2012: The 2012 groups was operating without the services of Dexter Heyman and lost senior Daniel Brown for a HUGE chunk of the season due to injury. Preston Brown moved to Middle Linebacker from the SAM position and as a result every position at linebacker was new. As mentioned in the D-line breakdown Run Defense was down from 10th in the nation in 2011 to 49th in 2012 (a difference of 48 yards per game). There was also a significant drop in Tackles for Loss and Sacks. The Defensive Line and Linebackers work together to achieve the Lion’s share of these metrics and so if I’m going to lay blame on the guys up front, I’ve got to do the same thing with the LBs. The production dip is understandable given the shifting of players and also the addition of two true freshman that played A LOT.
Keith Brown (6-1, 235, Soph) came to the Cards as an Army All-American and played as a true freshman in 2012. At this point, Cardinal fans should not expect to see Keith Brown in 2013….especially early. Brown has a leg injury that has his availability for the entire season in question, but the staff has yet to rule him completely out. However, the coaches have said that Keith is OUT for Ohio. I really thought Brown had a very nice inaugural campaign for a freshman. Keith played in 10 games & finished with 57 tackles (5th on the team) and saw action in a lot of different rotations. Brown also added 2.5 Tackles for Loss and a forced fumble. Brown is a sure tackler but has some developing to do before becoming an All-Conference performer. Not having Keith as a part of the linebackers in 2013 would be a big loss, having him out for Fall Camp already has been.
James Burgess (6-0, 215, Soph) filled in very nicely for Daniel Brown and played a significant role for the Cards. Everyone remembers Terrell Floyd’s Pick 6 in the Sugar Bowl, but James Burgess actually had a lot to do with making that play successful both on the throw and the return. Burgess played in 10 games and had 28 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 INTs, and a forced fumble. I think Burgess can do better on his tackle totals with some experience and strength training but he covers a lot of ground and is very disruptive. Burgess’ true freshman year was better than I expected when the season started and I think he’ll take another step forward in 2013 at WLB, listed #1 on the depth chart.
Preston Brown (6-2, 260, SR) led the Cards in tackles with 109 in 2012. That’s a big number. I want Preston Brown to play in the NFL so I am going to be critical of his game. Preston needs to be more physical at the point of attack and behind the line of scrimmage. Brown played in all 13 games, had 109 tackes and only 3 TFLs, 1 INT. Compare that to Dexter Heyman from a year earlier (90 tackles, 16 TFLs, 3 INTs, 1 FF) and consider that Heyman was an UDFA and released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Is Preston Brown a GOOD Middle Linebacker? Yes, of course. Preston was 2nd Team All-Big East, like Heyman was in 2011. Linebacker in the NFL is extremely competitive and to be a part of an NFL team Preston must find something in his game that sets him apart from the other 67 linebackers in college football that had a 100+ tackles in 2012. Preston needs to take his game to the next level if he wants to hear his name called in April 2014. He has the tackles, now he needs to get the turnovers and the TFLs. Preston will be given the chance as he will be the Cards’ starting MLB in 2013 and he has a great disposition. I think the Sugar Bowl was his best game as a Cardinal.
George Durant (6-0, 245, SR) is a personal favorite of mine. I love the players who come out of nowhere and make an impact. Durant wasn’t on anyone’s radar until late 2011, but Hard Work pays off. Durant battled all season and finished 6th in tackles playing in all 13 games. Durant and Keith Brown play the same position but the Cards did have certain packages when Durant and Keith Brown wereon the field at the same time. With Keith Brown out, Durant’s role becomes HUGE. Durant gives the coaches an experienced player who is excellent against the run. Durant will be the Cards #1 SLB in 2013.
Deon Rogers (6-2, 194, SR) has been constantly under-sized. Louisville has had players in the past that just could never put on weight (or lose it) and Rogers is definitely a classic case of that. Deon, however, has been a fantastic special teams contributor during his career and because of that I always thought he could be capable of more. There is no doubt that Deon is a football player, but the Cards just need him around 215 with the same speed in order for him to really factor as a starter at WLB. Rogers played in all 13 games and tallied 12 tackles and Vance Bedford recently said that he likes Deon as his #2 WLB behind James Burgess.
Champ Lee (6-0, 215, SR)
signed as a part of the 2009 class and blocked the only kick for the Cards in 2012 against Pitt. Lee played in all 13 games for the Cards and like Deon Rogers, is a big part of Louisville’s special teams. I expect to see Champ Lee at SLB and in certain game situations given the current roster.
Mike Addesa (5-11, 204, SR) is a walk-on from Meade County, saw action against Missouri State in 2012.
Daniel Brown was limited in 2012 with an injury as he played in just 4 games. Still Daniel had 17 tackles in his senior year and was a very solid player during his career. He was a big reason why Louisville was able to put a respectable defense on the field the first two seasons of Charlie Strong.
Chris Zelli was a walk-on from Jeffersonville H.S. (IN) via Franklin College. Zelli did not see action in 2012.
