Louisville’s defense had more downs than they had ups in 2019 but they are returning a lot of key players next year. The defensive line will have a little more depth even though it will mostly be unproven and the secondary will have to rely on some youth. Outside of that, I think that Bryan Brown has a group that could show some improvement next year even though it might not be much improvement.
Louisville has to replace three starters on defense and one part time starter. Amonte Caban is a guy that didn’t put up a ton of stats but his ability to disrupt as well as lead by example will be tough to replace. Louisville did the best thing they could do by going out and getting Diaby who was a JUCO All-American. I believe that he will step right into the starting spot, holding off Kinnaird in the process.
Louisville needs help from a pass rushing standpoint and Ja’Darien Boykin will provide that help even if it’s situational in the first year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him work his way into the third down dime package early on.
Henry Bryant/Ramon Puryear
G.G. Robinson has exhausted his eligibility but Louisville should be in good shape at the top of the depth chart. Jared Goldwire was really good last year in this role and I think that he could be better with another year to get in the shape he needs to be to play in this defense.
I get the feeling that the staff will look to put 20-30 pounds on Ramon Puryear to get him to the top of the rotation in the middle. He played in three games this year and was named the “Defensive Difference Maker” award which I believe is the defensive scout team player of the year. I don’t want to overstate it but I think he could be a big factor in how this defensive line progresses in year two. Henry Bryant could lead all freshmen in snaps this year if he can pack on a handful of pounds this spring in summer.
Zach Edwards/Thurman Geathers
The lone returner on the defensive line is Peterson and it’s going to be key that he at least hold serve on his level of play because Louisville doesn’t have much proven depth behind him. Mark Ivey wants 12 guys in his rotation but he only has five guys right now with real game experience. Peterson is a guy that will have to lead by example and help the young guys along.
Malik Clark got on the field more as the year went on so I think he will stick in that second spot in the rotation. However, Zach Edwards with a full off season at defensive end as well as a full year in the weight room training to play there as opposed to linebacker could get him on the field much more in his second year. Edwards looked great in the limited time he saw the field and I think there’s a chance he could breakout.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (DOG)
Louisville is loosing a leader in Boosie Whitlow but they should be in good shape in this spot going into next season. I don’t think there’s a coach that Louisville has had on staff over the last few years that wasn’t wowed by Nick Okeke. He hasn’t always put it together on the field but it’s obvious that he has potential. He should provide a good backup option for Abdullah who has the obvious potential to breakout next season.
Kam Wilson is the wildcard here. he’s the highest rated defensive player in the class and he will have all winter and spring to learn the system and pack on weight. This is one of the few spots on the team that has the type of depth that Louisville needs going forward. This team will improve when they start getting freshmen like Wilson in who will push veteran players to see the field. The saying “Iron sharpens iron” is used a lot in football but it has always made sense to me.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (WLB)
Louisville has both guys returning here and you just have to hope that not having a new defensive coordinator will help these guys improve.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (MLB)
Robert Hicks/Dorian Jones
The same can be said here. T.J. Holl is gone but Louisville should be fine from a depth standpoint with Robert Hicks and Jones. Jones will likely miss spring practice as I believe he tore his ACL in November when he was injured on his first play of the season. What stood out, however, is that they had a plan to get him on the field for four games and Scott Satterfield mentioned him each time he was asked about freshmen.
I would love to see Robert Hicks move to defensive end. I know it won’t happen because he came here to play linebacker and I can respect that. I just don’t understand preferring sitting on the bench as opposed to playing. He’s been listed at the Card spot on the depth chart as well as inside. It feels like they’re trying to find a role for him as a linebacker but they have starters there that don’t come off the field much.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (CARD)
Allen Smith/P.J. Blue
Rodjay Burns ended up having an outstanding season as a linebacker and he should continue to do well next year as a senior. The depth here is a big question to me and I have no clue who ends up taking over the backup role. P.J. Blue was at the opposite linebacker spot last spring before he was injured but I think it makes more sense for him to be here as a potential veteran depth player. His health will determine a lot with him as he hasn’t been able to stay too healthy during his time here which likely has hurt his development.
