Breaking Down Louisville's Preseason Depth Chart

A deeper look at the 2021 preseason depth chart for the Louisville football program.
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(Photo of Scott Satterfield and Louisville Players: Matt Stone - Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of the first signs that college football is almost back are the unveiling of preseason depth charts. With the season roughly one month away, Louisville finally released theirs earlier this week.

At face value, it serves as an indicator as to who will start week one against Ole Miss in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game down in Atlanta, Ga. But if you take a deeper dive, you start to get a sense as to how the Cardinals could look in 2021, or at least in the first month of the season.

Louisville Report decided to do just that, and break down each position on the newly released depth chart below:

Quarterbacks

1. Malik Cunningham (6-1, 200, R-Jr.)
2. Evan Conley (6-2, 206, So.)

Analysis: Not much to dive deep into here. Barring a meteoric collapse in his game, or if the turnover issues somehow get worse, Cunningham will be the starter for the entire season. Conley will be the one who sees garbage time, or is inserted in case of injury, and it is highly unlikely TJ Lewis or Brock Domann see much time this season.

Running Backs

1. Jalen Mitchell (5-10, 221, R-Fr.)
2. Hassan Hall (6-0, 204, Jr.)
3. Maurice Burkley (6-0, 209, R-Sr.)
4. Trevion Cooley (5-10, 200, Fr.)

Analysis: Louisville was likely going to go with a running back by committee in 2021 following the departure of Javian Hawkins, and this all but confirms it. Instead of listing two running backs in their depth chart like they have in the last two seasons, the Cardinals have listed every scholarship back with the exception of Aidan Robbins.

Instead of building weight, a couple running backs have slimmed down a touch. Burkley has lost 11 pounds after weighing 220 last year, and Cooley has lost 10 pounds, as he came in at 210 out of high school.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle

1. Trevor Reid (6-5, 303, Jr.)
2. Michael Gonzalez (6-4, 298, Fr.)

Left Guard

1. Caleb Chandler (6-4, 313, R-Jr.)
2. Luke Kandra (6-4, 309, Fr.)

Center

1. Cole Bentley (6-3, 315, Sr)
2. Bryan Hudson (6-4, 310, R-So.)

Right Guard

1. Adonis Boone (6-5, 317, Jr.)
2. Joshua Black (6-2, 294, R-Fr.)

Right Tackle

1. Renato Brown (6-4, 309, R-Fr.)
2. Desmond Daniels (6-5, 270, Fr.)

Analysis: What a long way the offensive line has come since head coach Scott Satterfield took over the program. The coaching staff has said numerous times this offseason that they believe they have eight or nine guys that cab see significant playing time in 2021, and this depth chart shows it.

Every starter on the line weighs over 300 pounds, with several of them making huge leaps. Trevor Reid, who is taking over as the starting left tackle, is up 18 pounds. Adonis Boone, who is sliding over to right guard, has gained seven pounds. Even backups Luke Kandra (+17 pounds) and Desmond Daniels (+23 pounds) have put in work since last season ended.

With how many guys have bulked up entering the upcoming year, and considering most are position versatile, expect a lot of shuffling on the line to keep guys healthy.

Wide Receivers

Slot Receiver 

1. Braden Smith (5-10, 185, So.)
2. Josh Johnson (5-11, 187, R-Sr.)
3. Shai Werts (5-11, 193, R-Sr.)

Wide Receiver (Z)

1. Jordan Watkins (5-11, 194, Fr.)
2. Ahmari Huggins-Bruce (5-10, 165, Fr.)

Wide Receiver (X)

1. Justin Marshall (6-3, 211, R-Jr.)
2. Tyler Harrell (6-0, 194, R-So.)

Analysis: With Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick heading to the NFL, much like with their running backs, Louisville will likely go for a wide receiver by committee passing attack, instead of relying heavily on one or two options.

As hinted throughout the offseason, Braden Smith, Jordan Watkins and Justin Marshall are your day one starters. But guys like Ahmari Huggins-Bruce and Tyler Harrell are sure to see their fair share of the field. The most noticeable change in terms of body weight undoubtedly comes from Watkins, as he gained 19 pounds from last season.

Tight Ends

Half Back

1. Marshon Ford (6-2, 237, So.)
2. Isaac Martin (6-1, 250, R-Jr.)

Tight End

1. Dez Melton (6-3, 250, R-Fr.)
2. Francis Sherman (6-3, 248, R-Fr.)

Analysis: Considering Marshon Ford is Louisville leading returner in terms of receiving yards and touchdowns, him being named the starter is probably the least surprising but about the depth chart.

The real question remained at the tight end spot on the line of scrimmage, a hole left open from Ean Pfeifer's departure. While Francis Sherman's workman attitude drew praise from the coaches, so far, Dez Melton's prior experience won out.

Defensive Line

Defensive End

1. Ramon Puryear (6-3, 264, R-Fr.)
2. Tabarius Peterson (6-3, 262, R-Sr.)
3. Zach Edwards (6-3, 265, R-Fr.)

Nose Tackle

1. Malik Clark (6-2, 295, R-Jr.)
2. Dezmond Tell (6-1, 276, Fr.)
3. Jacques Turner (6-1, 290, R-Sr.)

Defensive End

1. YaYa Diaby (6-4, 273, Jr.)
2. Ashton Gillotte (6-2, 253, Fr.)
3. Mason Reiger (6-4, 249, Fr.)

Analysis: There is a lot to break down here. Arguably the biggest surprise on the entire depth chart is that fact that Ramon Puryear, who is a walk-on, landed the starting DE spot over Tabarius Peterson. Puryear did gain nine pounds since last season, so that could have played a role.

