Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Louisville Preview
2008 Louisville Offense
2007 CFN Louisville Preview
2006 CFN Louisville Preview
need to know:
Although new defensive coordinator Ron English had success at
Michigan, he also had a lot more to work with in Ann Arbor than
he’s inheriting at Louisville. The same miserable Cardinal D
that got ambushed by Middle Tennessee and Syracuse last fall
must completely rebuild a back seven that’s been gutted by
graduations, defections, and suspensions. The only sliver of
positive news is that the Cards are well stocked with five
experienced down linemen, led by the inside-outside presence of
Earl Heyman and Maurice Mitchell, respectively. Miami transfer
James Bryant is being counted on to stabilize a linebacker corps
that’s without last year’s three starters.
Earl Heyman, 4
Interceptions: Richard Raglin, 1
Star of the
defense: Senior DT Earl Heyman
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB
Unsung star on the rise: Senior DE Maurice Mitchell
Best pro prospect: Heyman
three all-star candidates:
1) Heyman 2) Mitchell 3) Senior James Bryant
Strength of the defense: Depth at defensive tackle
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, pass defense
Projected Starters: Five linemen who started games
a year ago are back, easily making this the deepest position on
the roster. The Cardinals are especially solid on the inside,
where seniors Earl Heyman and Adrian Grady will
play tackle. Heyman is 6-3 and 285 pounds, yet slides and gets
penetration with the quickness of an end. A nuisance for
opposing linemen, he had 40 tackles, seven tackles for loss,
four sacks, and three fumble recoveries, laying the groundwork
for an all-league final year.
Injuries over the last two years have prevented Grady from
reaching his full potential, but when healthy, he’s the
program’s best run-stuffer at the nose. At 6-2 and 305 pounds,
he plays with good pad level and is one of the unit’s strongest
players. In his only five games of 2007, he had 14 tackles and
On the outside, the Cards are hopeful senior Maurice Mitchell
can spark a pass rush that was non-existent a year ago.
Despite being limited to eight games and three starts, he had 33
tackles, nine tackles for loss, and a couple of sacks. An
explosive presence at 6-3 and 272 pounds, he’s counting on
parlaying a full season as the team’s best pass rusher into
interest from the NFL.
Mitchell will be joined in the lineup by part-time starters
junior L.D. Scott and sophomore Rodney Gnat, two
very different players. Scott is 6-2 and 268 pounds, big and
strong enough to play end or tackle. He started the final seven
games on the outside, but produced just 20 tackles, 1.5 tackles
for loss, and a sack.
Gnat, on the other hand, is a pure edge rusher with the speed,
agility, and size of an outside linebacker. At 6-3 and 243
pounds, he has potential as a situational rush end after
collecting 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, and a sack in
limited appearances last season.
Projected Top Reserves: Unlike at end,
depth at tackle is going to be a major strength. Junior L.T.
Walker and sophomore Aundre Henderson both lettered a
year and have one more season to audition for the starting
assignment in 2009. Walker is emerging as one of the program’s
best run defenders, a 6-4, 305-pounder who can clog the middle
and beat his guy with a bull rush. In the most extensive action
of his career, he had 14 tackles and three tackles for loss in
eight games as a sophomore.
A red-letter recruit from 2006, Henderson is counting on taking
another stride in his development after playing in just four
games last fall. He’s 6-4 and 285 pounds, combining a powerful
upper body with good feet.
Watch Out For… Mitchell. The Cardinals are
itching for an end who can consistently collapse a pocket,
something Mitchell did frequently in the first substantive
action of his career. He’ll get every opportunity to be the
playmaker of the Louisville line.
Strength: The tackles. New coordinator Ron English
inherits four tackles capable of starting and one, Heyman, who’s
on the verge of an All-Big East season. The rotation is deep,
allowing all four to remain fresh for four quarters.
Weakness: The pass rush. The defensive line
produced a mere dozen sacks in 2007, which was part of the
reason the pass defense was so leaky. Although Mitchell has
upside, the situation after him at defensive end is dicey.
Outlook: There are plenty of big, experienced
bodies up front, but to make tangible progress, the line needs
to win more battles at the point of attack, taking heat off a
rebuilt back seven. While the tackles have a chance to be
outstanding, the situation outside is a lot more unsettled.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps will be
broken down and rebuilt from scratch after three starters left
the program. A lot will be expected of senior James Bryant,
a Miami transfer who was once considered a can’t-miss prospect
out of Reading, Penn. Physically imposing at 6-3 and 257 pounds,
he plays with outstanding range and loves contact. The most
physically gifted of the Cardinal linebackers, Bryant has a
one-time opportunity at middle linebacker to make amends for a
disappointing college career. The battles at outside linebacker
are likely to rage on through the summer.
At strongside, junior Stephen Garr looks to hold off
redshirt freshman Patrick Grant. The 6-1, 223-pound Garr
is a former safety who has beefed up in order to handle the
rigors of playing a more physical position. A career special
teamer with 22 games of experience, he’ll have to elevate his
game to be an impact player on defense.
Although Grant has less experience than Garr, his ceiling is
higher. A bigger, faster athlete at 6-4 and 218 pounds, he needs
to fill out and continue learning the finer points of being a
The competition at weakside pits sophomore Brandon Heath
against junior Darius Mann. The 6-1, 225-pound Heath is
making a move from safety to bolster the depth at linebacker.
While undersized, he’s a terrific wrap-up tackler with the
instincts to excel in run defense. Heath had 10 tackles in eight
games, while also contributing on special teams.
Like Heath, Mann is a converted safety who can really bring the
payload. Just 5-11 and 213 pounds, he’s excelled in 17 games as
a special teams player.
