The 2022 Louisville defense appears to be much improved. At least that what I believe and that’s the way it looks on paper.
The 2021 edition of the Louisville defense finished the season ranked 84th in total defense according to the NCAA.com rankings. They gave up 157.7 rushing yards per game and 245.6 passing yards per game.
Those numbers and many other stats from last season were not spectacular, but they are an improvement from the previous season. I believe with the return of a few injured players, the transfers, the maturation of a couple key contributors, and some additions/changes in the coaching staff, those number will improve dramatically.
My man Justin Krueger has been releasing his weekly position reviews and will continue to do so every Monday until the season starts. For more detailed info on the defense here are his defensive position breakdowns (click position for breakdown).
The 2022 defense has many names who you (and opposing coaches) are already familiar with and know exactly what type of production you will get out of them. Most of them are already on preseason watchlists. However, there are several names you may have heard and are not sure how much production you will get out of them. A couple of those guys could become “breakout players.”
Breakout, in adjective form, is defined as suddenly and extremely popular and successful. Therefore, guys like Yasir Abdullah, Kei’Trel Clark, and Monty Montgomery will not be in consideration for breakout players. Yes, they all could have monster seasons, but the reason we expect/hope for big seasons is their track records. We know their potential of a great season is high. The players we are looking for here haven’t been on the field much or even at all in a Cardinal uniform.
In my search for this seasons breakout players on defense, I took to Twitter and asked you who you though could be this seasons breakout player. I appreciate all your responses and some of them were very well thought out. I will say this though, I share your optimism that Yaya Diaby will have a huge season. However, I can’t consider him a breakout player because we all already know Dude is a beast and he did lead the team in QB hurries last season.
Here are a few of your responses and thank you for participating,
I think Momo is a huge difference maker. I think he and Lole immediately make us stout against the run which we have been dying for…
— ccharlescard (@ccharlescard) August 3, 2022
— CardsfoEva (@CardsfoEva) August 4, 2022
— Tyler Ryan (@TylerRyan1995) August 4, 2022
Quincy Riley. I’m a firm believer that improved DB play will free up Brown to send more pressure without a fear of easy completions. The guy opposite of Kei’Trel would be the smarter target for opposing OC’s. He breaks out and it makes the Opposing OC’s job a lot more difficult.
— Louisville Sports Updates (@502Sportscenter) August 3, 2022
Nicario Harper. Can play safety and also move up and play Card
— The Ville Sports (@_VilleSports) August 3, 2022
I like the guy in your picture! Perry will be great at the CARD spot this season
— Matt Barry (@mb217) August 4, 2022
Other guys that could have big seasons and that we are counting on, but I can’t consider them to be breakout players include Chandler Jones and Kenderick Duncan. Ashton Gillotte is a guy that I would accept if you chose him as a breakout player due to the fact he will be a full-time starter this season, but to me his breakout season was last year. He will have a huge season this year. Go ahead and write that down.
My top 5 breakout player candidates are:
5. M.J. Griffin – M.J. comes to Louisville after two seasons at Temple. All reports from camp indicate he is the leading candidate for the starting spot at strong safety. Although, he is currently listed behind Josh Minkins for that #1 spot on the preseason depth chart, Coach Satt may just be trying to motivate him. We shall see. He recently told me he loves the city, the University, and he seems to be fitting in well. With his experience he brings a leadership presence to the secondary and that should help make everyone better.
4. Quincy Riley – I believe he will be the starter at corner opposite Kei’Trel Clark. And being opposite of Clark, Quincy should have plenty of passes thrown his way. This will likely means more opportunities to make plays. He is a ball-hawk. He actually led the country in interceptions per game in 2021 while playing for Middle Tennessee State. He only played 9 games though because of injuries. If he can stay healthy his potential is huge. On film, he looks more like a receiver when playing the ball than many receivers he was covering. He has great hands. Don’t be shocked if he leads the Cards in interceptions for the 2022 season or is among the conference leaders.
3. Momo Sanogo – The addition of Momo is huge. Coming from Ole Miss he brings that SEC toughness and hard-nosed mindset that the Cards defense needs. In 2018 he had 112 combined tackles (that ranked 5th in the SEC). To put that into perspective, in 2021 Louisville’s leading tackler was CJ Avery with 97. Momo had a season-ending ankle injury in 2019. Since then, he has struggled to maintain his health. However, after transferring to Louisville and getting back into form, he recently said, “I just feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been able to be in since before 2019.” That is a huge plus for the defense. Momo is very physical and very vocal. He has a nose for the ball and always seems to be around it. If Momo is anywhere close to his 2018 form, this group has the potential to be the best group of linebackers in the ACC.
2. Jermayne Lole – He could easily be #1 on this list. He is probably the most important player on the whole defense this season. He is a transfer senior from Arizona State. With that kind of experience he won’t need to be coached up much. He is already polished with inside moves and combined with his quickness, he will often command double teams… and that will free up Yaya and Ashton to get into the backfield more frequently. There isn’t really stats for something like that and Jermayne won’t get the credit he deserves, but if the defense makes the improvement like I think they will, it will be directly as a result of his play.
1. Ben Perry – As a true freshman, Perry was listed at 170 pounds. This year, as a redshirt freshman, Perry is listed at 212 ponds. He already had the big physical frame and now it seems to be filing out. Physically he is ready to contribute. I believe Perry will be the starter at the Card position. A position he could/should thrive in as he will be the supporting cast to Yasir, Monty, and Momo. He is a very physical big hitter and great in run support. He appears to like to play closer to the line of scrimmage. However, he could be a safety and his natural ball hawking skills will definitely benefit him in the Card position. He is the guy I’ve had my eye on since the day he committed. I expect big things from Perry over the next four years.
* Others in consideration – Trey Franklin, Josh Minkins, Victoine Brown, Dezmond Tell, and Ramon Puryear.
As Always, GO CARDS!