I’m well aware that football season is a long way away but I guess the excitement of spring practice has people talking Cardinal football. I know because I have fielded quite a few questions this week and most pertained to the defense. So I’m going to address some of those questions and talk about a few players I expect to help the defense continue to improve this season.
The first question I want to discuss is “When is this Bryan Brown defense going to improve?” I’ve heard this question more than once and it really bothers me. When someone asks me this, I wonder if they are watching the same team that I am. I realize the defense isn’t an annual top 10 defense like the Charlie Strong years but you have to consider how far the program had fallen when Satterfield/Brown arrived. At the conclusion of the forgettable 2-10 season of 2018, Louisville finished ranked 122nd out of 129 division 1 schools in total defense. After the first season of Bryan Brown as defensive coordinator, Louisville improved to 109th in the nation. While still not great, you have to consider Brown coaching a lot of players that didn’t exactly fit his defensive system. It’a a process that takes time and when you hit rock bottom, there isn’t a coach alive that bring you to the top in one season.
At the conclusion of last season, most fans assumed that since the team didn’t exactly have the success in the win column like we all had hoped that the defense wasn’t very good. WELL… Actually, they weren’t really as bad as you would think. They finished the season ranked 39th in the country in total defense. They also led the ACC in passing defense. That passing defense that led the conference was ranked 17th in the country.
So to answer the question, going from ranked 122nd to 39th in just two seasons seems like the type of improvement most would like. I understand that despite the numerical rankings improvement, the team didn’t pass the eye test. We all saw that tackling is an issue and that most of the big plays the defense did give up came at the most inopportune times. The woes on offense this season also seemed to make the defense appear as the problem. The offense averaged 29 points per game – which isn’t terrible – but the fans expected them to average 38-40. The defense surrendered 26.64 points per game. If the offense scored closer to what the fans expected and the defense did exactly what they did, I wouldn’t be hearing this question so much. Again, it’s just the eye test.
Another question I’ve been asked is who is going to be the guy to step in this year to help the defense improve?
I’ll tell you right off that’s it’s not going to be just one guy. We already know that CJ Avery and Yasir Abdullah are going to be the studs.
The guys I liked last season that could really take a huge jump this year are Ke’Trel Clark and Yaya Diaby. Clark was absolutely solid last year but I’m extremely excited to see what he can do with another year of experience in Brown’s system. You can see the potential in Diaby. I’m just hoping he puts it all together this year. He will be an absolute stud when he figures it all out and can adjust to the speed of the game.
After the departures from last season, safety seems to be the questionable spot. I feel very comfortable telling you that Lovie Jenkins will be great at the strong safety and could end up being one of the best in the ACC. At the free safety spot, Georgia Southern transfer, Kendrick Duncan, appears to be the guy and is physically imposing. Fans don’t know much about him but I have a feeling they will all get to know him quickly.
But to me, the most important position for the defense to improve is the nose tackle spot. Gone is Jared Goldwire. Fighting for that spot are Dezmond Tell, Henry Bryant, Malik Clark and Jared Dawson. It appears as though Clark is the guy for now but Tell is missing spring ball because of an injury he suffered against Virginia. Tell looked really good last year when he saw the field. Either way, it’s nice to have some depth in a critical position.
Are they any freshman that can come in and contribute right away?
Due to Covid, everyone that was a freshman last year is still a freshman this year. I’m assuming this question isn’t about those guys but rather the newest recruiting class.
I’m going to say that safety Ben Perry would be the most likely to contribute right away. Bralyn Oliver is another safety that might find some time but not sure how much. There is also talk that defensive end, Ashton Gillotte looks good and could get some valuable time this season. Kani Walker is a guy I think will end up being a really good player but not sure how much run he gets at corner this season sitting behind Tre Clark, Chandler Jones, Greedy Vance and Jamel Starks. I hope he works his way into that rotation.
What defensive seniors decided to come back for another year because of Covid and who left?
- CJ Avery
- Tabarius Peterson
- Rodjay Burns
- Dorian Etheridge
- Jared Goldwire
- Marlon Character
- Isaiah Hayes
- Russ Yeast (Kansas State)
- Thurman Geathers (Arkansas State)
- Anthony Johnson (Virginia)
- Telly Plummer (UT Chatanooga)
- Trenell Troutman (undecided)
- Robert Hicks (undecided)
As Always, GO CARDS!