We continue our weekly Louisville football guide with a breakdown of the defensive backs. In case you missed it, here is our defensive line preview as well.
Here is where the Cardinals ranked nationally for various defensive metrics in the 2020 season.
- Total Defense: 39th (369.1 yards allowed per game)
- Scoring Defense: 49th (26.64 opponent PPG)
- Passing Yards Allowed: 17th (189.2 per game)
- Rushing Defense: 80th (179.9 rushing yards allowed per game)
Even factoring in injuries and lack of depth, the Louisville secondary exceeded expectations last season. With the majority of the main contributors returning, the Cardinals’ defensive backs core is looking to take the next step.
- Cornerbacks: Chandler Jones, Kei’Trel Clark
- Safeties: Kenderick Duncan, Qwynnterrio Cole
With both Jones and Clark returning, Louisville looks to have one of the best cornerback tandems in the ACC. The former has tallied 23 starts in three seasons with the program, and while Jones has only recorded one interception, he does have 91 tackles and 17 pass deflections. Clark, on the other hand, transferred to Louisville from Liberty before the 2020 season. He quickly emerged as a go-to option at corner. The 5-foot-10 standout caught the conference by storm last season, and projects as one of the ACC’s top cornerbacks in 2021.
Here is what GoCards.com had to say of Clark’s accomplishments:
“Earned second team All-ACC honors … appeared in 10 games, making nine starts … ended the season with 36 tackles and 10 pass break-ups … finished eighth nationally and tied for the conference lead with 10 pass break-ups. … started at cornerback in his first Louisville game, recording two tackles and a pass breakup … had a solo tackle against Miami … made five stops and broke up a pair of passes at Pitt … finished with four tackles and two pass breakups at Notre Dame … recorded five tackles against Florida State and had his third straight game with two pass breakups … made three tackles, including 1.5 for loss, against Virginia Tech … tallied a pair of tackles and broke up two passes at Virginia … had a hand in two of Louisville’s three turnovers forced in the first half against Syracuse, picking off his first career pass in the second half and then recovered a fumble on a kickoff later in the quarter … notched a career-best nine tackles at Boston College … recorded four tackles in a season-ending win over Wake Forest.”
Unfortunately for the safety position, continuity is not a luxury that core possesses. Both projected starters are graduate transfers looking to succeed at the power-five level. Rated the 30th-best transfer by 247Sports, Duncan joins the rotation already having 138 tackles and six interceptions under his belt from three-years at Georgia Southern. At 6-foot-3, Duncan is a strong, hard-hitting safety that is solid in coverage.
Opposite of Duncan, will likely be Alcorn State transfer Qwynnterrio Cole; the all-conference standout also possesses good size and ball instincts.
NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein’s (NFL.com) scouting analysis on Cole:
“Celebrated HBCU safety with good size and quality production over his last two seasons. Cole plays to his size with good physicality as a hitter and at the catch point. He has the hands to take the ball away, but his lack of speed and short-area burst will be very troubling against NFL targets if matched man-to-man. While he can body and finish running backs as a tackler, he’s below average as an open-field tackler, which is a major concern.”
- Cornerback: Kani Walker, Greedy Vance, Derrick Edwards, Trey Franklin
- Safety: Benjamin Perry, Josh Minkins, Bralyn Oliver, TJ Quinn
Most of the Cardinals’ options at defensive back depth will be true freshmen, and the others don’t have a ton of experience. Walker is primed to turn heads this year due to his size, athleticism, and coverage abilities. The Suwanee, Ga. native possesses the talent to be one of the most successful members of the 2021 recruiting class.
Like Walker, Edwards will be a true freshman in the fall. With his versatility, the coaching staff may use him at the safety position as well. Edwards has a knack for getting involved in plays regardless of where they’re at, and looks to see the field early on. Louisiana native Greedy Vance rounds up the trio of true freshmen on the list, and like the others, has the tools to step in and produce right away for the Cardinal secondary.
The depth at safety is perhaps the most concerning out of any position for Louisville this season. Not only is the team looking to start two transfers, but three of the four key reserves haven’t played a single snap for the Cardinals. However, Perry is a former four-star prospect and one of the jewels of the past recruiting cycle, while Oliver and Quinn are both highly regarded as well. On top of that, JUCO All-American Honorable Mention Trey Franklin joined the fold less than a month ago and will bring valuable NCAA experience to the group.