The Louisville secondary finished 2012 17th against the pass in 2012 while the Cards finished only 77th in sacks. Considering the lack of pressure the UofL secondary did very well patrolling the skies. But the final result is also somewhat misleading when fans consider that the game at Southern Miss grounded both team’s air attacks and Temple really didn’t try and throw the ball at all. Still, the results of the pass defense were exciting in every game minus Syracuse. For the safeties things were a bit different in 2012 than the previous two years of the Charlie Strong era. But then again so was the entire defense. In the past two seasons Louisville safeties were much more aggressive and played quite a bit closer to the line of scrimmage. The Cards put up some of the most impressive defensive totals in 2010 & 2011 but were susceptible to the big play. In 2012 the philosophy was different. Less aggression & forced opposing offenses to make a mistake. It’s hard to argue with the results with the only game that the style change really cost the Cards was against the Syracuse Orange. The safety position was the saving grace of defense that gave up the most yards & points of the Charlie Strong era. With the linebackers relying heavily on two true freshman the safeties were forced to carry a heavy burden in 2012.
Louisville Cornerbacks came back in 2012 entirely intact and the cornerback play was definitely elevated from a year earlier when the Cards relied on a transfer and 3 freshman almost entirely. Still Louisville managed just 11 interceptions, 3 of which came against Cincinnati. I don’t think the Cardinal secondary saw many top level QBs in 2012 but when they did see a good QB, like Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Bryn Renner of North Carolina the Cards were susceptible. Nassib led Syracuse to Louisville’s first loss of the year throwing for 246 yards and 3 Touchdowns, while Renner threw for 363 yards and 5 Touchdowns in a failed last minute effort. Overall I’d have to say that the Cardinal Corners played well. But I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Especially against top-level QBs.
Calvin Pryor (6-2, 208, JR) was easily the MVP of the Cardinals Defense in 2012. Pryor played much further back than we’ve seen for a Free Safety under Charlie Strong. Calvin was trusted with a lot of responsibility behind the defense and the Cards gave up fewer big plays in 2012 than the previous two seasons. Pryor can cover a lot of ground and is a sure tackler in space. I think Calvin may have an opportunity to be an early entry into the NFL Draft in 2014 with the big season I think he is capable of. Safety is a tough position to enter early into the NFL but I think Pryor has a shot. He’ll definitely play in the NFL, the question for Calvin will be in 2014 or 2015? Pryor finished with 100 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, 5 pass break-ups, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 2 INTs, a sack, and a fumble recovery. He was also 2nd Team All-Big East.
Pryor is a hard-hitting safety. He has good timing, he breaks the ball loose, and packs a punch when he gets there. But if I have one concern with Pryor’s game it’s the way he sometimes delivers the blow. Calvin often dips his head while tackling and though he actually avoids the ‘targeting’ penalty almost across the board I have concern for his safety. Dipping your head while tackling is extremely dangerous for the tackler and can often result in spine & neck injuries as well as concussions. If Pryor is going to continue to play this game for years to come his tendency to tackle in this way should be fixed. It’s true that the point of the helmet can force fumbles……but I’d rather Pryor be healthy when he is 55.
Hakeem Smith (6-1, 179, SR) was an All-Big East performer for the 3rd consecutive year. It’s hard to get on a player with 245 career tackles and 3 All-Conference selections, but I think Hakeem Smith is WAY better than he played in 2012. Hakeem is best close to the line of scrimmage and he is very physical in run defense. It’s against the pass the Smith sometimes has trouble. Case in point: 3 seasons, 1 Interception at the safety position. Also just 1 forced fumble in 2012. Lastly, against Syracuse Hakeem Smith really didn’t have his best game trying to cover Alec Lemon……..
Now that I am through nit-picking on Hakeem Smith I’d like to say that he has a great attitude and has all of the potential in the world. I just think he can be better than he was in 2012. I want him to reach the next level of his ability.
