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Week One Mailbag

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NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The season is upon us so that means the weekly mailbag returns. As usual, send your questions my way via twitter (keith_wynne) or email (keithwynne2@gmail.com).

From Stephen via email:

I was just reading your post about the recruits coming in this weekend. You mentioned Kenney Solomon had an unofficial visit with UT and an official visit with U of L. What is the difference? Do recruits need to pay their own way on unofficial visits, or is there a limit on what the staff can do with them?

Stephen sent me this question back in the winter but I’m awful and I forgot about it. Recruiting is an area that can get complicated so I figured it’d be good to throw out an explainer on how some of it works.

So, for an unofficial visit players pay their own way to get to the school and they are only provided three tickets to a home sporting event. So if Josh Minkins wanted to go to one of the big basketball games he could take an unofficial visit and get free tickets to the game. Players are also allowed to do pretty much everything else they could do on an official visit. The new big thing is to get pictures in a jersey and to take pictures on the field. Player can also tour the facilities and do things like watch tape with coaches.

Most unofficial visits are just for the day. A new trend that I’ve noticed is the gyms that these recruits work out at putting together mass visits for their prospects. Louisville had a few groups from North Carolina come up this year and they also got a visit from the gym where Justin Flowe works out. Flowe is the top recruit in California and his group made a big trip through the east coast this winter. It’s a good way to get guys in for that one day and build relationships with these trainers. It’s also a win for the trainers because it’s a selling point as well as a connection for them.

Official visits are usually the full weekend with the player arriving on Friday afternoon or evening and leaving Sunday morning or afternoon. You only get 48 hours for an official visit and I believe the clock starts on your visit when you check in with the school (I could be wrong on this one but can’t find a definitive answer). Schools cover the cost of your transportation, lodging, and meals for an official visit as well as your entertainment. You get the same three home sporting event tickets that you would get for an unofficial visit.

The 48 hours provide the opportunity to do more than just spend time at the football facilities with prospects. For example, Chubba Purdy got to spend some time at Scott Satterfield’s house during his visit and played cornhole with the coach. The staff has also taken prospects to Downs After Dark this summer. Utilizing the entire city is a smart idea by this staff and I think it will help with recruiting as parents are likely to enjoy themselves as well as the players.

From J_Perry Via the comments:

How would you rate the linbeacker corps in terms of vulnerability?

By that I mean, as guys sustain game/multi-game injuries, how fast does the unit begin to fall apart and fail to be able to support the defensive concept without major reworking to that concept? Whole-thing-falls-apart-if-this-one-guy-goes-down would be the worst-case. Have-to-get-into-the-3rd-string-before-we-feel-it the best-case.

And with that in mind, I suppose it would be cool to hear some ideas on the, call it the Vulnerability Rating® (VR) (©JP 2019), for the other departments of the team this year.

I don’t really have the time or the creativity to come up with an actual rating system to describe the vulnerability of the roster but I can do a ranking.

Linebacker is the deepest group in my opinion. Etheride, Avery, Burns, and Okeke will be the likely starters and they make up one of the few groups that will consist of guys that have all started before. They have three backups that should be able to step in and not create a major drop off situation. Monty Montgomery has been the talk of camp and should be on the field plenty this year. T.J. Holl and Boosie Whitlow should be guys that could step in as starters and do well as they are veteran players. Quen Head is the one question mark for me because we just don’t know much about him.

Running back is next up with Hall and Hawkins being the first two up. Both of those guys should fit the scheme well and they’ve been at the top of the group since the spring. Dae Williams provides a veteran option as well as Maurice Burkeley who earned a scholarship this spring. Aidan Robbins and Jalen Mitchell are talented young guys that could likely play if needed.

Wide Receiver is still deep even though they lost mutliple guys to transfer. Thomas Jackson will provide a veteran option for them and he should have no problem taking on a bigger role if he’s needed to. Justin Marshall is my sleeper pick for a breakout year and I think he can be an option for the offense as well. Devante Peete has been getting rave reviews out of camp which is exactly what they needed from him. I think they will be fine here but Tutu or Dez going down would be a big issue as they are just better than everyone else.

