#6 Evan Conley
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Thoughts: The story on Conley is that of every number two quarterback in the country, people are clamoring for you….until their not. Conley came in like a stud back in 2019 as he was forced into playing more games than anyone anticipated and for my money did a great job being put in that spot unexpectedly. He tried to manage the game, not make big mistakes, and show off some athleticism when the time was right (I think that Wake LB is still chasing him). Of course when he had some dips in play people were looking to Malik to get healthy, and then last year when Malik was struggling with ball security folks were looking back to Conley…..ahhhh, the life of a quarterback.
While Conley didn’t get as many reps or see the field as often in 2020 his contributions started to show up off the field. Malik credited some of his growth to working with Conley every day and the staff highlighted his leadership among the team as being a huge influence to those around him. Watch a few of the university released highlight clips and you are bound to see Conley clapping, yelling, smiling, or genuinely just hyping folks up. While I’m sure Even desires to be more than a glorified hype man that stuff is important with morale and having one of your quarterbacks lead that effort is extremely valuable.
Conley knows that the athletic and often ‘risk taking’ Cunningham (please get down this year) is the leader, but just like before, one snap could have him in the spot to take things over. Out of camp Satterfield praised Conley for his growth and ability as a passer and it’s encouraging to still see him as a strong #2 even with some of the other guys they’ve brought in. While I hope he’s not thrust into the starting role due to injury I feel good knowing he’s back there and has experience under his belt if his number is called.
Let relive 2019 against Wake…when things were so simple
Can't express enough thanks to my O-line and WRs for for keeping me safe and making plays all year— Evan Conley (@Econ11_) November 6, 2016
My man got it, even back in 2016 at the high school level. Always thank the big guys.
#6 YaYa Diaby
Position: Defensive Line
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Thoughts: Returning a player on the edge who played in eight games last year and actually had seven starts would normally be a large talking point of the offseason, but while Yaya is certainly one of the players highlighted to make a big push this year the staff knows that they can’t see the same level of production they did from him in 2020, and he agrees.
Yaya was a starter last season every week he wasn’t out due to COVID protocol or other health/injury concerns. In those game Yaya got a significant number of reps on the edge yet his statistics last season were not great when it came down to creating disruption in the backfield. Over the eight contest Yaya only had 2.5 TFL and a couple QB hurries. For an edge rusher you just need more than that week over week. Coach Brown and the staff know that better play and more consistent coverage will improve the defense, but two big areas that will really shift things in the proper direction are negative plays and turnovers. Yaya, Ashton, Peterson, Puryear…these guys need to take that next step in 2021 and start causing more ‘chaos’ as Bill C terms it. If they can’t get the sack, start flushing the QB out of the pocket. If you can’t get the tackle behind the line, make sure you at least get the man down before he gets to the second level. Small things turn into big things when done consistently.
Yaya took his health and nutrition seriously this offseason and we’ve seen him add nearly 20 pounds from this time last year, and not “late night Indi’s” 20lb put the good stuff that will make him a nightmare to defend. Yaya said in his media availability a few weeks ago that he set a personal goal of 10 sacks this season. A lofty goal, but one I’m excited to see not only put in place but talked about publicly. UofL hasn’t had a defensive player record 10+ sacks since Devonte Fields in 2015, but that year the Cards had 3 players finish with 6 sacks or more and nearly 100 TFL, which helped them finish the year with a Top 20 defense overall. Coach Brown has got things moving and the play of Yaya this year will be significant in continuing that progression.
Yaya walking around with a whole bag of ‘Ruffles’ firmly planted on that shoulder, and I love it. Whatever you can pull motivation from, use it. And then go blow somebody up.