Jermaine Reve (6-0, 180, Soph) made perhaps the most impressive play of the Sugar Bowl that no one ever talks about. Reve knocked the ball loose from Florida Tight End Jordan Reed in the back corner of the endzone with :13 remaining on a 3rd Down play. Why is that impressive? Well for one Jordan Reed had both hands on the ball and Jermaine Reve knocked it out perfectly. Two, Jordan Reed was eventually Drafted at the Tight End position in the 3rd round by the Washington Redskins in the 2013 NFL Draft. Reve was a freshman in 2012 and finished with 32 tackles, a sack, and 4.5 TFLs. Reve will play boundary corner in 2013, but I fully expect him as the nickel back when the Cards are in that formation, and when the Cards open up 2014 Spring I think Reve will be back at Safety. At this point Reve is simply too good to not be on the field and the coaches are making every effort to maximize his ability. Jermaine Reve is someone who could be a MAJOR impact player in 2013, very excited to see him in a full-time role.
Gerod Holliman (6-0, 201, Soph) was the player everyone was talking about rather than Jermaine Reve leading up to 2012. . Holliman played in just 3 games registering 2 tackles all early in 2012. The former U.S. Army All-American came to the Cards with a lot of hype, we’ve just yet to see it on gameday thus far. Vance Bedford & Charlie Strong both mentioned Holliman as an emerging talent at the Safety position and I think Gerod will find his way on the field especially on Special Teams while providing depth. Holliman is one of the main candidates at the #1 Free Safety spot starting in Spring 2014.
Kamal Hogan (6-0, 209, JR) played his first two seasons as a Card at the running back position and made the switch to Safety for 2012. Jack Tatum’s grandson should be a natural in the defensive backfield, but we’ve yet to see that. Hogan appeared in just one game (FIU) in 2012 and did not register statistics.
Alex Witcpalek (5-11, 206, SR) walk on from Oswego High School in Illinois. Witcpalek did not appear in 2012.
Terrell Floyd (5-10, 201, JR) who could ever forget Terrell Floyd? Everyone remembers the opening play of the Sugar Bowl when Floyd picked off an errant Jeff Driskel pass and housed it for 6. Definitely on the list of greatest Cardinal plays in history. But Floyd also clinched the Rutgers game on the Scarlet Knights final possession with an interception of Gary Nova (meaning he had INTs on back-to-back snaps), and T Floyd also clinched the Cincinnati game in overtime with an interception of Munchie Leagux. Floyd made BIG strides from 2011 to 2012. Terrell as a freshman was on the field out of necessity and really wasn’t ready. In Spring 2012 I saw a totally different player and Floyd really came on for the Fall. I look for a similar jump from his 34 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sack, 3 INT, 5 pass break-ups, and a fumble recovery in 2013. Floyd will start at Corner again in 2013.
Andrew Johnson (5-9, 186, JR) is a Cardinal fan favorite after blowing kisses after a blocked field goal return for a touchdown against West Virginia. Johnson also had an Interception against Florida in the Sugar Bowl that stopped a Gator scoring drive. Mr. President struggled with some minor injuries during 2012 but still managed to play in 12 games and get in 26 tackles. Andrew is a sure tackler but isn’t the biggest or fastest corner you will ever see. What he is, though, is reliable on the field. He’s a very smart player and knows how to play the man across from him with the tools he has. Johnson, made the defensive play of the non-conference season when he broke up a potential game-winning play against North Carolina’s Erik Highsmith. Johnson is going to play A LOT especially on nickel downs when I expect Reve to slide over to nickelback.
Stephan Robinson (5-10, 165, JR) is in his junior season from Central High School. Robinson is listed at 5-10, and whether or not we want to dispute that or not really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Robinson is VERY fast and also very physical at the cornerback position. I think the coaches really like Stephan against ‘running Quarterbacks” and that is a big reason why we saw so much of him versus Cincinnati, South Florida, and Temple. But Robinson really was susceptible to jump ball situations and this was really evident in the South Florida game against Andre Davis (6-1). Davis is a very good receiver, but he isn’t overly big. Robinson can cover a lot of ground but needed to work on recognition of the ball in the air and getting off his feet to contest the ball at the high point. From what I have seen this Fall, Stephan has definitely improved his ball skills and I hope that shows in game action. Overall I feel really comfortable with Robinson on the field. I’d like to see him get a little bigger but I think Stephan gets a lot more than his 8 tackles. There is going to be some competition coming up, so Robinson better be ready. Robinson is listed #2 behind Terrell Floyd.
