Josh Minkins is likely looking around the Safety room like Will Smith in the last episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. Minkins is the lone holdover from 2020 and he enters the 2021 season with just a slight bit more experience in Bryan Brown’s defense than all of the newcomers.
ShaDon Brown left Louisville for a Co-DC position at West Virginia and Russ Yeast hit the transfer portal before he got his pads off after the season's final game. That set the tone for an overhaul of the position group this summer with Louisville relying on a bevy of newcomers to improve the defense.
The Free Safety position was the first to be addressed with Kendrick Duncan Jr. transferring in from Georgia Southern. Duncan was a star at GSU with a great 2019 season where he put up 79 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2, INTs, and 8PBUs. In an injury-shortened 2020, he put up 20 tackles and 2 interceptions to go along with 4 PBUs. Lousiville was bad at the Free Safety position last year and there's really no other way to put it. Duncan is a 6-3/215 pound guy who can run and be physical in coverage and against the run. You could make a fair argument that he is one of the best transfer additions in the ACC.
Behind Duncan, we should see Josh Minkins and Shavarick Williams. Minkins got a little run last season and looked like you would expect a true freshman to look a few months after stepping onto campus. Minkins was a bit timid and made some mental mistakes when he finally saw the field. He has been injured for a good while and missed the spring so it’s fair to wonder how much progress he has made. My hope is that being off the field has helped him familiarize himself with the playbook and the scheme.
The Stong Safety position is one of the most important aspects of any discussion of how this defense will perform in 2021. Russ Yeast was a part of a Safety group that finished 3rd to last in the power five in coverage grade, per PFF. It was probably best for both sides that he moved on from Louisville. UofL likely hoped to have Lovie Jenkins here to take over the position but Jenkins transferred after some off-the-field issues.
Lousiville was able to go out and grab a transfer from the FCS level that was a two-time All-American. Qwynnterrio Cole comes to Louisville with a great bio but what stood out to me when I watched him in an open practice was how well put together he is. Cole looks like what I would imagine a superhero would look like in real life. He is tall and long and he is ripped. After not playing in 2020 due to his season being canceled, it definitely stood out to me that he was still in such great shape. The only question with Cole is how he handles the step up in competition.
Ben Perry will push Cole for the starting job and should give the staff some comfort if and when he gets into the game. Perry put on 30 pounds since he arrived on campus and he made some nice plays when we got to see him while also showing his youth in coverage. Perry is the second highest-rated recruit of the Scott Satterfield era and he has the potential to be an impact recruit. Perry was a ballhawk at the high school level. If that translates to college, Louisville is in good shape.
Kendrick Duncan has a chance to be the type of Safety we haven’t seen at Lousiville since Gerod Holliman and James Sample were back deep. Duncan is an NFL prospect and he knows this defensive scheme well. I have no doubt that he will be a huge part of this defense taking a big step forward and I think people will take notice.