Losing three key players to the NFL draft usually spells trouble for a defense, especially when those guys were the heart and soul of the defense as linebackers and a defensive back. Throw in a brand-new coaching staff, and you’d expect the Cardinals’ defense to take a hit. But not this year. Defensive Coordinator Ron English, who is in the running for the Broyles Award, has flipped the script, steering the squad to one of its most dominant seasons in recent memory. Even in the midst of a crazy transfer portal shuffle, one homegrown player has skyrocketed from an overlooked edge rusher to a beast with flowing locks and a growing list of national accolades. Ashton Gillotte might not have been the big name in the 2021 recruiting class, but he will leave the University of Louisville as an elite edge rusher and a surefire NFL draft pick.
Coming out of Boca Raton High School, Gillotte was only a three-star recruit, according to ESPN and 247Sports. Despite flying under the radar in the recruiting world, Gillotte showed strong potential from the start. Breaking into the starting lineup at a Power 5 school is no joke, even for blue chip recruits. Whether he came in with a chip on his shoulder or not, he got to work and made an immediate impact. In his rookie year, he hit the field in 12 games, racking up 19 tackles (8 for a loss) and notching 4 sacks. He showed off some serious pass-rushing skills.
It was Gillotte’s second year though, when he really lit up the scene. He started all 12 games, got a nod for the All-ACC Honorable Mention team, and was a key player in taking down Cincinnati in Boston. Ending the season with 6 sacks and 7 tackles for loss plus a fumble return, he was putting the recruiting services on notice that they had overlooked him.
Louisville’s 9-1 record isn’t just because of some new faces on the coaching staff or fresh talent from the transfer portal. It’s due in large part to the guys like Gillotte, who’ve been grinding it out at 2550 S Floyd St their whole career. That’s not a slight to any of the guys who transfered in, because we wouldn’t be here without them, but it’s just to show this amazing season has truly been a team effort all around. The 2023 season has been historic on a number of levels, and Gillotte’s a major reason why. With 6.5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, and total dominance on the field, he’s not just an ACC powerhouse—he’s become a national sensation. Right now, he’s a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award for the top defensive player, made it to the PFF third team Midseason All-American, and even snagged a spot on the CBSSports Midseason All-American list.
This weekend, Ashton Gillotte returns to South Florida, and what a homecoming it will be. Surrounded by friends and family, he plays with history on the line. The 2023 season has already been one of the greatest in school history. Despite struggles away from L&N Stadium, including a blemish in Pittsburgh that may keep the team out of the College Football Playoff, South Beach is not a rainy night in the Steel City. South Beach is where Gillotte will shine the brightest this season, and where the Cardinals will make program history!