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Dorian Etheridge sees growth in defense and himself in final year

Linebacker finished with 70 tackles and eight tackles for a loss last season as a junior

While defensive coordinators have come and gone, Dorian Etheridge and C.J. Avery have been the most consistent part of Louisville football’s defense the past three seasons.

In the second year playing under Bryan Brown’s scheme, the pair of inside linebackers have the same defensive coordinator in consecutive seasons for the first time in their collegiate career.

Etheridge and Avery, who transitioned from safety to linebacker, have combined for 379 tackles over the past three years.

Inside linebackers coach Derek Nicholson said the two have led by example and are the leaders of Louisville’s defense.

“They have done a good job of that, they have played a lot of football,” Nicholson said. “They know what to do, they are smart, they are intelligent. They are in the right spots.”

As a traditional Mike linebacker, Etheridge has tallied 208 tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss in 34 games.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound West Virginia native says the defense has improved tremendous because it can play faster and with more confidence in the second year under the direction of Brown.

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Etheridge spent the offseason learning the defensive scheme so he could play faster.

“You have to take risks to make plays,” Etheridge said. “I have been focused on becoming more of a playmaker.”

He finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles and had eight tackles for a loss last season. In Louisville’s bowl eligibility-clinching win against NC State, Etheridge had 11 tackles, broke up three passes and had an interception.

With a better understanding of Louisville’s defense this year, Etheridge doesn’t have to think as much. He wants to use his raw athleticism as the scheme becomes more instinctual.

As linebackers that have started next to each other for two years, Etheridge says he and Avery keep each other accountable.

He wants the two to play their best football in their final year together.

“It is a special thing to be able to play beside the same linebacker for four years,” Etheridge said. “This is our last ride.”