LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Like every other college football program at the Division I level, Louisville has certainly been impacted by the transfer portal this offseason.
Just past the halfway point of the month of January, the Cardinals have had eleven players enter the portal this cycle, ranging from potential starters to strictly role players.
While, in theory, there could still be more players that decide to depart the program, Louisville is starting to have some semblance as to who they will actually have returning for the 2022 season. Especially with the deadline to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror.
On the other side of that coin, head coach Scott Satterfield and the rest of the coaching staff has done a solid job at bringing in talent via the portal. So far, five transfers have committed to Louisville: Miami wide receiver Dee Wiggins, Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans, Temple safety M.J. Griffin, Ole Miss linebacker MoMo Sanogo and Central Arkansas (FCS) wide receiver Tyler Hudson.
But, Louisville is far from done. As of Jan. 19, the Cardinals are currently at a 79-man scholarship roster - well short of the designated 85-man limit.
The staff is certainly still recruiting out of the high school ranks for the 2022 class after a sizable haul during the early signing period, but a few of these open spots are very likely to go to more D1 transfers.
What type of players should Louisville look for in the portal? Here are their three biggest needs:
I'll preface this by saying that Louisville does have a couple playmakers here already. Yasir Abdullah is one of the best pass rushers in the ACC, and Marvin Dallas looks to be a potential starter next season after looking phenomenal in spurts. Kam Wilson had to miss most of the season due to injury, and he should be in line to rebound in spring ball.
But there is, quite literally, no one behind them.
Converted safety Jack Fagot, who was the starter alongside Abdullah, graduates after an underrated final season. After Zay Peterson and Nick Okeke opted to transfer, Louisville only has Abdullah, Dallas and Wilson in their OLB room.
In the interim, other players are probably cross training at this position. Safety Ben Perry is a likely candidate for this as he was already a DB/LB hybrid anyways. Some inside linebackers on the roster, such as T.J. Quinn or Jackson Hamilton, could also see a position switch.
But even if players do cross train, Louisville would still be in bind for depth. Their best bet is to grab another D1 transfer out of the portal to plug at the spot that Fagot leaves open.
The good news is that Louisville is bringing back their best cornerback - and arguably defender, period - in Kei'Trel Clark.
The bad news? It's still a thin room. Chandler Jones had an up-and-down year, Trey Franklin had stretches where he was solid option at nickelback, and then there is Rance Conner and Derrick Edwards - true freshmen who played in a combined zero games in 2021.
Losing Greedy Vance and Kani Walker to the portal undoubtedly hurt. Both could have been starters alongside Clark in 2022, and the fact that they transferred to Florida State and Oklahoma, respectively, shows the talent and potential they had.
As it currently stands, it will likely be Clark and Jones as your starters with Franklin as the nickel. But considering the only backups were two freshmen (soon-to-be sophomores) who didn't see the field at all in 2021, Louisville absolutely needs to bring in at least one, maybe two corners to fill up the room for depth purposes.
Unlike the first two spots, Louisville actually has *some* depth here. Despite guys like Derek Dorsey, Jacques Turner and Malik Clark graduating, Louisville still has five nose tackles on the roster: Henry Bryant, Jared Dawson, Dezmond Tell, Caleb Banks and Tawfiq Thomas.
But at this spot, it's not necessarily the numbers as to why the Cardinals need another player here, it's the production.
Over the last several years, nose tackle - and defensive line in general - has not been a particularly productive spot for Louisville. The Cardinals' three main NT's in 2021 - Clark, Tell and Turner - combined for just 24 tackles, 1.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks.
Louisville looks to be good at defensive end next season, but if the Cardinals are to consistently generate pressure in the backfield and on the quarterback, they need a bona fide playmaker in the middle.
Other Spots to Consider
Wide receiver *was* a spot where Louisville needed more playmakers, but the staff has done a solid job replacing the talent that left. With eight scholarship receivers on the roster, they might need to bring in one more for depth purposes.
If Ben Perry does cross train at OLB, or make a permanent position move, safety could become a spot that Louisville looks to add. They have six scholarship guys on the back end as of now, but Kenderick Duncan is the only one who played meaningful snaps for Louisville in 2021.
Even with Cunningham coming back, quarterback could be another spot to monitor. With Conley having to miss spring ball due to offseason surgery, Louisville has just true freshman Khalib Johnson and and JUCO transfer Brock Domann to back Cunningham up. T.J. Lewis in theory could, but he's pretty much a wide receiver at this point.
(Photo of Scott Satterfield: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)
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