Louisville’s pass defense was abysmal in 2019. There’s no reason to mince words. They finished second to last in the ACC in passer rating defense as well as finishing second to last in interceptions. It was a weak spot for the defense but it could easily be a strength of the 2020 defense. Bryan Brown returns a lot of experience at the top of the depth chart while adding some athletic newcomers to the fold.
Bryan Brown has to be happy with what he has at Cornerback right now. Chandler Jones returns after leading the team with 10 pass breakups last year. He also has Anthony Johnson and Marlon Character back to fight for the job across the way. The most talked about player is Tre Clark who transferred in after being a starter at Liberty last year as a freshman. That’s four guys with real experience that he can work with and those guys will have to compete for the starting spots.
Jones is the best of the group in my opinion. I’ve said before that I wasn’t very high on him as a recruit but last year showed that he could be a very good cover corner who also does well in run support. This defense asks the corners to play on an island a lot and Jones did really well last year as the boundary corner. You’re going to see a lot of stop routes and other routes that are designed to extend the run game or put the offense in better position to get a first down. that means you have to be able to be sticky in coverage and break on the football to make plays. Jones showed multiple times that he can do that and his confidence should only lead to more improvement in that area.
Louisville didn’t have a set starter on the other side last year as Character and Johnson shared the role with mixed success. Both are big corners with good length, so they fit from that standpoint but neither were very consistent in coverage. Louisville will need a better pass rush to help these guys out. There were at least a few times where they were asked to cover for much too long and they ended up giving up big plays. If we see improvement with the pass rush, we should have a more effective secondary.
The wildcard with this group is Tre Clark. This staff hasn’t been too keen to over-hyping players before the season. We heard a little bit about Javian Hawkins before last year but he wasn’t even listed as a starter in the summer. Marshon Ford was a guy the staff knew would make an impact but they didn’t hype him up too much. Clark is getting a ton of hype from the coaching staff and his teammates. He has starting experience and in the little bit that I’ve seen of him at Liberty and in high school, he possesses the blend of cover skills and run support that Brown covets. Don’t be surprised if he’s on the field on the first play next week.
Depth at corner is completely untested outside of the top backups but Greedy Vance has been mentioned multiple times by his teammates as a guy who has stood out. Vance was one of the best defenders on tone of the best high school football teams in the country last year so it’s not a shock that he is doing well. It has been good to see that he’s been able to add weight quickly which was the main concern. UofL likes to put five or six Defensive Backs on the field at times so I would expect Vance to get a shot as a package guy.
Jamel Starks and Marqui Lowery should be the other guys we see either on special teams or deeper into the depth chart. Starks is a guy who projects as a special teams stud who could eventually work his way onto the field. Lowery is more of a cover guy from what I saw in high school but getting on campus early could help him see the field before most would have expected.
This group is still fairly young with multiple underclassmen but they took their lumps last year while learning the defense. This year should be better with an improved pass rush but they also have a highly regarded coach in Bryan Brown. He was able to get the most out of a handful of undersized and lowly rated prospects at App State so I feel pretty good about him molding guys like Jones and Vance into studs.