Mario Cristobal may be an offensive coach but his team is being led by a defense that can take over games in different ways. Lance Guidry has started off his first season with a lot of good performances by his defense with some very rough moments to contribute to losses. If he can get his very talented group to play to its potential, Louisville could be in for a long day.
Former Louisville recruit Rueben Bain has been one of the bright spots for this defense with 6.5 sacks on the season. He had a breakout game against Clemson earlier this year and the buzz around him became a big story. He is a bit undersized but he is one of those talented players that knows how to use their smaller size to their advantage. He gets into the pads of blockers and uses his leverage and athleticism to gain the advantage.
Leonard Taylor was the player that was expected to have a huge year for Miami but the numbers just haven’t materialized this season. Taylor entered the season as a top-5 pick in the 2024 draft and while that may still happen, the buzz has dissipated. With a lot of pride and bragging rights on the line, I think it may be worthwhile to tab Taylor as a player who could have a big game.
Francisco Mauigoa gets a lot of notice as one of the biggest recruits in Canes history but his older brother Francisco is the biggest addition to the program. Francisco leads the team in forced fumbles, tackles for loss, and sacks while also putting up great numbers as a tackler. As a veteran player, it is obvious that he understands the importance of playing within a system but his athleticism and motor lead to him making some plays that are just talent-driven.
Former Louisville linebacker KJ Cloyd mans the other linebacker spot and he has had a solid season. He has been a rotational starter but he had a strong game against FSU last weekend. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t carry that good performance into the game on Saturday.
Miami’s secondary has been a mixed bag this year with the cornerbacks being very inconsistent and the safeties not living up to their talent or experience. Te’Cory Couch has been a good player for Miami but the lack of playmaking ability has been noticeable when watching the Canes. Demari Brown showed up on the highlights last week as he defended Keon Coleman. While the true freshman put forth a great effort, I’m not sure putting him up against one of the best receivers in the country made sense.
There’s a pretty fair argument to be made that the Canes have the most talented safeties in the country. Kam Kinchens is one of my personal favorite players in the country. After leading the power five in interceptions last season, he is on pace to finish the year with the same amount of picks again this year. This dude is all over the field and he is a true ballhawk. With the struggles Jack Plummer has had with interceptions, I don’t thnk there is a more important player in the game than Kinchens.
James Williams is the other safety in the battery and the former 5-star is extremely talented and extremely inconsistent. He makes a couple of plays in every game that shock you a bit but the mistakes typically outnumber the big plays. Williams has a skill-set and stature that makes you think of Isiah Simmons, Sean Taylor, and Derwin James but he can’t get out of his own way at times. UofL has to hope that he continues to not meet expectations because he can change a game in a hurry with his big play potential.