Previous Position Previews
2013 Linebacker Review
The Louisville Defense had an outstanding season, and the Linebackers were a HUGE part of that success. Middle Linebacker Preston Brown was selected in the 3rd Round by the Buffalo Bills with the 73rd pick in the NFL Draft and led the Cardinals in tackles with 98 overall and 12.5 Tackles for Loss. Brown really elevated his game from an already high level and the Cards finished #1 in the nation in Total & Rushing Defense. James Burgess also had a huge season tallying 72 tackles (2nd on team) and 9 TFLs. True Freshman Keith Kelsey and Seniors Champ Lee, Deon Rogers & George Durant really held down the lions share of the rest of the work. Nick Dawson-Brents moved around a great deal from end to outside linebacker as well.
The Louisville Linebackers did all of this without the services of highly touted and expected starter Keith Brown who was mostly held out of the 2014 with a knee injury.
2014 Linebacker Preview Coaches & Roster
In Todd Grantham’s Defense, the linebackers are extremely important. Louisville fans last year saw many of their defensive ends moved to now play outside linebacker. Former Defensive Ends Lorenzo Maudlin (6-4, 244 Sr.) and Deiontrez Mount (6-5, 246, Sr.) have played a lot of football at a high level for the Cards and while their position will require different alignments than fans are used to, the goal will be the same: RUSH THE QUARTERBACK.
Both the SAM (Mount) and WILL (Mauldin) Linebacker positions can also play with their hand on the ground in Nickel formations (moving one of the bigger ends inside to replace the Nose OR removing one of the bigger ends in place of an OLB). It’s important to remember that Coach Grantham does not like to pigeon hole is players into one type, he wants his players to be able to do multiple things. Which is why Grantham (who is the defensive coordinator and also OLB coach) had 7 defensive players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft off his Georgia defense. The pressure coming from Louisville will most likely always be a combination of 4-5 players, and the deception that the Cards can create with their 3-4 defense is designed to confuse quarterbacks and protections, get sacks, and create offensive mistakes. Thanks to players like Lorenzo and Deiontrez (Dee), UofL has the perfect personnel to run this system right away.
Behind Mauldin is JUCO transfer from Iowa Western Trevon Young (6-4, 233, Jr.) who looks a lot physically like departed 1st Round Pick Marcus Smith and will also wear Marcus’ #91. Young came to Louisville for Spring drills and has picked up the new defense quickly. Trevon has a lot of athletic ability to rush the passer and provide no break to the opponents protection responsibilities. Recently Lorenzo Mauldin RAVED about his back-up. This is a powerful 1-2 punch from the WILL Linebacker spot. Young had offers from Arkansas, Iowa, and Ole Miss before choosing the Cards.
Nick Dawson-Brents (6-3, 265, RS-SO) will put pressure on Deiontrez Mount at the SAM Linebacker position. Nick came to Louisville as a U.S. Army All-American and has made numerous plays in his time as a Cardinal. Dawson-Brents was used very similarly last season by Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford to how Todd Grantham plans to deploy his skill set. Nick has the size and strength to play on the line, but can rush the passer on the edge or through the hole. Dawson-Brents chose Louisville over Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Maryland, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Pitt, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Virginia.
Finesse Middleton (5-11, 246, RS-Fr) has pure pass-rushing ability, and could be a nickel specialist right away Middleton came to Louisville over an offer from Ole Miss. Finesse is someone that Charlie Strong talked about on signing day that could not be blocked in high school. To start Fall Camp, Finesse will apprentice under Lorenzo Mauldin and Trevon Young who are both playing at a high level. I do expect to see some of Finesse during the year but with Young & Mauldin in place Middleton should be able to refine his game throughout the season and ramp up for a breakout 2015.
