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Previewing Louisville’s safeties

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NCAA Football: Louisville at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With just a few more days until the season-opener against Alabama and having previewed most of the offense already, it’s time to transition to the other side of the ball and preview this year’s defensive groups, starting with the Safety position. This is also the first preview since the release of the official two-deep projected starters for the Bama game.

Returning 2017 Stat Leaders:

Dee Smith (senior): 53 total tackles, 33 solo, 1.0 tackles for loss, 1 INT

Khane Pass (rs-junior): 38 total tackles, 22 solo, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble

TreSean Smith (sophomore): 34 total tackles, 20 solo, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 INTs

London Iakopo (rs-senior): 12 total tackles, 6 solo, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack

The Starters

With the exception of Chucky Williams, the Cards return almost all of the guys who saw action a season ago. Picking up where Williams left off, senior Dee Smith takes the reins at strong safety headed into the season-opener. The 6-1, 208-pounder finished sixth on last year’s team in total tackles and capped his junior campaign with a season-best nine solo tackles against Mississippi State in the Tax Slayer Bowl. Smith was named as one of four captains at the beginning of the month by Coach Petrino and will be a key component of Brian VanGorder’s defensive scheme.

Opposite Smith, the free safety position will be held down by Khane Pass, the 6-1, 205-pound bruiser from Columbus, Georgia. Appearing in 13 games last year and starting five of them, Pass returns as an experienced defender known to wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage when sent off the blitz. He finished tied for sixth in tackles-for-losses amongst Cardinal defenders in 2017.

The Backups

Redshirt senior London Iakopo will serve as the primary backup to SS Dee Smith. Arriving in 2016 after transferring from Long Beach Community College where he earned First-Team All-Conference honors, Iakopo was one of the more highly-touted recruits amongst his class. He appeared in four games in limited roles before tearing his ACL in 2016, an injury that cost him the second half of that season. When he returned last year, he actually stepped into a linebacker role and played in 11 games, making his only start against Kent State.

TreSean Smith, the sophomore from Hamilton, Ohio, is expected to be the number two at free safety this year, but a knee injury has him listed as “questionable” heading into the season-opener against ‘Bama. Smith emerged as a true freshman last year, playing in 13 games and grabbing two interceptions. He’s formerly the No. 1 ranked safety in Ohio by Scout.com and was a three-time state champion under the legendary coach Jim Hilvert.

The Reserves

Redshirt freshman Jack Fagot and Kaheem Roach add depth at the safety position and round out the returners from a year ago. Fagot is a 6-0, 193-pounder out of Lexington Catholic and Roach is a 6-1, 192-pound former track and field star from Miramar, Florida.

The Newcomers

Trenell Troutman joins the team after starring at national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. The 5-11, 190-pound rookie was ranked as a four-star prospect by 247 Sports and was one of Louisville’s highest rated players amongst the incoming recruiting class.