The 2015 Pigskin Squad will feature 15 transfers that ‘could’ see action for the 1st time. There are two types of transfers, those who were forced to sit out after transferring from other FBS programs following the 2013 season and Junior College transfers or are eligible to play immediately after joining the Cards as a part of the 2015 Signing Class inked in December (for early enrollees) and February. First the FBS 2013 transfers that are eligible now:
Transfers We’ve Been Waiting On
#6 Shaq Wiggins: Georgia
#19 JaQuay Savage: Texas A&M originally signed with Auburn
#25 Josh Harvey-Clemons: Georgia
#33 Malin Jones: Northwestern
This group has 3 sure-fire starters in Ja’Quay Savage, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and Shaq Wiggins. All 3 players are from the state of Georgia and Wiggins & Savage were high-school teammates while Wiggins and Harvey-Clemons were teammates in the secondary at the University of Georgia.
There is no question that these 3 players are expected to make a big impact for the Cards this year. Savage has the reputation of a big-time receiver, appears to be Louisville’s #1 WR and has looked like he can come in and make some huge plays with the ball in the air. Savage has a large frame (similar measurements to DeVante Parker) and knows how to use his body on routes and with the ball in the air. Will Savage replace DeVante? Not entirely…..but he’s healthy to start the season and he’s a dynamic play-maker with a big-time reputation.
Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins both have previously started for Grantham at Georgia and most famously had the National Runner-Up Auburn Tigers beat until disaster struck in the final seconds…with Harvey-Clemons playing a role in the final play. Harvey-Clemons will be a MAJOR impact for Louisville in 2015 and could come way off the radar of not being on the ALL-ACC Preseason Team (I voted for him) to being in the running for league player of the year. Josh will make his presence felt against the run against the pass and on special teams and is probably a 1 year player for the Cards. James Quick calls Shaq Wiggins “The Ghost” because he always appears to knock the ball away. Wiggins has put on some needed weight, but has already gone against many of the bigger Wide Receivers in the SEC as a freshman at Georgia. Wiggins will be Louisville’s #1 CB and has the speed and the knowledge to go against all types of players. The question to be answered is how well he tackles on runs to the outside and in the short passing game.
Malin Jones is a big-back from Northwestern with a lot of ability and will provide depth in the Louisville backfield. Right now it appears that he’s behind Brandon Radcliff, Jeremy Smith, and LJ Scott but Bobby Petrino is known for using a large number of backs and Jones looks extremely capable on the practice fields and in Spring Practice.
Transfers We Get to See Right Away
#1 Alphonso Carter: Iowa Western via University of Tennessee
#2 Jamari Staples: UAB
#14 Drew Bailey: Pearl River CC
#18 Cole Hikutini: City College of San Francisco via Sacramento State
#34 Jeremy Smith: Fresno City CC
#50 Khalil Hunter: Eastern Arizona CC
#54 Kevin Austin: Mesa CC
#56 Kiola Mahoni: College of San Mateo
#70 Toriano Roundtree: Eastern Arizona CC
#92 Devonte Fields: Trinity Valley CC via TCU
The Cards needed help immediately on the offensive line with the departures of Jake Smith, John Miller, and Jamon Brown. The coaching staff added Khalil Hunter for Spring Practice at Guard and then in the early summer added Kiola Mahoni and Kevin Austin. Later at the beginning of camp Toriano Roundtree joined the squad. 4 JUCOs in and it appears that Kiola Mahoni is a sure fire starter at Weak Guard. Khalil Hunter is in a fight at Strong Guard with true freshman Kenny Thomas, but Hunter may have the upper hand early in the season due to his experience in junior college and his early arrival for Spring Practice. Austin and Roundtree appear to be longer-term prospects.
Louisville also lost a great deal of wide receivers after losing Eli Rogers, DeVante Parker, Kai De La Cruz, Michaelee Harris and Matt Milton. When UAB announced it was disbanding its football program Jamari Staples called up his former head coach Garrick McGee and joined the Cards eligible immediately. Staples shined under McGee in his freshman season before dealing with injury as a sophomore. Staples may be Louisville’s #2 WR for the 2015 season and is another large target. Staples will need to adjust to an elevated level coming from C-USA to the ACC but Jamari may have been playing at the wrong level to begin with. Louisville also added JUCO Alphonso Carter (formerly Paul Harris) who originally played at Tennessee before moving to Iowa Western. It’s unclear what Carter’s role with Louisville will be in 2015 as he has struggled with a hamstring injury.
Louisville also put Running Backs and a Tight End into the NFL with Michael Dyer, Dominique Brown, and Gerald Christian exhausting their eligibility. Cole Hikutini was a relative unknown after a tremendous freshman season at Sacramento State and then another great year in JUCO at City College of San Francisco. Still Hikutini only had one offer before Louisville came in late to steal Cole from the Boilermakers. The coaching staff raves about Cole’s ability in the passing game and is coming along with the blocking schemes. Hikutini will be a major weapon for Louisville this year. Jeremy Smith is a home run hitter at Running Back from Hammond, LA. Despite having some HUGE games in high school Smith was lightly recruited and like Cole, had a similar output in JUCO at Fresno City CC. Jeremy chose Louisville after offers from Alabama and LSU and figures to be a big weapon for the Cards out of the backfield with Brandon Radcliff.
Defensively the Cards are replacing OLB Lorenzo Mauldin with former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year (2012) with Devonte Fields as an elite pass rusher. Fields will also mix in at Defensive End as well in certain packages, but Devonte comes to Louisville after a year at Trinity Valley which followed a year missed due to injury & suspension. Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2012 probably sounds like a dubious honor (because no one really played Defense in the Big 12 in 2012) but Fields has already played at a high level at TCU. The question is whether or not 2 full years away from high-level football will hamper Fields’ ability to get back into his top form by the beginning of the season. From the sounds of it out of camp…..Fields will make a significant impact. Last but certainly not least is D-Lineman Drew Bailey comes to the Cards with a big frame from Pearl River CC. Bailey will mix both inside and outside along one of the best fronts in the country and the Cards will need his game to provide depth. We’ll probably see Drew’s role increase throughout 2015.
The Year of the Transfer
The Cards lost 10 players to the NFL Draft and 17 to NFL Training Camps. College teams lose players to attrition each and every year and in 2015 Louisville will use 7 transfers as starters and 5 others are key contributors. This year is the ‘Year of the Transfer’ because the coaching staff simply refused to allow UofL to take a step back. The staff found elite level talent in key areas of need and shored up depth in others. If the transfers pan out for the Cards, Louisville can really take flight this year and make a run at a conference championship.