The secondary has plenty of bodies but there isn’t a single player back there that anyone can feel completely comfortable about. The positive is that they have guys like Anthony Johnson, Trenell Troutman, and Isaiah Hayes who have either shown some good flashes or were highly recruited. P.J. Mbanasor is also a veteran option to play at corner who was a highly recruited player out of high school.

I actually feel good about the offensive line because they should have seven total guys with two backups that have versatility. The first group is solid but having Cole Bentley available to play center or guard if needed and Adonis Boone to be able to play tackle and guard is a big deal. NFL lines usually have eight guys with a guy that can backup each spot and Louisville essentially has that with Bentley being able to play center. It’s not ideal but they at least have some coverage.

The defensive line falls off after their top five guys. Ty Tyler and Jared Goldwire will be the top backups but there isn’t a lot else outside of those two guys. There are a lot of guys listed at the position but none of them have been able to get on the field other than Derek Dorsey. I think that we’ll see Zach Edwards on the field as a freshman but Bryan Brown wants 12 guys in his rotation and right now I don’t know if he can even feel comfortable with 9.

Tight End was a big question after the season ended but the staff seems to be completely comfortable talking up the depth they’ve been able to develop there. I still think they’d be in really bad shape if there was an injury. Jordan Davis is the only “Y” tight end they have that has actually played there before. Marshon Ford should be really good at h-back but the next option will be a walk on or a true freshman. They just got dealt a bad hand here and it’s honestly crazy that they got it to this point in one summer.

Last but not least is the quarterbacks. Three quarterbacks could be enough from a health standpoint but they’re going to be in a bad spot if Jawon Pass is ineffective. Malik Cunningham is a great athlete and I’m excited to see what role he will have but I don’t see him running this offense very well. There aren’t as many reads to make and he would add a great wrinkle to the option aspect but he just hasn’t shown the accuracy or the comfortability in the pocket that you need. I do think that Evan Conley will be able to compete for the starting spot next year but he’s not winning games for this team as a freshman.

The short answer to this is no. The longer answer is that Brown will mix up his coverages some as well as how the defensive backs are lined up. His defense at App State last year was extremely aggressive and that included a lot of cover one and cover zero. With just one safety deep or no safety at all, he usually had his corners playing off in man coverage. At times they would also play press coverage in that coverage. I think it will depend a lot on how much he trusts these guys and we really won’t know that answer until the game starts.

I expect him to play guys off more in this game while having them play aggressively as opposed to sinking deeper into coverage like we saw Peter Sirmon’s defense do. I expect the corners to sit on the short routes and allow the receivers to eat up that cushion. You’re 100% right that ND wasn’t all that explosive last year and he’s going to force them to show that they actually can be that.

Personally, I think this is the one year that moral victories matter. I’m typically in the same boat because I think this program should be able to go out and beat just about anyone on the schedule. This year is different though. Louisville has to be able to show that they can compete with anyone on the schedule this year because they didn’t do that at all last season. Just competing likely gets them a couple of wins this year that they won’t be the favorite in. But more than that, they will be in games that they would’ve been blown out in last year.

I think they’ll compete with ND on Monday and fans will be happy with that. A good comparison is when Purdue kept it close with Louisville two years ago. Purdue was 3-9 the year before and Louisville had the Heisman Trophy winner returning. You wouldn’t know that by the way the game played out. Louisville’s program isn’t in the same position because it was just one awful year but Purdue fans were able to see the potential with their new coach. If they can keep it within two scores, I think Louisville fans will see the positives with the new staff and it would be a moral victory. Anything more than that would be a tough pill to swallow for most.

My hot take is that the offense will be vastly improved from last year and the running game will be the reason. I’m a believer in the offensive line because it’s being coached by one of the best offensive line coaches in the country and I believe that all five guys fit mold of the type of player they want on the line. I think they’ll be able to run the ball well against ND because they have to replace so many guys up the middle in their front seven. They also have great edge guys but I’m not sold on them being all that great as run defenders.

The run game will help Jawon Pass more than any coaching or culture changes could. A major issue with the offense last year is that they refused to run the ball and teams just sat back and filled the passing lanes making it much harder to find open guys. We should see a lot more man coverage from defenses this year and Pass has the receivers he needs that can get open against tight coverage. I expect him to look much better this year and Notre Dame has some weaknesses in the secondary when it comes to pass coverage. Not a lot of weaknesses but enough that they might be able to take advantage of a few throws.