Anthony Branch (5-10, 180, SR) former walk-on from Manual. Played in 5 games (the last 5 of 2012) registering 2 tackles.
Mitchell Nelson (6-0, 175, Soph) walk-on from Male did not appear during 2012.
Jordan Streeter (5-9, 157, Soph) walk-on from Ft. Thomas Highlands did not appear during 2012.
Adrian Bushell is going to be missed and it seems like we were just getting to know him after his late (and very timely arrival) prior to the 2011 season. Bushell will likely play in NFL after a pretty nice combine performance. The Cards will have to find a replacement for Bushell who started 13 of 13 games for UofL in 2013 and was 4th on the team in tackles with 62. Bushell wasn’t really an interception guy, but he covered a lot of ground with his speed and is a very sound tackler.
Zed Evans transferred to North Texas. His last play as a Cardinal was a HUGE hit on Florida star Loucheiz Purifoy on a kickoff return. Both players had to leave the game, Purifoy with a leg injury and Zed Evans because he thought it was Valentine’s Day. Big play. You can tell that the coaches liked him because he still played even with the coaches knowing that he was headed to the Mean Green. Evans will play right away at North Texas as he graduated and will be able to start working on some post-graduate work.
Titus Teague played in 8 games in 2012 and was the consummate anticipated ‘break out’ player in Spring Practice that never really materialized in the Fall. Teague will always be remembered for his Beef O’Brady’s dance off.
Jordon Paschal played in 8 games in 2012 (missed last 3) and registered 14 tackles (mostly on special teams). I’ll forever be disappointed that Paschal didn’t finish his 74-yard fumble recovery against Missouri State all the way into the endzone.
Raby Malemusa (5-6, 165, SR) walk on from Waggener did not appear in 2012.
Kevin Houchins (5-11, 184, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and will factor in this upcoming season. I really liked Houchins film when he signed as a part of the 2012 class because of his ability to come up and hit. Potentially Houchins could play Safety, but is currently listed as a #2 Cornerback behind Terrell Floyd. Houchins chose the Cards over Cincinnati and the entire MAC conference and is from Cleveland.
Charles “Chucky” Williams (6-2, 180, FR) just signed with the Cards out of Champagnat Catholic High School in Miami (where else?). If it seems like you know more about high school football in the Greater Miami area than you do in Kentucky at this point, pat yourself on the back. You are paying attention. Chucky not only has one of the coolest nicknames of the incoming guys (imagine Chucky Dolls in a few years around PJCS) but he can also play some ball. Charles chose the Cards over Ole Miss, Nebraska, Arkansas, Boston College, Clemson, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi State, Purdue, South Carolina, South Florida, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, & West Virginia. Williams could end up playing corner (where UofL lists him), but I’m going to expect him at Safety for now. Williams is big, physical and can cover a lot of ground. Chucky also played QB for his high school.
Terrence Ross (6-2, 190, FR) comes from Wekiva High School in Apopka, FL (Orlando). Ross chose the Cards over Cincinnati, NC State, and Wake Forest and is a definitely safety. Ross HITS. While watching some of his films the amount of pleasure he gets while delivering a hit is evident. Ross can be very dangerous at the safety position and he was also a very good return man for his high school. Louisville is set at safety for 2013 but the spots are going to be wide open following the season. Unfortunately Ross tore his ACL during Fall Camp and will be forced to miss the season. Ultimately I think Ross really would be helped on Special Teams in 2013 but he will now have time to recover and develop his body while learning the scheme before competing for a Safety spot in 2014.
Jarrod Barnes (5-11, 185, RS-FR) is a walk on from Westerville, Ohio and redshirted last season.
