The Louisville Defensive Line combined for 18 of Louisville’s 83 tackles for loss and sacks last season. While the scheme is built around the guys up front causing havoc, you would imagine they would just luck into a few more impact plays than just 18. The improved depth and addition of some speed and skill have Mark Ivey very excited for the upcoming season.
Tabarius Peterson leads a versatile group of Defensive Ends as a veteran presence among a group of young players. Peterson has been a consistent player on the edge for Louisville but he is facing more pressure now with guys like Ramon Puryear and Ashton Gillotte forcing their way onto the field. I could also see Zach Edwards getting more snaps this year, especially if he can hold his own against the run.
On the other side, Yaya Diaby has been the talk of the town this summer and fall. Diaby missed time last year but he has come back this fall looking like a much-improved player physically. Coaches have projected him to be a player that could be All-ACC this season and I can say he looks the part in person. Diaby showed the speed and quickness you like to see last year but his added bulk should really help him against the big linemen we see in the ACC. Diaby will be a huge factor in how improved this defense can be.
The other player getting rave reviews from the staff is Gillotte. He has put on about 40 pounds since arriving in the winter and should have the needed bulk to see the field early on. My prediction was that he would be used as a situational pass rusher but the added bulk and the talk from the coaches make me think he could be a true rotation guy to start the season. Louisville could have two good pass rushers on the line for pass-rushing situations which is not something we have been able to say for a few years.
Louisville lost a key player when Jared Goldwire passed on the chance to return for an extra season of eligibility. Goldwire wasn’t always consistent but he was a force in the middle and created some disruption that allowed Linebackers the ability to shoot gaps and get tackles for loss. Louisville has to find a way to replace him this year and it sounds like Malik Clark will get the first crack at it. Clark is a converted Defensive End who has bulked up to 295 pounds. As a veteran player, he should know his role very well.
Two other guys should be in the rotation at Nose Tackle. Jaques Turner is a grad transfer from Southern Miss who played at an All-Conference level. He is also a player who has played on the edge but will be playing inside for the Cards. He looked every bit of the 290 pounds that he is listed when I saw him in person. Desmond Tell will also see the field plenty this year after being the primary backup last season. Tell is up to 276 pounds and he used his burst and low center of gravity so well last season as a true freshman. With a full year and offseason under his belt, I have high hopes that Tell can provide the depth we have yet to see up front.
Mark Ivey is very excited about the young players in this group and two guys outside of Gillotte have stood out. Caleb Banks is a massive human being and I would be surprised if we don’t see him on the field at least at some point this year. He just got to campus and has to get a bit bigger and get in shape but that should happen as the season goes on. Victoine Brown could take on the role I expected from Gillotte. He is long and has good size for a new guy. He could be an option to back up Puryear and Peterson.
I haven’t lost faith in Ja’Darian Boykin but he hasn’t been able to get on the field much and he just doesn’t have the physical size you want to see at the position. I still think he has talent that can be utilized but his lack of height and length make it hard for him to push his way onto the field. The same could be said for Henry Bryant. However, with so much youth on this defense, I think that the coaches will be forced to play more guys and hopefully, these two could get a chance.
Yaya Diaby has the potential to be at the level of guys like Jon Greenard and Trevon Young. The scheme is different but Diaby had a few flashes last year where he showed that he could beat his man and get to the ball carrier in the backfield. I also believe that having Yasir Abdullah lining up next to him will benefit him as a pass rusher. It will be hard to double him and he will just have to win his battles to make plays. I’m believing the hype from the coaches on this one.