Yasir Abdullah has a lot of responsibilities.
As a "Dog" outside linebacker for the Louisville Football program his job is to get after the quarterback in pass rushing situations, and to set the edge on running plays as well. At times he also has to drop back in coverage against both tight ends and running backs in the flats.
However something that hampered Abdullah a season ago was his frame. At a position that regularly goes up against offensive tackles & tight ends that range from six-foot-four to six-foot-seven & 260 - 340 pounds, the Miramar, Fla. native came in at just six-foot-one and 218 pounds according to the 2019 roster.
"The weight was something that we discussed, it was big for him," outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison said in a teleconference with reporters Thursday after practice. "Bulking up in strength was big for him just because he's on the edge so much and he's going to be going up against bigger body type on every play."
So Abdullah got to work in the offseason, and it paid off significant dividends. Thanks to a diet that mostly consisted of raw meats such as chicken & steak and an offseason workout plan, he gained nearly twenty pounds and is now up to 235.
After coming in seventh on the team last year in tackles with 45, Abdullah has had more success in fall camp this year as opposed to last, and believes that his effort in the weight room will translate well on the field in his upcoming junior year.
"It's gonna be a huge difference," Abdullah said. "I kind of struggled with that. But now I put on a few pounds - I'm like 235 - just trying to shed O-linemen off this year is way easier.
Abdullah has made more than just physical strides though. He is a lot more comfortable and outgoing in his second year under the DC Bryan Brown's scheme. Dennison says that Abdullah is a lot less reserved and even went as far to say he has "really come out of his shell". As a starter, he is viewed as one of the leaders of the defense given his role as a linebacker.
"Back then when I was younger, I was just getting used to the new coaching staff and stuff and I was just staying quiet," Abdullah said. "Going through the process now, I'm really comfortable with the flow. I know what I'm doing. Speaking up now is just like second nature to me."
He's not the only one speaking up. Abdullah says that the entire defense now does, whether that's on the field or in a meeting. They primarily use their overall performance last year as motivation to get better, as Louisville was 102nd in total defense in 2019 across all of FBS.
Of course during practice, the offense - who ranked top 30 in both scoring and total defense in 2019 - gives them plenty of motivation as well.
"They talk shit, we talk shit, you know how that goes," Abdullah quipped.
Louisville will return to the practice fields Saturday morning at 9:30am for their tenth practice of fall camp after taking Friday off. The Cards are set to kickoff the season against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Cardinal Stadium.
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