spot on the right side of the defense.

Trevon Young will hopefully be back from his hip injury next year and I think he retakes his spot on the left side. If not, I could see Jonathan Greenard getting the start at that spot with Henry Famurewa backing him up after missing the spring.

Stacy Thomas returns at the weakside inside linebacker spot and I think that Malik Staples has the edge to back him up right now. Staples is one of the few freshmen that didn’t redshirt this year so he should have a leg up on Tobias Little and Kam Jones when he comes in. The strong side spot should be Isaac Stewart’s to lose, but I think that Amonte Caban will take the spot in the fall. Stewart has been really good on special teams but I’m not so sure his ceiling is as high as Caban’s.



  1. Shaq Wiggins
  2. Trumaine Washington
  3. Russ Yeast


  1. Jaire Alexander
  2. Trumaine Washington
  3. Ronald Walker

Cornerback should be a strong position for Louisville in 2017 with Jaire Alexander having the potential to be an all-america candidate and Shaq Wiggins being healthy. Wiggins was sorely missed this year after breaking up 11 passes in 2015. It also hurt the versatility of the defense because Louisville wasn’t able to play 3 corners when they went to the nickel in passing situations. Trumaine Washington should be that 3rd guy this year as well as the first guy off the bench if needed.

I don’t know if Russ Yeast is a guy that can come in and force his way onto the field, but I don’t see any reason to redshirt him when he will be needed next year. Louisville is set to lose at least 3 corners and Alexander will likely be a high draft prospect with another good year. Cornelius Sturghill is another guy that could force himself onto the field. I thought he was one of the most impressive athletes when I saw him at open practices two years ago.



  1. Chucky Williams
  2. Khane Pass


  1. Dee Smith
  2. P.J. Blue


  1. Zak Cannon
  2. C.J. Avery
  3. London Iakopo

You could make the argument that losing Josh Harvey-Clemons isn’t much of a loss with some of the performances he put out there as well as his limitations due to his size. JHC was really good inside the box but he wasn’t able to cover in space and he wasn’t great at tackling in space. The position should improve with Zak Cannon or C.J. Avery taking over. Cannon didn’t look great in coverage in the bowl game but he was always there to contest the catch. That’s not something that you could say about JHC all the time.

Chucky Williams and Khane Pass are both good to go at the free safety spot. Williams has been at the position for two years now and he’s a likely NFL prospect. Pass played very well towards the end of the season as he came on to play when JHC was injured. Pass provides a really good option for depth and he can also be a player that can step in at the two other safety spots if needed.

Dee Smith will more than likely step into a full-time starting position next year at strong safety. Smith had a very up and down year with some issues missing tackles as well as a couple of unnecessary penalties. With another year to work on his body and his speed and quickness I think that Smith can have a big season. P.J. Blue could end up at the Star position as he was a larger body when he got to UofL. However, Blue looked slimmed down in a recent picture. He’s also listed at 195 pounds when he came in at 210.



  1. Blanton Creque
  2. Anthony George


  1. Mason King
  2. Austin Johnson


  1. Seth Dawkins
  2. Malik Williams


  1. Jaire Alexander
  2. Cornelius Sturghill


  1. Mitch Hall
  2. Tyler Polston

The kicker and punter positions are set for a couple of years for the Cards. Blanton Creque secured his spot as the kicker and kickoff specialist about halfway through the year. Mason King was picked as a freshman all-american by Sports On Earth and got better as the year went on. Mitch Hall is a scholarship long snapper so I would hope that he will win the job this summer.

The kick returner spot has been a weird one to me for years now. Tony Grantham seems to prefer guys with long speed as opposed to smaller, quicker players that get to their top speed more quickly. Traveon Samuel has been back for kicks on most kickoffs, but he hasn’t done much outside of his touchdown against Clemson as a freshman. Malik Williams and Seth Dawkins both returned kicks this past season and I could see Grantham using both next season.

Jaire Alexander will continue to return punts next season. Alexander did have four fumbles in 2016 and he will likely look to make more plays as a draft prospect. If he does have a penchant for turning the ball over or trying to do to much, I think that Sturghill will be the second choice. Strughill fielded 4 punts in 2015 and I think he will get another shot there.