This is the second of three outlooks that I will provide regarding the next step for 2018 Louisville defense which loses a ton of starters and returns a Defensive Coordinator that drew heavy criticism from the fanbase last year.    This is strictly an opinion piece and is in no way accurate, in short…. things are subject to change.   Let’s begin:

Defensive Line

Departing:  

Drew Bailey, De’Asian Richardson, Trevon Young, and James Hearns have all graduated and are on to try their luck in the 2018 NFL draft.  I am going to miss Bailey who did all the small things on the line but will also miss Hearns and Young who were a vital piece of Louisville’s pass rush. Both also overcame life changing events that altered their careers while here at UofL. One a devastating injury, the other a gunshot wound.

 

Returning and Incoming players:

 

  • Caleb Tillman (R. Soph.)
  • Henry Famurewa  (R. Senior)
  • Tabarius Peterson  (R. Soph.)
  • G.G. Robinson (R. Junior)
  • Derek Dorsey ( R. Soph)
  • Gary McCrae (Senior)
  • Boosie Whitlow (Soph. Transfer)
  • Jared Goldwire (Juco)
  • Demji Dumervil-Jean (Freshman)
  • Malik Clark (R. Freshman)
  • Mike Boykin (Juco)
  • Jarrett Jackson (Freshman)
  • Thurman Geathers (Freshman)
  • Allen Love (Freshman)

 

My Outlook:

I think you can etch  Whitlow, Goldwire, Robinson, and Boykin in as your starters on the defensive line.  If not, you could see Henry Famurewa in Boosie’s spot.  Famurewa has been in the program a while and it is finally his time to step up and dominate. The line can be able to rotate Derek Dorsey and Tabarius Peterson in and both should provide meaningful reps.

I am not ruling out Demji Dumervil-Jean but right now not sure if he will be used on offensive line or not.  He could also redshirt, time will tell.  The same can be said for Thurman Geathers and Allen Love. I really hope that the staff is able to use Gary McCrae and Caleb Tillman more in the defense next season.  McCrae, the former Last Chance U star has seen limited action over the past season and we are all hoping his playing time increases in 2018.  While the defensive line is still building depth, it has a ton of strengths it can play to. The defensive line has not really been dominant since Strong and Bedford were coaching here and we are all hoping that changes next season. This team needs a dominant pass rush to deal with some really good QB’s in the ACC.

Linebackers

Departing: 

Stacey Thomas is gone and it will hurt.  Thomas was so instrumental as a linebacker and the Louisville defense depended on him to help in run support as well as coverage. But, Stacey is off to the NFL draft and we wish him the best although we wish he had another year here.

 

Returning and Incoming players:

Jonathan Greenard (R. Junior)

Dorian Etheridge (Sophmore)

London Iakopo (R. Senior)

CJ Avery (Soph.)

Malik Staples (Junior)

Isaac Stewart (R. Senior)

Amonte Caban (R. Junior)

Quen Head (Juco)

Robert Hicks (Freshman)

Nick Okeke (R. Freshman)

Yasir Abdullah (Freshman)

 

My Outlook:

Being this is Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmon’s position of expertise, I hope this group is one of the main strengths of the defense. This is Jonathan Greenard’s unit, he is the captain of this bunch and I expect him to be the guy national pundits always highlight on the defense. Greenard is clearly a rising star and for some reason or another Sirmon didn’t even start him until midway through the season last year. Not that he is on the field, not sure anything but an injury (knock on wood) will keep him off.   True freshman Dorian Etheridge was as advertised and came had a MONSTER debut season with the Cards.  He returns for his sophomore season so right now you can set him and Greenard as your starters. And here is where it gets interesting.  Sirmon runs this 3-4 defense but like Todd Grantham he sometimes uses a safety in the linebacker spot (e.g. Josh Harvey-Clemons).

