C.J. Avery has been a mainstay on the Louisville defense for the last few years and his decision to return for a fifth year really bolstered the chances of the Cards defense taking a step forward. Bryan Brown will need a leader on the defense after a few key veteran leaders moved on and Avery will play that role well.
Louisville will be very strong on the inside with Avery and Monty Montgomery. While Dorian Etheridge led the team in tackles for loss last season, he really tailed off after the first quarter of the year. Monty Montgomery took on most of the snaps after a while and he made the most of it. Montgomery will be a key to the defense this year as he has the speed and quickness in short areas that are needed as well as the ability to pressure the Quarterback.
The key to the Inside Linebacker position will be depth and Louisville has some intriguing pieces there. KJ Cloyd and Dorian Jones are two players who have experience as backups and should know the defense very well if they are called upon for extended playing time. Cloyd is a similar player to Montgomery as he plays with a high level of speed and he arrives to the ball with bad intentions. Jones is a player that the staff has been high on since he got to campus. I’m very interested to see how Jones plays when he gets on the field. He was one of my favorite players in his recruiting class.
With fall camp starting you start to hear rumors coming out of practices and Jaylin Alderman seems to be one of the guys being talked about this year. The true freshman from Georgia has been getting some reps with the first team which is obviously surprising but it’s also a positive from a depth standpoint. I also got to see true freshman TJ Quinn get reps with the second group behind Avery. It seems that some of the young guys will push the veterans for playing time this year.
On the outside, Louisville has to be very happy with the development of Yasir Abdullah and Nick Okeke. Abdullah started to become a force as a pass rusher late in the season last year and his improvement there could be a major factor for the defense that has struggled to pressure the Quarterback. Okeke is a veteran player that has a little more versatility. I would be surprised if we don’t see him on the field at the same time as Abdullah in some way.
At the Card spot, Louisville has some unproven talent they will be working with. Marvin Dallas was a highly ranked JUCO prospect last year who starred as a Special Teams player. Jack Fagot was a backup at both Safety spots who will now play in a much smaller space in the box and on the edge. One of these two guys will get the starting spot against Ole Miss but I think both will likely play a good amount. Fagot is known as an athletic player and he has experience in the defense. Dallas was a guy I wasn’t very high on as a recruit but he can definitely run and hit. That will take him a long way with how this defense operates.
I’m going to go with Marvin Dallas as my breakout candidate. The Card position is so key to this defense and Dallas plays with the type of energy that you like to see in the aggressive scheme that Bryan Brown runs. He is definitely an athlete and he showed last year that he is more than willing to stick his nose in there as a tackler. The only thing left to see is if he can play in space and understand his role in the defense.