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2013 Defensive Line Review

Wow. What a Year 2013 was for the Louisville Defense.  It all started upfront, and upfront is where a lot of questions came from with Jamaine Brooks and DeAngelo Brown BOTH going down at Nose and missed the entire season.  Instead, Brandon Dunn (now with the Chicago Bears) moved from the 3-technique to Nose Guard and played out of position the entire season and led the Cards to the #1 defense in the Nation.  Roy Philon (Pittsburgh Steelers)  was outstanding as well and had a healthy season for the Cards.

Marcus Smith (drafted 1st Round by Philadelphia Eagles) finished 2nd in the Nation in Sacks. Louisville used a lot of different formations, including a great deal of 3-3-5.  There were injuries, but the Cardinal depth on the D-Line really carried the group and when one Cardinal went down, another stepped up.  Clint Hurtt’s group really did a nice job all year of holding the point of attack and being disruptive behind the line of scrimmage.

2014 Defensive Line Preview Coaches & Roster

Todd Grantham’s Defense is a 3-4 base and it is a little different that how fans are used to categorizing players.  Grantham doesn’t believe in pigeon-holing players into playing one specific role.  Particularly with his defensive ends and outside linebackers.  We’ll get to the linebackers later, but it is important to note that down & distance is going to determine what type of personnel Louisville uses in a given situation (especially Nickel downs).  Former Louisville Cardinal, now Defensive Line Coach LD Scott leads the front line of the Defense.

That front line starts in the 3-4 defense with the Nose Tackle, DeAngelo Brown (6-1, 319, RS-Soph.) who was projected to start last year before losing his season to an Achilles injury in 2013 Fall Camp.  DeAngelo is one of the strongest players on the team and has worked his way back to the starting position for the Louisville Cardinals.  Brown commands two blocks constantly and isn’t moved off his space.  DeAngelo is a perfect fit at Nose and this team would benefit greatly if Brown can remain healthy.

Backing up DeAngelo right now is Johnny (De’Asian) Richardson  (6-3, 334, RS-FR).  Richardson grew a great deal this off-season physically (according to the roster) and has shown a great deal of play-making ability from the Nose position. Together Johnny & DeAngelo create a tremendous 1-2 punch from the interior defensive line that will create problems and wear down offenses. Both players push the middle of the pocket and will tie up guards and centers…..a key component to the 3-4 defense.

On the outside BJ Dubose (6-5, 268, Sr.) and Sheldon Rankins (6-2, 300, Jr.) are your likely starters opposite of DeAngelo Brown.  BJ Dubose is in his final season as a Cardinal and made an immediate impact as a freshman starting several games.  Dubose has been steady on the field, but found himself out of the good graces of Charlie Strong and was suspended for the year in the middle of his sophomore season.  As a junior Dubose saw action in 8 games and has yet to fulfill the promise his game showed during his freshman season.  The 3-4 defense is perfect for Dubose as he holds his edge,  handles blockers, plays assignment football and can get into the backfield to make plays.

Sheldon Rankins on the opposite side of Dubose is about to break-out. Rankins gained 13 pounds from last year to this year and is finally healthy after struggling with injuries in his freshman and sophomore years.  Sheldon was a big-time get out of high school and chose Louisville over Auburn, Nebraska, Stanford, NC State, Mississippi State, North Carolina and many others.  Rankins as a true freshman had a sack in the Sugar Bowl and started two games his freshman season.  Last year, when healthy Sheldon was a FORCE and the 3-4 defense is perfect for his skill set.  Rankins will command two blockers on the outside and has the speed & discipline to be a force on the outside.  When going to nickel downs, Rankins can relieve DeAngelo in the middle to add another pass rusher.