I thought London Iakopo was going to be one of the most feared players to roam the 2-deep since Calvin Pryor but an unfortunate knee injury in 2016 ended his season. He came back healthy last season but know he is playing snaps at linebacker. I am so confused but as long as he is making an impact it is okay I guess.  Another true freshman that had the fanbase excited was C.J. Avery.  He enrolled early and saw immediate playing time but while his impact wasn’t instantly felt, I think he will have a major one in 2018.

Amonte Caban reminds me of Javante Bagley who I spoke of in the offensive outlook. We hear so much about him in spring and summer camp but when the season starts we rarely hear his name being called.  Some guys are going to have to step up and Caban can be that guy.  I think true freshman Yasir Abdullah and Robert Hicks are two guys that may see early playing time. Kam Jones and Issac Stewart could really make a jump next season.

Cornerbacks

Departing:  

Jaire Alexander decided to take his ball hawking, chicken prancing, juice and sauce skills with him as he declared early for the NFL draft. He is expected to be selected within the first 3 rounds so it was a no-brainer.   Zykiesis Cannon,  Ronald Walker and Trumaine Washington have exhausted eligibility and  all three earned their degree this past fall.

 

Returning and Incoming players:  

Russ Yeast (Soph.)

Cornelius Sturghill (R. Junior)

Rodjay Burns (Transfer/Soph.)

Anthony Johnson (Redshirt Fresh.)

PJ Mbanasor (Transfer/Soph.)

Aaron Floyd (Senior)

Marcus Riley (Freshman)

Chandler Jones (Freshman)

 

My Outlook:

Whew boy, talk about a group that took a verbal beating last year.  When Jaire went down in the Purdue game no one knew how Louisville would respond.   What transpired was a ton of passing yards by Louisville’s opponents and some burnt receivers for our troubles.  Major, major respect to Russ Yeast who literally was thrown into the deep end of the pool early. Opposing defenses saw that and feasted on him a good part of the year. Where normally Louisville would have to account for one side of the field due to the fact Alexander was covering the other, it was both sides that were left in turmoil.

The corners will have two transfers to help them recover from losing Alexander.  One being Rodjay Burns, the hometown kid who transferred home to be close to his father who was dealing with health issues. Burns spent  a year at Ohio State and made an immediate impact while there appearing in 7 games.   The other is PJ Mbanasor who transferred in from Oklahoma. Both are former 4star recruits and I expect one if not both to start when the season kicks off in September.  Russ Yeast will still be used heavily as well Anthony Johnson but I would also not be shocked if Marcus Riley and Chandler Jones saw the field at some point next year.

This will be an intriguing spot to watch in the spring and fall as the battle to determine the depth chart.

 Safeties

Departing:

Chucky Williams is gone and with him goes some great leadership on defense. One of the founding members of the Tax Boy$  Williams had a stellar career here at Louisville and will try his luck in the 2018 NFL draft. Best of luck to Chucky who will be missed.

 

Returning and Incoming players:

Dee Smith (Senior)

Rodney Owens (Soph.)

P.J. Blue (R. Soph.)

Khane Pass (R. Junior)

Tresean Smith (Soph.)

Lyn Strange (R. Fresh)

Larmaques Thomas (Junior)

Telly Plummer (Freshman)

Trenell Troutman (Freshman)

Kaheem Roach (R. Freshman)

 

My Outlook:

I have to admit, I have no who will start at safety for the Cards next season. If I had to guess I would say Dee Smith and P.J. Blue would be your starters in the free and strong safety position. But I could also make a case for Lamarques Thomas and Khane Pass.   TreSean Smith would be my starter but not sure how well he would have recovered from surgery after the TaxSlayer Bowl.  Rodney Owens is back, then you have Lyn Strange and Kaheem Roach who were both highly touted and both redshirted last year.

The incoming freshman class is no slouch with Telly Plummer and Trenell Troutman.  Troutman is GOOD, so I am struggling with the fact the staff may not redshirt him especially if he is too good to keep off the field.  This will be one battle that may not be decided until the defense takes the field in September.

 

 

 

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LJ Nesbitt

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