It’s hard to imagine Louisville having the #1 Defense in the Nation in 2013 without the services of Keith Brown (6-1, 236, RS-Soph) who missed the season (and Spring) with an injury. Keith was hoping to follow up on his true freshman season where he played Strong Side Linebacker and tallied 57 tackles (5th on team) while the Cards went 11-2 and won the 2013 Sugar Bowl. The former U.S. Army All-American out of high school is uber-talented at the Middle Linebacker spot in a defense that is designed for the middle backers to RACK UP tackles. Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense is designed to occupy blockers and spread offensive lines out, leaving a ton of opportunity for the inside backers to make a ton of plays. Keith Brown, if healthy is about to have an absolute monster season for the Louisville Defense.
James Burgess (6-0, 227, Jr.) also will play on the inside at the MO Linebacker position and was healthy to participate in Spring Drills. Burgess is a hitter…..he actually broke his own facemask last season placing a hit on a ball carrier and has reportedly been one of the most dedicated players in off-season workouts with a hopeful eye of declaring early for the 2015 NFL Draft next May. Burgess will need a big season to make that dream come true, but this defense is set up for a guy like James to make a LOT of big plays. I expect Burgess (like Keith Brown) to both have huge years statistically.
Someone I absolutely can not believe is not a starter is Keith Kelsey (6-1, 225, Soph). But it is a testament to the talent on this roster defensively that Kelsey will be behind Keith Brown. Kelsey came to Louisville as a big-time prospect out of Gainesville, FL with a very high football IQ. Keith’s father, Keith Sr., played linebacker for Florida. Kelsey tallied 24 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 Pass Break-ups in his true freshman season. I think Cards fans will see more of Keith in 2014 and will position himself for a very big junior year in 2015. Kelsey provides Louisville with a lot very competent depth at the Inside Linebacker spot.
Issac Stewart (6-2, 240 Fr.) is your old-school prototype Inside Linebacker. Eventually Stewart might remind Louisville fans of 3rd Round Pick and Former Louisville Cardinal Preston Brown. Stewart has been impressive thus far in Fall Camp and will probably see a great deal of action right away as a true freshman on Special teams. Stewart chose Louisville over offers from NC State and North Carolina.
Stacy Thomas (6-1, 249, RS-FR) just recently made the move from outside linebacker to Inside Linebacker and promptly injured his hand in Fall Camp. It’s too early to tell how the injury will affect Stacy for 2014, but the coaches made the move because they really like his skill set on the interior to fill gaps and make a lot of tackles behind the line. Stacy committed to Louisville very late in July of last summer from Gulliver Prep in Miami. Thomas had offers from UCONN, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas St., LSU, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Clearly a major talent and another big bodied Inside Linebacker. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his game.
Royce Donovan (6-2, 215, Soph)
Cameron Palmer(5-11, 200, Fr.)
Blake Ramsey (5-11, 203, Soph.)
My Projected Depth Chart
1) Deiontrez Mount
2) Nick Dawson
3) Finesse Middleton
1) Keith Brown
2) Keith Kelsey
3) Issac Stewart
1) James Burgess
2) Stacy Thomas
1) Lorenzo Mauldin
2) Trevon Young
3) Henry Famurewa
2015 NFL Draft Possibles: Lorenzo Mauldin, Deiontrez Mount (needs a productive year), Keith Brown (potential for early entry), James Burgess (potential for early entry).
2015 Roster Expected Available: Trevon Young, Nick Dawson-Brents, Finesse Middleton, Keith Brown (if no early declare), James Burgess (if no early declare), Keith Kelsey, Issac Stewart, Stacy Thomas, Royce Donovan, Cameron Palmer, Blake Ramsey
2016 Roster Expected Available: Nick Dawson-Brents, Finesse Middleton, Keith Brown, Keith Kelsey, Issac Stewart, Stacy Thomas, Royce Donovan, Cameron Palmer, Blake Ramsey
2017 Roster Expected Available: Finesse Middleton, Issac Stewart, Stacy Thomas, Cameron Palmer
2018 Roster Expected Available: Issac Stewart (if redshirted)