Behind Dubose, Pio Vatuvei (6-2, 275 lbs, Jr.) is a new addition to the program.  Vatuvei came to Louisville from College San Mateo and enrolled on July 30th, missing most of the summer program of football.  He is a little behind on the playbook, but he has been IMPRESSIVE in early workouts.  I expect Vatuvei to push Dubose for playing time, and that is a good thing for the program and the season on the defensive line. Before San Mateo, Pio was the #11 weak-side Defensive end by and played 9 games with Washington as a freshman and signed with the Huskies over USC, Utah, Cal, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon St. and Washington State. Vatuvei is a violent football player, keep an eye on him.

Kyle Shortridge (6-2, 293, RS-Fr) is also very much in the mix and has the ability to play either inside or outside.  Shortridge was another major recruiting coup for the Cards and red-shirted last season after choosing the Cards over Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri,  Nebraska, Purdue, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Shortridge worked out with the newcomer group to open camp after missing Spring practice with an injury.  I do expect that Kyle will slowly start to make an impression and find his way onto the football field, the staff is probably taking a long look at his skills to try and figure out exactly where he fits the best.  Don’t be surprised if he moves inside & outside until that is established….this is a big-time talent.

 James Hearns (6-3, 272, RS-Fr) transformed his body adding 47 lbs. between last year and this year and moved from Linebacker to Defensive End after red-shirting his freshman season.  Hearns also practiced with the newcomers to open camp, and we’ll see where he fits in at the scrimmage on the 16th.  Hearns originally chose Louisville after a late qualification in the summer of 2013.  James held offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Miami, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Purdue, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Tae Thibodeaux (6-2, 270, Fr.) is another late signee, but comes from the talent-rich and hot sauce capital of New Iberia, Louisiana. Tae was also with the newcomers in Fall Camp and the Cards have a few veteran bodies that allows Thibodeaux some time to get adjusted to college football.  I’d expect a redshirt out of Tae, but admit to not seeing very much of him thus far. Tae chose Louisville over Arkansas, Nevada, and Wake Forest.

Dominique Dishman (6-2, 284, Sr) has played a great deal during his career and can certainly crack the rotation.  Dishman played in 7 games and tallied 3 tackles.

One player I am curious about position wise:  Terry Ramsey (6-5, 250, Fr.) . Ramsey could end up as Outside Linebacker in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.  I do think Ramsey sticks at the line, but I encourage fans to look into his backstory as a foster care child who found a great family to adopt him.  Lorenzo Mauldin and Terry Ramsey have been spending a great deal of time together.  Ramsey had offers from Nebraska, West Virginia, Michigan State, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Walkons in this group are brothers from Okinawa, Japan Gabe Ahner (6-3, 281, RS-Soph) and Aaron Ahner (6-3, 262, RS-Jr.), along with St. X products Andrew Polston (6-6, 290, RS-Jr.) & Spencer Foy (6-4, 215, Fr).

My Projected Depth Chart

1) Sheldon Rankins
2) Kyle Shortridge OR
2) James Hearns

1) DeAngelo Brown
2) Johnny Richardson OR
3) Kyle Shortidge

1) BJ Dubose
2) Pio Vatuvei OR
2) James Hearns

2015 NFL Draft Possibles:  BJ Dubose needs a huge year, but has all of the tools. 

2015 Roster Expected Available: DeAngelo Brown, Johnny Richardson, Sheldon Rankins, Pio Vatuvei, Kyle Shortridge, James Hearns, Tae Thibodeaux, Terry Ramsey, Gabe Ahner, Aaron Ahner,  Andrew Polston, Spencer Foy

2016 Roster Expected Available: DeAngelo Brown, Johnny Richardson, Kyle Shortridge, James Hearns, Tae Thibodeaux, Terry Ramsey, Gabe Ahner, Spencer Foy,

2017 Roster Expected Available: Johnny Richardson, Kyle Shortridge,  James Hearns, Tae Thibodeaux, Terry Ramsey, Spencer Foy

2018 Roster Expected Available: Tae Thibodeaux (if redshirted), Terry Ramsey (if redshirted), Spencer Foy (if redshirted).


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

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