Several outlets have named Louisville’s Linebackers among the best in the nation this pre-season. Much of those accolades have come largely due to returning seniors Keith Kelsey & Devonte Fields. Kelsey & Fields BOTH were named to the Pre-Season All-ACC 1st Team Defense at the ACC Kickoff.

Keith Kelsey had 107 tackles last season and appeared slightly bigger than he was a year ago in Fall Camp. Keith is a leader of the defense and was named a captain for the 2016 season by his teammates. Perhaps the only thing that Kelsey needs to do more of to round out his game is get more of the intangible stats, Forced Fumbles, Interceptions, Pass Break-Ups, Sacks. 12 Tackles for Loss last year was a very good total for an Inside Linebacker, but the thing that makes Keith so effective is his reliability. Kelsey’s coaches & teammates really trust him to make the play and do his job and he rarely misses an assignment. The Cards will be just fine if Keith has a repeat performance of 2015……but for him to move up the draft boards it’s the small details in the game that can make a difference between a few rounds in the NFL Draft. Very similar to what Preston Brown needed to improve on his Senior season. This Fall Camp Keith looked focused and playing more aggressively than ever.  That’s a good sign for Cardinal Football.

It took Outside Linebacker Devonte Fields about half of the season to really get going. The former TCU star only had 4 TFLs in the season’s first six games of 2016…he finished with 22. 18 TFLs in the season’s final 7 games. That total includes 7.5 Sacks in the season’s final 3 games. In short, Devonte Fields was ON FIRE to end the season. Devonte missed the Spring after some ‘clean-up’ surgery but he’s picked up right where he left and LOOKED AWESOME in the practices we were able to see in Fall Camp. Fields will be a primary focus for every offense the Cards play. Look for Devonte Fields to come out firing on all cylinders to start 2016.

Louisville will be without Trevon Young who will redshirt the 2016 season. After his separated and broken hip in the Music City Bowl vs. Texas A&M there was some thought that Trevon might be able to return for this season, but a setback shelved that idea and Young for the year.

Other Previews Completed
Running Backs

My Predicted Linebacker Depth Chart

OLB
Devonte Fields (6’4, 242, Sr.)
Jonathan Greenard (6’4, 252, R-Fr.)

ILB
Keith Kelsey (6’1, 236, Sr.)
Isaac Stewart (6’2, 245, R-Soph)

ILB
Stacy Thomas (6’1, 232, R-Jr.)
Amonte Caban (6’1, 248, R-Fr.)

OLB
James Hearns (6’3, 249, R-Jr.)
Henry Famurewa (6’2, 252, R-Soph)

Stacy Thomas will come into a starting role after the departure of Inside Linebacker and Bash Brother James Burgess. Unfortunately Stacy had a set back and had an undisclosed surgery on August 6th and missed a great deal of Fall Camp.  The coaching staff seems confident that Thomas will return to action by the Syracuse game at the latest. Stacy was pressed into early action vs. Texas A&M after Burgess was ejected for targeting, but Thomas shined with 11 tackles against the Aggies. Stacy has been a special teams standout for UofL the last two seasons and it was always clear that he would do well once given the opportunity to start……..now he has the opportunity after he recovers from his surgery at the beginning of this month.

While fans wait for Stacy to recover they’ll get to see a bit of the future in Amonte Caban who redshirted for the Cards last season as a freshman.  Amonte LOOKS great and moves really well in the practices we observed.  There is no doubt that he has all the tools but just needs to work on his overall understanding of the concepts of Todd Grantham’s defense and adjust to major college football. Amonte is a former 4-star recruit out of Alabama and chose the Cards over offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. Issac Stewart will back up Keith Kelsey inside. Issac appeared in 9 games and registered 7 tackles during 2015 and played a great deal during the Florida State game when Kelsey left the game with an injury. At some point one or both of these guys may be pressed into action and how they perform will be a big deal for the Louisville Defense. Issac is another BIG guy and he’ll be solid up the middle.  Both Caban & Stewart need to be ready.

At the other linebacker spot opposite of Devonte Fields will be James Hearns. Hearns is one of the more exciting developments of Fall Camp.  He’s ready.  After a few years of struggling to find an identity James Hearns has found his place at Outside Linebacker.  We saw flashes of James last season, but THIS(!) is different.  Opposite of Fields, Hearns is going to terrorize opposing offenses and will likely be able to operate with impunity and that’s going to be a problem for keeping the QB clean.

But if Hearns or Fields needs a break or just isn’t getting the job done the Cards can turn to redshirt OLB Jonathan Greenard & sophomore Henry Famurewa. Greenard has that ‘look’ about him and when we watch him we feel that we are watching the beginnings of a really special football player. Famurewa is coming off a torn labrum suffered last Fall. Henry looked like someone who was going to factor into the rotation last year prior to his injury and has caused problems for the 1st team Louisville offense in the practices we observed while operating with the 2nd team defense. Louisville REALLY needs both players (Greenard and Hearns) to provide valuable snaps during the season.

We didn’t get a good feel for how Gary McCrae fits in to the outside linebacker rotation and what his readniness level is in the practices we observed.  McCrae originally signed with Georgia in the 2015 class but instead went the Junior College route.  Our best guess is that Gary will redshirt the 2016 season and learn the spot to be ready in 2017.  But we’ve learned not to count any players out so we’ll keep an eye on him.

We also are extremely excited about the incoming freshman Tobias Little, Tabarious Peterson & Malik Staples.  All 3 of these guys can play some football and look the part.  Tobias is THICK and appears to have the ideal body for Inside Linebacker.  Tabarious’ body looks like a veteran and Malik Staples definitely knows how to play football.  This group really has a ton of potential so the future of linebackers for Cardinal Football is bright.  We just may not see a lot of these guys this year .

Walk-Ons
Ethan Adams (6-1, 239, Fr.)
Vince Lococo (6-3, 235, Fr.)
Reese Melton (6’2, 211, Fr.)
Damien Smith (6’1, 238, Soph)
Tony Smyzer (5’10, 251, Fr.)

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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