Louisville Football’s 2021 season is close to kick off. In less than two weeks, the Cards will be in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta facing Ole Miss. As the season approaches, I thought I would look at 5 Class of 2021 freshmen and 5 Covid Year freshmen and redshirt freshmen who look to make an impact this season. These are not in any particular order of expected impact or playing time.
2021 True Freshmen to Watch
5) Benjamin Perry-S
Perry is a true freshman out of Chicago, IL. Standing 6’2 and weighing in at 170 lbs, Perry was a 4 Star prospect out of high school and was the highest rated recruit in Louisville’s 2021 class. He’s likely going to be primary back up for UofL at one of the safety spots. Perry was an early enrollee, enrolling back in January. With extra time to develop combined with his natural size and skill, Ben Perry will likely play and play a lot this season. Especially since safety depth is a bit of an issue. Keep an eye out on this very talented freshman.
4) Ashton Gillotte-DL
Ashton Gillotte has really turned heads in the off season and throughout camp. An early enrollee out of FL, Gillotte joined UofL in January 2021. The 6’4 prospect came in at 220 lbs, but has made massive gains in the weight room. Gillotte is now 262 lbs and his play in camp likely means he will play for sure in at least 4 games, (the amount of games a player can play to keep a redshirt) if not in more due to his size, strength, and work ethic. His senior season stats were impressive. He recorded 21 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. His excellent burst, quickness, and speed combined with the strength he’s gained this off season mean Gillotte will likely be a regular contributor in the defensive line rotation this season.
3) Trevion Cooley-RB
Trevion Cooley was a high 3 Star prospect that actually ranked as UofL’s second highest prospect in the class. A running back with excellent burst and speed, Cooley appears to have impressed greatly in camp. At 5’10 200 lbs, Cooley is a back with game breaking ability with the football in his hands. While early on it seemed he may redshirt, Cooley may now be part of a three-headed monster at running back with Hassan Hall and Jalen Mitchell.
2) Kani Walker-DB
Kani Walker is a DB out of GA. He primarily played corner in high school and has NFL size at 6’1 175 lbs. As a high school senior, he recorded 30 tackles, a forced fumble, intercepted 3 passes, and broke up 3 more. His size, speed, and instincts should allow him to get some time in a backup role behind Kei’Trel Clark and/or Chandler Jones.
1) Ahmari Huggins-Bruce-WR
Ahmari Huggins-Bruce is a speedy, quick WR out of SC. The 5’10 dynamo should get some time as he can line up in the slot or outside. His speed and ability to get yards after the catch are special. I don’t think he will start, but I think he will be a contributor early and often. With so many question marks at WR, Ahmari Huggins-Bruce could help give one answer.
2021 Redshirt/Covid Freshmen to Watch:
5) Jalen Mitchell-RB (Covid Year Redshirt Freshman)
Jalen Mitchell is a 5’10 221 lbs running back out of FL. When Javian Hawkins opted out and Maurice Burkley got hurt, Mitchell stepped into the void last season and performed very well. He played in 9 games, rushing for 347 yards and 2 TDs. This included a 70-yard gallop. He averaged 6.7 yards a carry. He’s a blend of speed and power with excellent size. I expect Mitchell will be the starter outright this season and I expect him to be a 1000-yard rusher. Losing Javian Hawkins was a big loss, but Louisville looks like they have a star-in-the-making with Jalen Mitchell.
4) Greedy Vance-CB-Freshman (Covid Year)
Vance is actually one of the Covid year freshmen, having been a member of the 2020 class. A corner out of LA, Vance was a high 3 Star prospect out of high school. Vance played in 5 games last season, recording one tackle. At 5’10 and 155 lbs, Vance showed flashes of being a ball hawking corner in high school. This season, with Chandler Jones playing some safety in certain packages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vance get even more playing time and live up to his nickname of Greedy. He recorded 9 interceptions in his senior high school season. That’s impressive and it is something the defensive backfield needs more of. Vance is definitely one to keep an eye on.
3) Dezmond Tell-DL-Freshman (Covid Year)
Dezmond Tell played a lot last year due to injuries and Covid issues. Coming out of high school in GA, he was a 3 Star prospect. He was an early enrollee, enrolling in January 2020. Standing 6’1 and weighing 266 lbs, Tell proved to be a very capable interior lineman, surprising fans. He played in 6 games last season and finished with 5 tackles and a tackle for loss. I expect Tell to have an even bigger impact for the Cards this season.
2) Luke Kandra-OL (Covid True Freshman)
Luke Kandra was a member of the 2020 class that did not play last season. He was a big recruit for Coach Satterfield and staff out of Cincinnati Elder. Standing 6’4 and weighing 292 lbs, Kandra has drawn comparisons to another former Elder High and Louisville great Eric Wood. While he wasn’t able to contribute last season, he has really grown and developed this off season. It appears he is likely one of the offensive linemen expected to be in Louisville’s offensive line rotation this season. I expect he will play a lot of snaps at guard and may even see some time at center.
1) Jordan Watkins (Covid Year True Freshman)
Jordan Watkins is a local product out of my alma mater, Butler High School. The 5’11 175 lbs WR got into the receiving corps rotation last season and showed decent productivity. He had a 23-yard rush TD and had 8 receptions for 57 yards. He even contributed in the kick return game, averaging 18 yards a return with a long of 29 yards. It’s expected he will likely take one of the starting receiver spots, likely on the outside. Watkins has all the tools to be an elite, playmaking receiver and he must be because he will be helping fill the huge voids left by the departures of Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick.
There’s a lot of young talent on this team. These are 10 players I think will have big impacts immediately. However, there are some that aren’t listed here that can make impacts as well. Maybe they don’t make them immediately, but through the course of the season. Michael Gonzalez, Victoine Brown, Derrick Edwards, and Henry Bryant are just a few of those names. Regardless, this season and the future look bright for UofL Football.