LL Cool J would probably say ‘Don’t Call It A Comeback’, but that was before he had seen this 2013 Louisville Defense. Prior to the season, the Louisville Defense preached about a ‘return to the old’ Louisville Defense – most likely referring to the 2010 Cardinals – after three games it appears that precisely whats occurred.
Louisville finds themselves in the Top 25 in the Country in nearly every statistical defense category. They rank 11th overall in Total Defense, 7th overall in Red-Zone Defense, and just on the cusp of the Top 25 in Rushing Defense, ranking 29th in the Country.
It pales in comparison to what the Louisville Defense did last season. Sure, the Cards narrowly finished in the Top 25 of overall defense. But those stats are also misleading. They ranked as the 5th worst team in the Big East when it came to giving up plays over 10 yards, giving up 62 last season. Shift that number to plays over 40 yards and things get more grime. They finished in the bottom half of College Football in that category giving up 4.
Defensive struggles appear to be a thing of the past with this Cardinal Football team. It’s started – like it always does in College Football – with the defensive line.
“Whenever you can do great things up front like those guys have it makes a huge difference,” Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford noted. “Brandon Dunn is playing some good football right now. He’s keeping guys off our linebackers and Preston (Brown) is having a great season because of what he’s doing.”
The quick emergence of LB James Burgess – the second leading tackler on the team – is also a product of the front four success. Louisville likes to keep Burgess ‘hidden’ in the defense due to his size. With the defensive front stop attacking offensive lines from getting up field, it clears the way for him to make plays.
It was the biggest issue with the Louisville Defense last season. Charlie Strong commonly noted that the the defense wasn’t ‘getting off their blocks’. With the production of the front four, it’s much easier to get off blocks when there are no blocks there.
“We’re playing bigger, faster, stronger,” DE Lorenzo Mauldin noted. “We now know are defensive formations for their offense.”
While the interior guys have made some things easier for their teammates. They’ve made some plays themselves. Want proof? Just look at the numbers.
The Louisville Football team is in the Top 50 of the Country in Sacks with 6. At this point last season, they were 111th. 5 of those sacks have been made by lineman. They are also forcing turnovers. They ranked second in the Country with 6 fumbles forced. Those 6 already match half of the 12 they accumulated last year and they’ve played just three games. DE Lorenzo Mauldin claims 2 of those forced fumbles.
“I do what I have to do,” Mauldin said. “Whether it’s to help the defense be able to stop the ball. I do whatever I have to do for myself too. I feel like I’ve improved from last year.”
Many players of the Louisville Defense seem to feel they’ve improved, it’s quite possible that’s it’s simply just a product of them maturing. Suddenly they’ve become a much more experienced team. There is only one Freshmen in the Louisville Defense two-deep. Louisville played more than three on Defense each season under Charlie Strong before 2013. Those guys that made plays as Freshmen and Sophomores are now making them as seasoned veterans. That maturity has clearly been shown to the Coaching Staff through a multitude of ways.
“We’re a Junior, Senior ball club. Those guys know how to make the adjustments,” Bedford explained. “In the past, we’d have a bad play and they’d drop their heads, then we’d have to get them going again. Now, they get each other going. I think that’s the key to any thing. We have a Veteran football team, they take things and do them themselves.”
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