Depth. It’s crucial in the sport of football. While it represents a safety net in the unfortunate event of an injury, it has another underemphasized but equally important value. It makes the team play harder. Every day in practice is a battle for a starting spot that unleashes the best of the best.
Get On The Mike
This season Louisville is experiencing just that kind of valuable depth at the Linebacker position. It’s already made itself evident before the season has even started. Junior Preston Brown has won over the Mike (middle) linebacker position after starting the year at the Sam (strong-side) position. He’s battled his way to becoming the leader. Last year he tied for second in tackles on the team with Hakeem Smith. This year he looks to dominate and become the best defensive player on the team.
Fighting with Preston for the Mike position are two freshmen, Keith Brown and Nick Dawson. Some have been surprised by the fact that Keith Brown will not be starting on opening day after being named Athlon Sports “Top Impact Freshman” for the Big East in 2012. He was one of our top recruits out of South Florida this year and he is sure to make an impact at some point this season. It may be hard for Nick Dawson to see playing time this year with the caliber of athletes in front of him on the depth chart, but don’t rule it out. At 6’3 and 228 pounds, he’s a big guy with a big upside.
Sam I Am
Since Preston Brown has been moved to the middle, Louisville has had another interesting battle on the strong side. After Preston Brown moved to the middle, most people thought that this position would be occupied by the impressive freshman Keith Brown. However since he was also moved to the middle junior George Durant has taken over. Durant is a 6’0, 234 pound junior who recorded two tackles in all of last year. Most importantly, he made some headlines for calling Kentucky, “#kenF*CKy” in a tweet. Odds are that he battled his way to the starting position, but it’s more fun to believe that he got the job for being a tenacious tweeter. Behind George Durant are junior Champ Lee and redshirt freshman Jalen Harrington who have both received high praise from the coaching staff.
The Will (weak-side) spot is certainly not looking weak. Senior Daniel Brown who recorded 39 tackles last season will be starting here. Brown is explosive and has packed on almost 40 pounds of muscle since the beginning of the 2011 season. Expect to see a big year from him.
Behind Daniel Brown are freshman James Burgess and junior Deon Rogers. Burgess has been great in practices and, along with Keith Brown, has seen reps with the first-team defense. He is guaranteed to be on the field this year making a freshman impact.
Louisville has two large men that they are referring to as hybrid players. Deiontrez Mount is 6’5 and 243 pounds. The depth chart has him listed as a second-string defensive end, but the coaches have made it clear that we will also be seeing him in the linebacker position. The other hybrid defensive-end/linebacker is Lorenzo Mauldin who is 6’4 and tips the scale at 240 pounds. These are two massive guys to have in our backfield and although they will not be every down players, they are sure to have a huge payoff in run stopping (think goal line situations).
Louisville is absolutely stacked with high-caliber athletes at this position. I wouldn’t expect any running backs to have career games against us this year. Teams are going to be forced to try beating us with their passing game and still have to avoid a scary pass rush. Even with the offensive threat that players like Bridgewater, Dominique Brown, and Eli Rogers bring, defense is Coach Strong and the Cardinals specialty. Along with an extremely talented D-Line, the linebackers are the anchor of this team and I expect they will live up to the hype.
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