Let's look at the other DE spot. YaYa Diaby looks to be a force in the ACC this season, as he has gained 18 pounds since last year. However, a true freshman is right on his heels. The coaching staff has raved about Ashton Gillotte all offseason, and now we see why. Entering in at 212, he has gained a whopping 41 pounds since January. He also recently power cleaned 405lbs, so yeah, keep an eye out for him very soon. An interesting development beyond Diaby and Gillotte to monitor is the inclusion of walk-on Mason Reiger and exclusion of Ja'Darien Boykin.

Finally, we have nose tackle. For the time being, Malik Clark has won out the starting spot, although it would not be surprising to see multiple players rotating in and out. This is especially true considering Dez Tell has gained 10 pounds, and that the program added fromer All C-USA defensive tackle Jacques Turner. The odd man out seems to be Henry Bryant, and playing time for him could be sparse if the latter three perform well.

Linebackers

Outside Linebacker (Dog)

1. Yasir Abdullah (6-1, 235, Jr.)
or Nick Okeke (6-3, 249, R-Jr.)

Middle Linebacker

1. C.J. Avery (5-11, 227, Sr.)
2. K.J. Cloyd (6-2, 215, So.)

Middle Linebacker

1. Monty Montgomery (5-11, 220, R-Jr.)
2. Dorian Jones (6-0, 230, R-Fr.)
3. T.J. Quinn (6-0, 222, Fr.)

Outside Linebacker (Card)

1. Marvin Dallas (6-1, 198, Jr.)
2. Jack Fagot (6-0, 202, R-Jr.)

Analysis: The first thing that jumps out is the fact that Yasir Abdullah and Nick Okeke are both listed as the starting Dog outside linebacker. Abdullah had a monster end to the 2020 season, and was expected to have a stranglehold on the starting position. But considering Abdullah has gained 10 pounds and Okeke has put on nine pounds, the Dog OLB spot should see some great play.

Not a ton of surprises with the two middle linebackers, although there is an interesting development with the backups. TJ Quinn, who was recruited as a safety out of high school, has not only made a position switch to linebacker, but has put on 22 pounds since arriving on campus.

Even with Jack Fagot making the position switch, Marvin Dallas had flashes of promise in 2020, and has done enough in the offseason to land a starting spot. Something that is a tad surprising is the exclusion of Zay Peterson.

Secondary

Cornerback

1. Chandler Jones (5-10, 188, Jr.)
2. Derrick Edwards (5-10, 185, Fr.)
or Kani Walker (6-1, 203, Fr.)

Strong Safety

1. Benjamin Perry (6-2, 201, Fr.)
2. Qwynnterrio Cole (6-3, 190, Sr.)

Free Safety

1. Kenderick Duncan (6-3, 216, R-Sr.)
2. Bralyn Oliver (6-2, 209, Fr.)

Cornerback

1. Kei'Trel Clark (5-10, 172, So.)
2. Greedy Vance (5-10, 162, Fr.)

Analysis: Several true freshmen have been listed as second string players, but here, we have our only starting true freshman. Benjamin Perry was already the top signee from the Class of 2021, and considering he has added 31 pounds since arriving on campus, he was a no brainer to start at strong safety.

Kenderick Duncan mans the other spot in the backend, as expected, with Bralyn Oliver and Qwynterrio Cole right behind the starters. Many will notice that Josh Minkins is not listed, but that is because he is still rehabbing an injury suffered earlier this year, and could miss the first few games.

Kei'Trel Clark and Chandler Jones could be in contention for best corner duo in the ACC, but there are some good options behind them. Greedy Vance will look to build on his solid true freshman year, and Kani Walker could see early playing time as a true freshman after gaining 28 pounds in the offseason.

Special Teams

Placekicker

1. James Turner (6-0, 208, So.)
2. Ryan Chalifoux (6-1, 191, R-Sr.)

Kickoffs

1. Brock Travelstead (6-1, 200, Fr.)
2. Ryan Chalifoux (6-1, 191, R-Sr.)

Long Snapper

1. Mitch Hall (6-1, 213, Sr.)
2. Drew Brenowitz (5-10, 210, So.)

Holder

1. Evan Conley (6-2, 206, So.)

Punter

1. Mark Vassett (6-4, 215, Fr.)
2. Ryan Chalifoux (6-1, 191, R-Sr.)

Kick Returner

1. Hassan Hall (6-0, 204, Jr.)

Punt Returner

1. Braden Smith (5-10, 192, So.)
2. Kei’Trel Clark (5-10, 172, So.)
3. Shai Werts (5-11, 193, R-Sr.)

Analysis: A couple tidbits worth pointing out here. With Louisville losing both punters to the portal last season, walk-on Aussie Mark Vassett has taken over as the starter. Kei'Trel Clark will also tap into his inner Jaire Alexander, and see some action as the secondary punt returner.

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