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2023 Way Too Early Depth Chart: Defense

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

Louisville’s defense was the key to their 8-win season last year but they lost a few key players to the NFL draft. Even with those losses, there is a good chance that the defense will again be the key to the success of the team. Jeff Brohm inherits a good amount of talent and he and his staff did a good job mining the transfer portal for depth and contributors.


Defensive End

Ashton Gillotte

Victoine Brown

Ashton Gillotte returns this year with high expectations to be the key pass rusher as well as the leader up front from an energy standpoint. He has had a strong first two seasons and could be the biggest beneficiary of the new scheme.

The open spring practices gave us a good view of just how close some of these position battles are and this spot saw a battle for the backup spot. Victoine Brown ended the spring as the second man up and I think that will continue into the spring. Rodney McGraw should see the field as well.

Defensive Tackle

Ramon Puryear

Jermayne Lole

After the second open practice, Ramon Puryear planted his feet with the first group and I don’t know that he will be moved out of that spot over the summer. UofL has some options here as Jermayne Lole started the spring playing at the tackle spot. He didn’t finish the spring practices and didn’t play in the spring game, so it’s fairly obvious that he’s not fully healthy right now.

Nose Tackle

Dez Tell

Tawfiq Thomas

Jared Dawson

This may be the deepest position on the team with Dez Tell and Jared Dawson returning to a role that they are familiar with. Tell was the very first player that UofL had meet with the media this spring and it was obvious that he views himself as a leader. He should be able to team up with Tawfiq Thomas and Jared Dawson to form a formidable group in the middle of the defense.

LEO (Standup Defensive End)

Stephen Herron

Popeye Williams

Kam Wilson

This position is vital to the defensive performance, in my opinion, so it was great to see the staff go out and get a player like Stephen Herron who knows it so well. Herron played the same role for Stanford last season and had a good year as a pass rusher. One would hope we will see the same or better production this season.

The backups at this spot have the highest upside with Popeye Williams and Kam Wilson. Both players looked good this spring and both showed some flashes last season in reserve roles. Williams has completely changed his body and being able to just rush the passer should be a benefit to him. Wilson is still waiting to break through, but what he’s shown when he’s gotten on the field has looked good.


Inside Linebacker

KJ Cloyd

Jaylin Alderman

Keith Brown

I entered the spring thinking that the linebacker group was the weakest on the defense but I left it feeling just fine about the group. These guys made a lot of plays all spring and the spring game showcased the speed that the group has. KJ Cloyd is the most experienced returner and he looked like it with his work ethic. I think he could lead the team in tackles this fall.

The staff rotated just about everyone this spring and Jaylin Alderman seemed to be the guy backing up Cloyd. After a season where he barely saw the field, he looks ready to get snaps again. Keith Brown was a nice addition by the staff this spring but I’m not totally sure where he fits. However, I think he will see the field plenty as the staff looks to keep guys fresh.

Inside Linebacker

Jackson Hamilton

Stanquan Clark

Jackson Hamilton was one of the three most impressive players of the spring for me. He ended up starting the spring game after rotating with other players during practices. I thought his speed really showed out and helped him make plays in this new scheme. He’s a little undersized but it didn’t seem to matter much.

Stan Clark has a good shot of being the freshman that gets the most snaps this season. He looked really good in the spring game after a spring that had some rough moments as he learned. If Hamilton didn’t look as good as he did (at least to me), I would have Clark as the starter here. It’s a good problem to have for Mark Ivey.


Star (Nickel/Linebacker Hybrid)

Ben Perry

Antonio Watts

Ben Perry will start but Antonio Watts will see the field plenty this year. My hope is that Ron English will be able to use these guys together in some situations. Both guys showed they can cover down the field and both guys should have no problem playing the run in the box.


Jarvis Brownlee

Storm Duck

I nearly went with an “or” here but Jarvis Brownlee not only looked good this spring but he also held down the starting spot last year and had solid production. Storm Duck had a one more interception than Brownlee last season but they both put up similair numbers last season. I see them both as boundary corners so I think they will likely be up against each other.

One thing to point out here is that UofL has better depth than they’ve had recently and that will lead to guys splitting snaps. Kei’Trel Clark and Brownlee led the team in snaps last season and the new additions to the secondary should help them at least pull the number of snaps down for the starters.


Quincy Riley

Trey Franklin

Marcus Washington

Quincy Riley should slide into a full-time starting role this season as the field corner. He didn’t get starter snaps last season but even though he only played in about 55% of the snaps the starters did, he led the team in interceptions.

Depth is better this season, at least on paper. Trey Franklin had a great spring but he will have to fight to win the backup job over Marcus Washington and MGK. The SEC transfers don’t have college game experience that is worth much but there’s a reason they were so highly recruited. They’ll get a chance to see the field this season.


MJ Griffin

Devin Neal

MJ Griffin looks like a veteran leader and I think he should be the most reliable defender this year. The depth behind him is improved but it’s hard to know who will relieve him as nearly every safety was injured at some point this spring. Devin Neal was that player in the spring but Cam Kelly could likely play either safety spot which could change things.


Josh Minkins

Cam Kelly

D’Angelo Hutchinson

Josh Minkins is another player who has earned his starting spot and played well enough to keep it. Though he’s been injured, Minkins played very well last year and he has improved each year on campus. He has genuine competition in Cam Kelly but I think he has a chance to hold him off.

D’Angelo Hutchinson had a really nice spring and I was honestly surprised to see the staff bring in another safety. Hutchinson is long and athletic but I really like the way he moves for a guy his size. He closes on space really well and he played the ball in the air pretty well this spring.