Nick Dawson (6-3, 250, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 after a death in his family interrupted his Fall Camp. It worked out for everyone as Louisville had adequate depth at linebacker and really didn’t need to play 3 true freshman at linebacker. Dawson now has some space between this year’s seniors and will be able to really have an impact for the Cards. Still red-shirting U.S. Army All-American linebackers is not something the Louisville program is known for doing. Dawson had 126 tackles, 12 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles in 11 games as a senior and chose Louisville over Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, UK, Maryland, Miami, Pitt, UNC, UCLA, USC, NC State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. Dawson will battle for snaps this Fall, watch for him this Spring. Ultimately I think Dawson plays MLB, but for 2013 the Cards are working him as a hybrid like Deiontrez Mount’s Freshman sesason. In 2013 (as long as no harm comes to Preston Brown) Dawson will do a lot of work as an OLB/DE, but the competition for the Mike spot will be fierce in 2014 and I expect Dawson to be in the mix.
Tyon Dixon (5-11, 214, JR) is returning from surgery that required him to miss 2012. The injury happened in Fall Camp. Dixon had cracked the 2-deep at MLB and was definitely going to play a role on Special Teams. Without really getting to see a great deal of live practice it is hard to know where Dixon fits in at this point, but I think he definitely fits in on special teams and will find a place at SLB or MLB in a reserve role in 2013. I’m not entirely sure how his injury has impacted his game.
Lamar Atkins (5-11, 216, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 from Miami Norland H.S. Atkins is Keith Brown’s brother and has a reputation of being effective against the run. Atkins had an offer from Illinois as well. I think Atkins is probably a season away from cracking the regular rotation but he’ll play in 2013 most likely at special teams.
Royce Donovan (6-2, 222, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 after walking-on from Male.
Lyn Clark (6-2, 232, FR) comes from New Orleans! A new recruiting ground for the Cards no doubt uncovered from the Sugar Bowl. Clark comes from O. Perry Walker School. Clark is a guy that I think we’ll see pop up in 2014 but I think he’ll be worth the wait. In pads Clark looks the part and has definitely drawn the praise of his veteran linebackers. It is possible the Clark will not redshirt, but I am going to wait and see. Clark had over 100 tackles his senior season and chose the Cards over Colorado, Kentucky, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Purdue, Tulane, UCF, and Utah.
Keith Kelsey (6-1, 217, FR) is an eventual middle linebacker for the Cards. I don’t know the time frame and he’ll probably go from a Special Teams standout to a Strongside Linebacker to Middle Linebacker but Kelsey can play. The Cards snatched Kelsey out of Gainesville High School and many recruiting analysts did not understand why he did not get an offer from Florida. Kelsey did have offers from Duke, Iowa State, Kentucky, Marshall, Purdue, South Florida, UCF, Utah, and Wake. I loved Keith’s highlight film and I look forward to seeing what he can do at the college level.
James Hearns (6-3, 225, FR) is an extremely late addition to the Cards for the 2013 class after getting qualifying scores in June. Hearns was a top rated linebacker out of Tallahassee’s Lincoln HS and had offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Ohio State, and a host of others. With Keith Brown out I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hearns crack the 2-deep at SLB and play right away, but James did miss a great deal of the early Strength and Conditioning program. He is someone to watch.
Blake Ramsey (5-11, 185, FR) redshirted in 2012 after walking-on from Christian Academy.
Louisville’s linebacker unit returns completely. Daniel Brown departs, but he was available for just 4 games. The Cards have depth with Nick Dawson coming on board and George Durant waiting in the wings. I DO think we will see a battle at WLB. I don’t think the coaching staff just wants to let James Burgess HAVE the starting job but even behind Burgess the battle for #2 could heat up. I also think the coaching staff might look at putting together a bigger unit of the 3 especially in obvious run situations. The Cards did showcase Preston Brown, Keith Brown, and George Durant at times and Louisville does play a lot of nickel which removes the need for a WLB. But I think in the end Brian Jean-Mary is going to use a lot of different combinations in various scenarios to maximize his group. Louisville’s linebackers have all of the talent in the world and they do need to play better in the coming season than they did in 2012. I wouldn’t mind seeing another top guy or two in this group, but the Cards should excel at this position in 2013.
2013: Preston Brown, George Durant, Deon Rogers, Champ Lee, Mike Addesa, Tyon Dixon, Keith Brown, James Burgess, Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey, James Hearns, Blake Ramsey
2014: Tyon Dixon, Keith Brown, James Burgess, Leroy Kelson, Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey, James Hearns, Blake Ramsey
2015: Keith Brown, James Burgess, Leroy Kelson, Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey, James Hearns, Blake Ramsey
2016: Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey,James Hearns, Blake Ramsey
2017: *Donel Elam, *Lyn Clark, *Keith Kelsey, *James Hearns
Secondary 8/26/2013 8:00 a.m.