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Opponent Breakdown: Louisville Cardinals Defense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Louisville at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The defensive line is the key to Ron English’s scheme and he inherited a strong group of veterans that fit what he does very well. The group is led by Ashon Gillotte who is primed for a breakout season. Gillotte has totaled 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks over his first two seasons on campus and this new scheme could help him be more of a force against the run. This will be a good test for Renato Brown and Michael Gonzalez but it could also be an opportunity for the ACC to be put on notice if Gillotte has a good showing.

On the opposite side of the defensive front, we will see Stephen Herron at the “Leo” position which is very similar to Bryan Brown’s “Dog” position. Yasir Abdullah manned that spot for a few years and it isn’t out of the question to expect somewhat similar results from Herron.

Popeye Williams and Adonihjah Green are two guys who could cause some issues for the offense as they have the speed and athleticism to get around the edge and pressure the quarterback. I would also expect Kam Wilson to make an appearance. The sleeper in this group is Rhyeem Craig at the defensive end spot. He could see an improved situation with the new defensive scheme.

The middle of the defense is where UofL has the most depth and experience. Dez Tell will continue to be a mainstay at the nose tackle position while Ramon Puryear has taken the majority of the snaps at the defensive tackle spot with the first team. But what really stands out about this Louisville defense is that they have Jermayne Lole and Tawfiq Thomas as backups in the middle. Both players are over 300 pounds and Lole was one of the top transfers in the country last year. Throw in Jared Dawson and this could be the deepest position group for the Cards.

Linebacker is the one spot on this team where the coaching change really impacted the roster. Deebo Jones followed the staff to Cincinnati and Monty Montgomery transferred shortly after deciding to take his sixth year. That left two starting positions open and the Cards have been rotating guys all spring to find the best combination. KJ Cloyd and TJ Quinn are likely starters this weekend as they have experience from last season.

Depth is a real concern for Louisville but the young players they have brought in over the last couple of seasons have made some plays this spring. Jackson Hamilton is a little bit undersized but he has utilized his speed and quickness to make plays all over the field. Jaylin Alderman didn’t get many snaps last year after his highlight-reel freshman season but he looks healthy and he has taken reps with the first group at times.

The two wildcards here are Gilbert Frierson and Stanquan Clark. Frierson is a veteran transfer who has played linebacker and nickel this spring. It’s tough to know where he will end up but he will likely be a key contributor at the linebacker spot. Clark is a very highly touted freshman and his role is yet to be determined. I will say that he is as good as advertised from an athleticism standpoint, but he has to put all of the mental stuff together.

The secondary is thin due to injuries but, as a group, they have been very good this spring. Jarvis Brownlee looks the part of a veteran corner. He is playing fast and loose and his confidence is off the charts. Trey Franklin is manning the corner spot opposite of Brownlee and I think he could cause the biggest issue for the offense. He is ultra-aggressive in coverage and his ability to undercut routes to break up passes will test the timing of the passing game on offense.

Depth is a concern for Louisville but former four-star recruits Jeremiah Caldwell and Marquis Groves-Killabrew should get some time with the second unit. Both are big cornerbacks that fit well with Ron English’s aggressive press coverage scheme. Derrick Edwards is also a player who has flashed some ability this spring.

Safety is the next best group behind the defensive line with MJ Griffin spearheading a veteran group that is a little banged up right now. Projected starter Josh Minkins is out after shoulder surgery and incoming transfer Devin Neal has been out with an injury for most of the summer. That leaves D’Angelo Hutchinson to man the other safety spot and the true sophomore has picked up where he left off last year as a reserve that played in every game and played a good amount of defensive snaps.

This group has the ability to not only run with receivers when English calls a blitz but they have delivered some big hits in the middle of the field when a receiver has found space to catch a pass. If the defense wins the day on Friday, I would expect this group to be a big r