Devontre Parnell (5-11, 176, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and comes from Fairfield Central High School in Winnsboro, S.C. Clearly a place dubbed Winnsboro is bound to produce champions, and I’m very excited to see what Parnell can do. Devontre is a natural at corner and his high school tape really impressed me quite a bit. Parnell has length at 5-11 and also seemed to have a lot of speed. I’m excited to see him in a college environment to see how he stacks up. I have heard good things about Devontre out of practice and we’ll see if he can continue to build when it matters. Parnell committed to the Cards in the 2012 class and held offers from UConn, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.
Charles Gaines (5-11, 188, Soph) if I had a disappointment in 2012, it was that I didn’t get to see more Charles Gaines. Gaines is a notch above most athletes, and Louisville won the Sugar Bowl without him while he was serving suspension. Keeping a guy like Gaines on the sideline for disciplinary reasons is yet ANOTHER signal to the team that if you break the rules, you take a seat. Period. The good news for Gaines is that it was just his freshman year and hopefully the young man has learned some lessons (the hard way) and we can all move on. I know Gaines has had some trouble with attitude in the past, but we all grow up at some point and handle our business. Some are just later than others.
Gaines could easily be a top corner for Louisville. He’s fast and has moved back to CB after a season at WR where Gaines caught 11 passes for 172 yards and a TD in 2012. I am a big believer in his ability and I think the main things Charles needs to work on are his tackling and assignment discipline. Gaines could be a transcendent Corner for Louisville, he just has to stay on the field.
The Louisville safety position is in good shape for 2013. Calvin Pryor is an elite safety. Hakeem Smith has been a very steady safety. I look for both players to have bigger years in 2013 than they had in 2012. I really would like to see Hakeem Smith create more turnovers & improve in pass coverage. If Hakeem does both of those things I think he could become a next level player. Calvin Pryor, in my opinion, already is a next level talent and after 2013 I think he will have a difficult decision to make. Jermaine Reve and Gerod Holliman are extremely talented reserves and will play quite a bit in 2013.
In Charlie Strong’s first season the Cards’ had two extremely reliable corners and they played 99% of all of the snaps. Since then though there really has been a lot of rotating players mainly because of youth, injuries, and just generally trying to find the right guys. The Cards need depth at Cornerback and only have 3 corners returning who saw significant action in 2012. I DO think that Terrell Floyd, Stephan Robinson and Andrew Johnson will factor in a lot, but the main question for me is whether or not Charles Gaines can become responsible enough to be trusted on & off the field. If Gaines can become responsible then the Cards will have a lot of capable talent at Corner. Also I’m interested to see how far a long Devontre Parnell is in his development, I think he is a natural corner and if the Cards have 5 solid guys at corner they can leave Reve at Safety and potentially also move Benjamin to safety and/or leave the red-shirt on him. But I actually think Benjamin is going to be too good to keep on the sidelines in 2013.
I REALLY like this group a lot. I think that the last 3 recruiting classes have been some of the best corners Louisville has had collectively coming out of high school in a long time. In the past, the Cards have had very good corners individually, and they have developed corners. But I don’t believe UofL has ever put together a group as talented as this one coming out of high school. It’s really impressive and exciting.
2013: Hakeem Smith, Alex Witcpalek, Calvin Pryor, Kamal Hogan, Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman, Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chucky Williams, Terrence Ross, Anthony Branch, Terrell Floyd, Andrew Johnson, Stephan Robinson, Charles Gaines, Mitchell Nelson, Jordan Streeter, Devontre Parnell,
2014: Calvin Pryor* (if not early entry), Kamal Hogan, Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman, Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chucky Williams, Terrence Ross, Terrell Floyd, Andrew Johnson, Stephan Robinson, Charles Gaines, Mitchell Nelson, Jordan Streeter, Devontre Parnell,
2015: Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman, Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chucky Williams, Terrence Ross, Charles Gaines, Devontre Parnell
2016: Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chuck Williams, Terrence Ross, Devontre Parnell,
2017: Chucky Williams*, Terrence Ross* (*if redshirt is used)