“It all starts up front”. It’s a phrase we hear all the time when it comes to football but we really got a glimpse of how true it is last season. Louisville’s defensive line didn’t do a very good job of defending the run, rushing the passer, or keeping blockers off of second level players. They weren’t awful, but they are such a key part of this defense that if they aren’t really good, it’s hard for the defense as a whole to get things done.
Mark Ivey will rely on Jared Goldwire to be the linchpin of the defense at Nose Tackle. Goldwire showed flashes last year as a backup but coaches and teammates seem to believe that the finality of his college career has caused him to be much more engaged this spring and summer. Goldwire is listed at 6-6/305 and I really think that he can be the disruptive force that they need up front. Getting penetration is key and Goldwire showed that he can do that last season.
Depth in the middle is an unknown as of now with Malik Clark sliding down from defensive end and the rest of the depth chart being made up of freshmen. Clark has the size at 6-2/290 and his time at defensive end should help him as he should be a bit more mobile and should have more moves to utilize to get penetration. This will be a key part of the defense as a whole because Louisville can’t afford a big drop-off when Goldwire leaves the field.
I’m expecting Henry Bryant to be the first guy to get a chance to battle Clark for the second spot. Bryant is listed at 5-11/275 and I absolutely love that. He got here in the winter so he was able to take advantage of getting in shape in the spring as well as getting some practice time. He and Dezmond Tell have been mentioned a lot by coaches and teammates this fall and I could see both being moved around situationally which will only help this defensive line.
The Defensive End spots will have the same first game starters that we saw last year against Notre Dame last season. Dayna Kinnaird will likely be on the strong side of the defense while Tabarius Peterson will be on the weak side. Kinnaird was the starter last year but he didn’t make very many impact plays. If he can get into the backfield more often and make a tackle or force the ball carrier into another player, we should see a better run defense.
Peterson should be better this year with another off season at the position. He played that outside linebacker role in the 3-4 scheme and then we all know how 2018 went from a coaching standpoint. Peterson has added a little bit of weight and I judging by the workouts I watched of him this summer, he should be in prime physical shape this year. The only real question is if he he has learned how to handle blocks better and as a guy with his hand in the ground.
Depth is key for Louisville up front and Mark Ivey has to be happy with the numbers he has even though he doesn’t have a lot of experience to lean on. Derek Dorsey should be a guy we see as a backup at Defensive End but outside of him, we’ll be seeing a lot of new faces. Ja’Darien Boykin will have a shot at being the main backup for Peterson and I think he will be a guy we see in any passing situation. He has pass rushing skills that we just didn’t see last year and he could be key to the overall improvement of the group.
Yaya Diaby and Zach Edwards are the other two guys we should see a lot of this year as pass rushers. Diaby was a very sought after JUCO player who committed on signing day. He was a Wide Receiver in high school who then bulked up over the last two years. He still shows the speed and quickness of a receiver which should help him as a pass rusher. Edwards just might see the field more than expected as he’s up to 265 pounds and should be able to pay on three downs. He looked really good in the small handful of plays we saw him in on last year. The potential of the backups is huge. We just have to wait to see how many of the guys reach that potential.
I’ve been talking this group up all off season long and I stand by my prediction that they will be much improved this year. Mark Ivey feels that he can get to the rotation he wants at some point during the season so that shows that he feels good about this group as a whole. The guys at the top of the depth chart are known commodities but I think it will be helpful that they will be pushed by all of this young talent. Only time will tell.