The University of Louisville’s defense has come a long way under the guidance of defensive coordinator Bryan Brown.
The Cardinals have improved almost 18 points per game since taking over the program’s defense in 2018. Last season, the Cardinals led the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing defense and jumped up to fourth in the conference in total defense.
“I think anytime your defense is confident, and wants to be one of the best, I think that’s a positive,” Brown said. “But the guys, it’s like Coach Satterfield said a while ago, we only have about five, six starters that are back this year, but it still feels like we have a veteran group on this side of the football that have played a lot of ball for us, minus the safeties.”
“That’s the new thing for us is just the safeties, being one of the groups (where the starters) have not even played football for us here at the University of Louisville. That’s the question going into the season. But so far, so good with the whole group, and I’m just glad that those guys are excited.”
The Cardinals have plenty to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball, with an experienced group of linebackers returning to help the squad bounce back from last season’s 4-7 record.
“It allows you to do so much more now,” Brown said. “This is year three in this scheme. Now you can do a little bit more things that we did at App State a little bit more, because now, it’s kind of ingrained in those guys, and they know the base. So now, we can get into some exotic things, and do some certain things up front. Coverage, a lot of times, will end up staying the same, but it allows you to be a lot more flexible, a little bit more fluid to do certain things up front when you have certain veteran group up front. That always helps.”
One area that needs to improve is the ability to force turnovers. In two seasons, the Cardinals have only forced 30 turnovers, including 12 in 2020.
“I think one thing we’ve done, is try to create a competition amongst practice with turnovers,” Brown said. “Trying to see who’s getting the most turnovers each and every day. We have a turnover champ every day, meaning who gets the most turnovers, and we always post who gets the most turnovers on that day, as well as we work on it offensively and defensively.”
“They want to keep the ball, we want to make sure we’re getting turnovers. We have a turnover period now, which I think helps. When you’re constantly talking about it – the ball, the ball, the ball. The ball is the key, the ball is money. I think that alone, with practicing those things, will help us get a bit more turnovers. Then on top of that, I think just with the experience, now with Kei’Trel Clark being this is his second year in the system, understanding where his help is, now able to jump routes. We dropped like 13 picks last year, so if we can catch those, we’re probably not talking about this.”
The focus on the recruiting trail was the secondary. Heading into the 2021 season, head coach Scott Satterfield knew the focus would be trying to add quality players and depth in the secondary. Louisville did that with a strong recruiting class and added a couple of graduate transfers and junior-college transfers.
“Right now, to be honest with you, I’m really ecstatic with that group,” Brown said. “The first-string group is doing tremendous in their coverage, and being tight on routes, keeping everything inside and in front of them. I think that’s a big positive in two days. Offense does a lot of things, and they throw the ball deep a good bit of the time as well, and the quick game stuff, intermediate, and I’m very, very pleased with those guys. We got two safeties, really three safeties, that haven’t stepped foot on the field for us, that are playing a lot of snap for us, and doing tremendous. Kenderick Duncan, Qwynnterrio Cole, even Ben Perry – he hasn’t stepped foot on the football field yet for us, but those guys are doing tremendous,”
The Cardinals return to the practice field for day 3 with a 9:30 a.m. practice.