Allen Smith is a guy I loved in the 2019 class. He’s listed as an outside linebacker and he showed a good ability to play a similar type of role in high school so I think he could be an option here. Marvin Dallas will be the wildcard. I think he’s a bit of a reach as a recruit but he’s on campus and he is an obviously athletic player. The staff will have nine months to work with him. But, they brought in two guys for this spot in this class and one is a JUCO guy. It’s obvious there’s a depth issue here.
Justin Ford/Jamel Starks
The winner for the award of proving me wrong this past season goes to Chandler Jones. I had him pegged as a backup due to the fact that I just wasn’t sold on him and he proved me super wrong. Jones got beat a lot as a freshman but he played really well in 2019 and ended up with 10 PBUs. You could see his confidence grow as the season went on and I though he played very well in the bowl game.
There’s not a lot behind Jones but I think that we will see Justin Ford earn the spot behind him on the depth chart. I would expect whoever isn’t playing on the other side to be the third corner but that’s not likely to be reflected on the depth chart. Starks is a sleeper guy to me. He might show out this spring and push to be the nickel guy when the season starts.
Marlon Character/Anthony Johnson
I spent the last month or so wondering why the staff was working so hard to bring in a corner and specifically a JUCO corner. I got my answer as I was writing this. UofL has three experienced corners coming back and that’s it. They should be fine unless they have a rash of injuries but it makes more sense that they wanted another experienced guy.
Character and Johnson are a solid combo for Bryan Brown to work with but one of these guys have to take a step forward this off season. I was 100% sold that Johnson would have the year that Jones ended up having but it didn’t end up happening. He did have a good year, though and Character played well when they put him out there. I don’t see Greedy Vance pushing the starters for their spot but I’d be shocked if he redshirted this year. He will see the field.
Louisville moved Trennell Troutman to outside linebacker late in the 2019 season but I think he will end up as the starting safety to replace Khane Pass next year. I have absolutely nothing to back up this assertion other than it makes the most sense to me. UofL needs to replace a starter and Troutman is the best option. Making him a backup behind a guy that rarely comes off the field just doesn’t make sense to me.
UofL updated the online roster recently and TreSean Smith is still listed on the roster. That leads me to believe that he is truly serving a suspension and he will be back at some point. That would change things as I think he would take this spot and run with it. We’ll have to wait until Satterfield is asked about it before spring practice.
Louisville returns a key guy in Russ Yeast. Louisville never announced his injury but the video looked like a typical bad knee injury that you see in football. So I don’t expect him to be healthy by spring practice but that should help other guys get more reps and Isaiah Hayes needs them after missing time this year with injuries.
This is the likely spot that we see Josh Minkins play once he gets to campus in the summer. I see him as a redshirt candidate but he should be in good shape to learn from the veteran players and will be in good shape to see the field in his second year. If we see a freshman safety on the field this year it will likely be Lovie Jenkins in this spot.
I think that Rodjay Burns will spend this off season putting on weight but Stu Holt will have to pry the punt returner spot out of his hands even if he puts on a bunch of weight. Burns is sure handed and he’s still shown the ability to get yardage when given the opportunity. I enjoyed Holt using both players as returners at one point this year and I hope they can develop that into the norm. Any time Tutu is on the field he’s a threat.
My boldest take of these posts is that Brock Travelstead will handle all kicking duties for Louisville next year. UofL is trying to get a freshman punter in this year but as of now they don’t have a punter listed on the roster. Stu Holt said something that stood out to me recently when he pointed out that they won’t use a scholarship on a specialist unless they can kick, punt, and handle kickoffs. Travelstead can do all of those things and I think they’ll use him to do all three next season.