For much of last season, the Louisville defensive line was a force to be reckoned with. It is no secret that the end of the season collapse affected all aspects of the team, but the defensive line remained stout. Entering this season, Louisville will be without Devonte Fields and Deangelo Brown, both of whom were lost to graduation. However, the returns to this group far outweigh the departures.
Trevon Young had a monster 2015 season. The horrific injury he suffered in the Music City Bowl that season sidelined him for all of last year. Young and Fields were a 2 man wrecking crew that year, which left a spot to fill on the opposite of Fields. James Hearns was the man who stepped in, and he more than filled that role. Hearns stole the show, leading the team in sacks with 8 and forced fumbles with 5. Hearns enters this season as a rising senior with very high expectations. As mentioned earlier, Young had a terrific 2015 before his injury in the bowl game. He amassed 8.5 sacks and forced 2 fumbles. His healthy return this season keeps that front line dangerous on the edge accompanied by Hearns. Both players are seniors this year and will look to improve their draft stock, as well as, pursue an ACC crown.
The defensive tackles this season will have to pick up where Deangelo Brown left off. Before Brown, Sheldon Rankins had a dominant season and eventually became the 2nd highest drafted Louisville player ever. Brown did a fantastic job replacing Rankins, and now the same is being expected of the guys replacing him. The two players expected to pick up the slack left behind are seniors Drew Bailey and De’Asian Richardson. Drew Bailey finished 6th in the team in total tackles last season with 58, 9 of those were for a loss. De’Asian Richardson has a lot to prove and will be the guy to personally fill Brown’s position, which is why his numbers last year won’t jump out at you, he was playing behind a beast. Richardson finished last season with 17 total tackles, 4 for a loss. He’s a big body at 6’3 and 326 pounds, and will clog up the middle with no problem.
Also, look for the younger guys to step up if needed. Junior G.G. Robinson is listed as Richardson’s back-up and will be called upon to play a good amount of snaps with rotations. And look for Sophomore Jon Greenard to play some meaningful snaps at the edge rusher position.
This is arguably the most well-rounded position group on the team this season. Any time a unit has four starting seniors, you can feel confident that misunderstandings and mental lapses won’t be an issue. The edge rushers will, once again, wreak havoc on opposing QBs, and the big men in the middle have more than enough talent and experience to stop the run and clog the lanes. The old adage says, “the game is won and lost in the battle of the trenches.” And I will put my money on our defensive line to win that battle.