Over the past eight years, Louisville’s defensive rankings have been going the wrong direction. In my opinion, Louisville hit rock bottom in the 2018-19 season where they finished ranked 122 out of 129 division 1 schools. Just five seasons prior, Louisville finished the season in the number one spot.
What was the reason for the drastic decline?
Two things stand out to me. – 1) coaching 2) talent.
I guess you could say that the talent level is a direct result of the recruiting by the coaches so let’s just put it all on the coaches. There is talent on this team but not nearly as much as the Charlie Strong years. As much as I want to blame the defensive coordinators, it’s hard to blame a guy when he only has the position for exactly one season. Well, except for BVG. I’m pretty certain he was just here for a check. He looked more disinterested than Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
Never mind – You get what I mean.
Let’s take a look at Louisville’s NCAA D1 total defensive rankings, Passing yards allowed and rushing defensive rankings over the last 8 seasons…
|Year||Total Def Rank||Pass Yard All Rank||Rush Def Rank|
*all rankings from NCAA.com
While I stated earlier that I don’t completely blame the defensive coordinators for the decline, they must take some responsibility. The rest of the responsibility/blame/praise lies with the head coach.
2010 – 2013 – Charlie Strong
- Vance Bedford
2014 – 2018 – Bobby Petrino
- Todd Grantham (2014 – 16)
- Peter Sirmon (2017)
- Brian Van Gorder (2018)
2019 – present – Scott Satterfield
- Bryan Brown
If you reference the dates on the chart above with the dates of the defensive coordinators you will notice that the last 4 years, the players have had to adjust to systems from 4 different coordinators as well as 2 head coaches. I don’t care how much talent is on the team, it’s not easy or ideal to have to transition to a new scheme every season.
Enter Bryan Brown.
Brown came to Louisville after spending seven years at Appalachian State – 6 coaching cornerbacks and 2018 as defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach. He immediately told the team that he wasn’t going anywhere and that Louisville was where he wanted to be. That simple gesture of assurance gave the team a sense of hope and stability. Coach Satterfield believes staff continuity will be a huge part of getting this program back where it belongs.
But just keeping Brown and the rest of the defensive staff for more than one year won’t be the only thing that turns this defense around. They have to recruit players that fit the style and system of coach Brown – and that takes time.
So everyone that was disgusted with the defense towards the end of last season, just remember a couple of things. The defense did improve from the year prior despite the departures of senior starters, Dee Smith, London Iakopo, Henry Famurewa as well as transfers by Jonathan Greenard, Michael Boykin, Allen Love, Kam Jones, Lamarques Thomas and Jarius Brents. Also they played with expected standout TreSean Smith and injured PJ Blue. That’s a lot of bodies not available meaning depth was an issue. It really started to show late in the year. But with nearly a month of rest, the defense looked pretty solid in the bowl game verifying the depth/rest issue.
The second thing you need to remember is that some guys were learning new positions as well as a new system. In year two these players will know exactly where they are expected to be and not always thinking about it. It will be an automatic reaction rather than a slight hesitation before moving where they are supposed to be. A split second can be the difference between a sack or a completed pass.
After a spring practice, Coach Brown said “You can tell by practice it’s night and day from last year’s spring ball, We put a lot more in than we did in Day 1 last year. They can handle it… It’s really key in those guys having confidence. They know when to do it and how to do it.”
Another great sign that the defense will improve next season is that 6 of the top 7 tacklers are returning. The only loss is senior Khane Pass, who was third on the team with 80 tackles. Only other defection from the top 10 tacklers is Amonte Caban, who was 7th on the team with 32 tackles.
Of the 13 players who recorded at least one full sack, only GG Robinson (4), Boosie Whitlow (2) and Amonte Caban (1) will be not be returning. So that is only a loss of 7 from the 26 sack total of last season.
While most of those departures don’t seem overly significant statistically, they are very key in the leadership department.
Fear not though. I foresee several guys emerging as leaders. Guys like Rodjay Burns, Dorian Etheridge, Russ Yeast and CJ Avery.
Louisville also addressed the depth issue in recruiting. They signed DE Yaya Diaby, OLB’s Marvin Dallas, Kameron Wilson and Zay Peterson, safety’s Lovie Jenkins and Josh Minkins Jr, DT’s Jared Dawson, Henry Bryant and Dezmond Tell as well as cornerbacks Marqui Lowery Jr and Jamel Starks.
Adding 11 bodies on defense will definitely help but I think out of all the reasons we discussed here today, the biggest reason you will see improvement in the defense is the fact that, due to depth issues, so many young guys like Monty Montgomery (who led the team in sacks with 5), Chandler Jones, Yasir Abdullah, Marlon Character, Dayna Kinnaird, Nick Okeke, Trenell Troutman, Anthony Johnson, Jack Fagot and Thurman Geathers, were on the field so much last season. That game experience in meaningful games is so invaluable. Yes, they made some mistakes last season but they will learn and grow from them, leading to a much improved defense in 2020.
As always, GO CARDS!