Newcomers Slowly Adding Defensive Depth for Louisville Football
At this point in time, it's well documented what the coaching staff for the Louisville Football program inherited following the conclusion of the 2018 season. Not only was the new staff tasked with changing the culture of the program, but they were also left with an unbalanced roster to work with.
Due to the previous staff placing a premium on skill position players during recruiting, it subsequently left most other positions groups with little to no depth - particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It showed last year with Louisville sporting a top 30 offense but bottom 30 defense during the 2019 season
"I think the things (the defense has) dealt with a little but is depth issues, and that's something that we continue to talk about.," defensive coordinator Bryan Brown said in a teleconference with reporters Monday. "That's what we have to continue to fill with within this recruiting class that we have this coming up year and the following year."
Fortunately, it's an issue that the staff started to address from the moment they arrived on campus. For the upcoming 2020 season, there are 15 newcomers (freshmen & JUCO) on the defensive side of the ball - many of which will see a respectable amount of playing time this season.
Where Brown believes Louisville has made the most strides depth-wise defensively is on the defensive line. The linebacker corps and secondary might have more scholarship bodies, but all the additions made up front now allow Louisville to not have to rely as much on their starters.
"You have to be able to rotate (the defensive line) to keep them fresh for the whole season," Brown said. "If you just play your first and second group, those guy will be down and you're no doubt playing your threes and fours for sure. So I think the defensive line is a little bit better this year."
The Cards add five new pieces on the defensive line in JUCO Yaya Diaby; and freshmen JaDarien Boykin, Henry Bryant, Jared Dawson & Dezmond Tell.
While haven't added as many pieces at linebacker heading into this upcoming year and still aren't that deep overall, outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison thinks the combination of retaining talent and new comers gives the Cards added flexibility. Louisville added JUCO LBs Marvin Dallas & KJ Cloyd and freshmen Kam Wilson & Zay Peterson.
"It adds value in what you can do schematically," Dennison said last month. "It creates new things and new ideas that you can do as a defensive coach, so it's always a good thing."
Then we have the secondary. Heading into this season, this is where the most defensive additions have been made and is also the deepest unit on the defense with 14 scholarship players. The issue here is that there's not a ton of in-game experience except towards the top of the depth chart,
"We got numbers, we just don't have a lot of guys with a lot of experience," Brown said. "We don't have true, true depth yet."
Louisville added freshmen Lovie Jenkins, Marqui Lowery, Jamel Starks, Josh Minkins and Jamie "Greedy" Vance as well as Liberty transfer Kei'Trel Clark. However only three corners (Character, Johnson, Jones) and three safeties (Hayes, Yeast, Fagot) saw meaningful game time last season.
But it won't be long until the Cardinals get to that point of "true depth". As it stands right now, Louisville sports a 22-man 2021 recruiting class, with 13 of them coming on the defensive side of the ball.
"Rome wasn't build in one day," Brown said. "We're going to continue to strive in the recruiting aspect of it, but I think this defense will be better than it was last year for sure."
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