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2014 Cornerback Review
The Cards on the outside were very good in pass coverage beyond 7+ yards from the line of scrimmage. Louisville was the #27 passing defense in the nation in 2014 despite a series of strange bounces on deep passes that landed in opponent’s hands for long gains (FSU, ND, UVA) that really impacted UofL’s total ranking. But where Louisville really had problems was in the short passing game, shedding blocks and making tackles. This was particularly the case for 7th round NFL Draft selection Charles Gaines who was singled out vs. Clemson & FSU specifically as the Noles and Tigers challenged Gaines to play physical football in key situations and was unable to. No one consistently challenged Gaines downfield (an area in which he was outstanding and dangerous). Teams progressively tested Charles with blockers and found ways to circumvent Louisville’s excellent Front 7. Still Gaines was able to put together 36 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 10 PBUs, and a Forced Fumble in 2014. When the NFL’s recommendation was for Gaines to return for his senior season, his play on the quick/short throws is where teams really wanted to see improvement.
Terell Floyd was able to move back to corner during the Clemson game for the rest of the season when nickel Jermaine Reve (who we are placing as a safety in 2015) returned to the fold. That return opened up all sorts of new possibilities for the Louisville defense and Floyd really thrived on the outside for the Cards. Floyd was not afraid of contact and really played a physical brand of football at the cornerback position. Terell also was rarely beaten in coverage and provided fiery play. Floyd finished the season with 49 tackles, 5 TFLs, 1 INT, 7 PBU, and a forced fumble and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons.
Prior to Floyd’s move back to corner, Louisville relied on play from senior Andrew Johnson and true freshman Trumaine Washington. Andrew had some good moments, but was really picked on by the bigger receivers of Virginia. Trumaine showed a lot of promise with the ability to both cover and put pressure on teams with great tackling ability. Washington was able to play in 8 games and put together 14 tackles.
Charles Gaines – 36 tkls, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 10 PBUs, 1 FF
Terell Floyd – 49 tkls, 5 TFls, 1 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FF
Andrew Johnson – 18 tkls, 1.5 TFLs, 3 PBUs
George Clements- No stats
#3 Cornelius Sturghill 5-11, 186, RS Fr.
#6 Shaq Wiggins 5-10, 171 Soph.
#10 Jaire Alexander 5-11, 170, Fr.
#21 Devontre Parnell 5-11, 184, RS Jr.
#26 De’Eric Culver 6-0, 186, Soph.
#29 Trumaine Washington 5-10, 183 Soph.
#30 Richard Benjamin 6-0, 211 RS Soph.
#39 John Stitch 5-10, 185, Jr.
#39 Aaron Floyd 5-10, 172, Fr.
#41 Kevin Elijah 5-7, 156 Jr.
#47 Kevon Dunbar 6-1, 192, Fr.
Projected Depth Chart
#1 Shaq Wiggins
#2 Trumaine Washington
#3 Devontre Parnell
#1 Cornelius Sturghill OR
#1 Jaire Alexander
#3 De’Eric Culver
#4 Richard Benjamin
Examining the 2015 Group
The Cards lose a lot of experience and production at the cornerback position. But in 2015, they pick up a great deal of talent. Starting with Shaq Wiggins who will be replacing the Charles Gaines role, Wiggins already has played for Todd Grantham and started as a true freshman at Georgia. To start training camp last year, Wiggins, Floyd and Gaines were the only players that lined up against DeVante Parker. That should tell you something. Additionally Shaq was ESPN’s #39 ranked player overall in its Top 150 high school players coming out of Sandy Creek HS before enrolling at Georgia and was a consensus 4-star player. Shaq was injured during Spring Practice but has been in workouts and is reportedly ‘ready to go’ for 2015 camp that opens Thursday.
Wiggins is the one sure-fire starter, but that’s not because there isn’t talent. Louisville’s secondary is STACKED with players who lack experience but possess a great deal of talent. Trumaine Washington has a great deal of upside and just needs game reps to shore up his inexperiene. Washington packs a punch and is a confident player. Also Trumaine has shown the ability to shed blockers on the outside and cover the deep 3rd. But Washington is going to get pushed by a series of players, mostly notably Cornelius Sturghill, Devontre Parnell and Jaire Alexander.
Sturghill came over to the defensive side of the football for Spring and showed a natural ability at CB. Cornelius has great timing, doesn’t shy away from contact and could really be a force on defense. Again the question is experience. Devontre Parnell is long and can cover some serious area. Additionally Devontre has been in the program for some time and has always appeared to be on the cusp of contributing major minutes. Now that Floyd & Gaines are gone there is a void for Parnell to take advantage if Devontre has made the necessary improvement. Jaire Alexander is a true freshman who graduated high school early to enroll with Louisville in the Spring. Inside the program there is a great deal of excitement about Jaire, some saying that he is a ‘3 year player’. Alexander appeared that he was ready for the part in Spring Football taking a great deal of quality reps and was successful in cementing his ability in the minds of the coaching staff.
There is also a lot of optimism about the play and development of De’Eric Culver. Culver has been in the program and is reportedly in incredible shape and is one of the strongest secondary players on the Louisville roster. It is possible that one of these players could play situational Nickel for Louisville, but we’ll go into greater detail on the Nickel spot during our Safety preview (and it’ll need its own column). It is also time for Richard Benjamin to breakthrough and start making some plays for the Cards. Richard came to Louisville with a great deal of fanfare and moved back and forth between positions during his time affecting his development.
Louisville may have lost a lot at Cornerback in the off-season but they have a lot of talent to fill the void at the corner spot. Terrell Buckley has proven to be a very capable teacher and the experience that Wiggins has in the defense from Georgia with Todd Grantham is a great learning tool for the young players. The future of Louisville’s secondary is BRIGHT, the question is: “Who is going to be the guy to carry the torch?” Plenty of candidates and it’ll be a fun battle to watch in camp.
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