Projected Top Reserves: Whoever comes up short in
the battles at outside linebacker will fill valuable roles as
reserves in the rotation. In the middle, Bryant will be backed
up by Mozell Axson, a career caddy who’s no threat to the
starting lineup, yet is valuable on special teams and brings 31
games of experience to an untested group. The 6-1, 243-pound
senior has made 27 tackles in three years, topped by 13 a year
Watch Out For… Bryant. This is a salary run and a
final chance to make a splash for the former Hurricane. He
passes the eye test, but now must go out and be the leader of
the Cardinal linebackers, while shaking off years of rust in the
Strength: Lateral speed. They might all be
undersized, but they all can fly to the ball and close in a
hurry. While pulling guards at the second level could be a
little scary, the Cardinal linebackers give away nothing in
terms of athleticism.
Weakness: Proven talent. Even if everyone exceeds
expectations, this is an average collection of linebackers. The
savior is Bryant, who was a backup fullback the last time he had
pads on two years ago.
Outlook: Whenever a unit relies too heavily on
transfers and position switchers, red flags go up. Lamar Myles’
decision to leave early for the NFL Draft was a crushing blow to
a corps of linebackers that’s in dire need of a sure thing.
Projected Starters: An unsettled Cardinal
secondary went from bad to worse when starting CB Rod Council
was kicked off the team in February for an alleged armed
robbery. The dismissal thinned an already weak position, heaping
more pressure on senior Woodny Turenne, a JUCO star who
was slow to adapt in his first season. At 6-1 and 182 pounds
with next level speed, he has the raw tools to rebound, but
needs to tighten his technique and reduce the number of times
receivers get behind him.
Joining Turenne is 6-0, 184-pound sophomore Johnny Patrick,
who started four games and had 19 tackles just months after
making the move from wide receiver. His speed and footwork are
exceptional, but his cover skills need the kind of work that’ll
only come with more reps.
Senior safeties Richard Raglin and Bobby Buchanan
split time last season, and might do so again if junior
Latarrius Thomas can bounce back from a season-ending knee
injuries that limited him to just two games. A budding star
before getting injured, he’s a 6-2, 206-pound thumper and a
terrific all-around athlete. As a true freshman in 2006, Thomas
showed hints of his potential, starting nine games and making 20
Buchanan is a veteran of 33 games, who logged nine starts a year
ago. A 5-11, 200-pound former corner, he transitioned nicely to
safety, finishing second on the team with 54 tackles.
The 6-2, 198-pound Raglin can pack a wallop and has keen
instincts in run defense. A career backup, he finally cracked
the starting lineup in 2007, making 38 tackles and contributing
on special teams.
Projected Top Reserves: In dire need of depth at
cornerback, the Cardinals are banking on junior Chaz Thompson
being ready to swim in the deep end of the pool. A junior
college transfer in 2006, he sat out last year to learn the
defense and hit the weights. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, he has the
foot speed and cover skills to evolve into a breakout player.
Like Thompson, the coaching staff is excited about the future of
redshirt freshman C.J. Peake, one of the top reserves at
safety. A 6-2, 220-pound enforcer, he’s physical and flashes
good instincts in run and pass defense.
Watch Out For… Thomas. To give it an attitude and
a physical presence, the secondary needs Thomas to return to his
pre-ACL injury form. The tear occurred early enough in the
season that he should be at full strength long before the
Strength: The safeties. Assuming Thomas is
healthy, the Cardinals will have three safeties with starting
experience and a fourth one, Peake, who’s ready to blossom into
a solid reserve.
Weakness: Pass defense. It wasn’t all its fault,
but the defensive backfield got routinely burned a year ago,
allowing a Big East-high 25 touchdown passes. Council’s
off-field problems will force someone like Patrick into the
lineup a year before he’s ready.
Outlook: The healthy return of Thomas will help
the run defense, but this is still a suspect group of defensive
backs who will struggle against quality passers. Turenne needs
to perform like the monster pick-up he was supposed to be, and
even then, Louisville is going to labor to stop the pass.
Projected Starters: Consistent with the key losses
being felt throughout the rest of the roster, Louisville is
taking a hit on special teams as well. Art Carmody, one of the
best collegiate kickers of all time, has exhausted his
eligibility. There’s a line forming to fill his rather large
left shoe. At the head of the line is sophomore Tim Dougherty,
a Purdue transfer, but he’ll get challenged by redshirt freshmen
Ryan Payne, Nathan Overall, and Evan McKeon.
As an all-state senior in high school, Dougherty nailed 9-of-11
field goals, including a career-best 44-yarder.
At punter, there’s far less uncertainty. Junior Cory
Goettsche is back for his third season as the starter. Over
the last two seasons, he’s lacked consistency, averaging just
38.5 yards a boot and taking much of the blame for Louisville’s
middling punt coverage numbers.
Watch Out For…JaJuan Spillman. The junior
averaged nearly 28 yards a kickoff return two years ago,
declaring himself one of the most dangerous young returners in
the country. Back from suspension, he’ll be looking to regain
the form that made him so combustible as a rookie.
Strength: The return game. Not only will Spillman
give the special teams unit a boost, but Trent Guy and
Bilal Powell have shown a tendency for bringing the home
crowd to its feet as well.
Weakness: Punting. For the third straight season,
it appears that the Cardinals are going to be no better than
average in the punting game. Goettsche is one of the Big East’s
worst punters, bad news for a defense that’ll already be playing
on its heels.
Outlook: No matter how good Dougherty winds up
being, it’ll be impossible to replace Carmody, Louisville’s
Art-o-matic. Toss in the concerns at punter, and it doesn’t
appear that the Cardinals will have the special teams edge in
many games this season.