In 2010 Johnny Patrick (New Orleans Saints) and Bobby Burns rarely left the field at the cornerback position. Louisville finished 9th in Passing Defense while allowing just 167.4 yards per game. In 2011, Vance Bedford was preparing to replace both starting corners including one that was an All-Big East Selection when something lucky happened: Adrian Bushell (5-11, 184) fell out of the sky and into his lap. Bushell missed the first two games as he arrived just weeks before the start of the season, but he still managed to be named to the All-Big East 1st Team while accounting for 50 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 4 Passes Defended, a forced fumble, 2 blocked kicks, and a kickoff return for a TD. Personally I thought Bushell was named to the 1st team not based on his above average Cornerback skills, but his outstanding special teams contributions. Is Bushell a better corner than Johnny Patrick? No, but that doesn’t mean he can’t prove me wrong in 2012.
Bedford counted on having at least one Senior to lead the group in Anthony Conner. Conner, however was lost with the biggest scare in recent memory for the Cards when he broke his neck while making a tackle against Rutgers’ Mohammed Sanu. Luckily Conner was fine and no permanent damage was done, but still the Cards lost their lone returning corner with collegiate experience. Andrew Johnson (5-9, 187) filled in admirably and held down the opposite side of the field from Bushell surprisingly well for a true freshman, even one with offers from LSU, Ole Miss, and Nebraska. The true freshman corner who shares the same name as the 17th President of the United States, is a deft tackler and also understands that he isn’t the fastest player on the field and plays his man accordingly. Johnson’s best moment in 2011 was his FG Block Return (from Bushell) for a TD and blowing kisses to the West Virginia Cheerleaders. The 15-yards was well worth it and Johnson finished 2011 with 25 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 4 PBUs, and a fumble recovery.
Terrell Floyd (5-10, 199) was another true freshman who received an opportunity to play at corner. Floyd’s biggest problem was his tackling as was evident during the North Carolina game when WR Dwight Jones basically dragged him into the endzone for a long TD. Floyd’s coverage skills also were far from polished, but Floyd has gone to work. Floyd has added 29 lbs. to his frame since his arrival at Louisville last summer when he arrived at 170 lbs. In the Spring Floyd looked like a guy ready to make an impact as he was physical, exhibited good ball skills, and was noticeably bigger. I think Floyd builds significantly on his 13 Tackles as I think he has earned more of his coaches’ trust in the offseason. Stephan Robinson (5-10, 170) has gone back and forth between WR and CB, but is sticking at Cornerback. Robinson is really fast and physical. I like his ability a lot at the corner spot and a I personally believe he belongs at CB with his skill set.
The player I was most excited to see play at this position was Charles Gaines (5-11, 188). Gaines came to Louisville as a WR and was moved to CB before Bushell’s arrival. In fact, before Adrian Bushell was in the fold for the Cards spirits were down about the corner spot because Gaines had just suffered a shoulder injury that was going to require Gaines to redshirt. Before his injury last Fall and during Spring Drills this year I had a chance to watch Gaines closely, and developed this opinion: HE IS AWESOME. And from what I understand he may be pulling some time at Corner but is going to primarily be a Wide Receiver in 2012. Either way Gaines is a major weapon.
Bushell, Johnson, Floyd, and Robinson are the guys I expect to see the most at Corner for Louisville in 2012. But there are a few other guys to keep an eye on. Kevin Houchins (5-11, 193) is a true freshman from Cleveland and Devontre Parnell (5-11. 176) is a true freshman from Winnsboro, SC, both of these young men were highly touted Corners coming out of high school. From the films I was able to see it looked like Parnell is the better runner, while Houchins is more physical. If this was last year the Cards would be relying on these two to come in and play right away, but I’m not so sure that will be necessary. By mid-season I think both of these guys will be ready to go, but I’d expect at least one to redshirt to get some space between them and last year’s group. I’ve heard a lot of good things from the coaching staff about Parnell, they just are concerned with his size.
Titus Teague (5-11, 170) might be the most talked about player of all-time to never see the field. Teague usually has nice Springs and then disappears during the Fall but could in a pinch provide some depth. Jordon Paschal (5-8, 180) I really like as a Nickel but could play some corner if necessary. Jordon started Fall Camp dressed out but on crutches and in a walking boot which probably signals the fact that he won’t be out for too long.
One great thing about the cornerbacks is that there is only one senior and the players who gain experience in 2012 will bring all of that back in 2013. This unit’s maturation from a painfully young group in 2011 to a young and experienced group will no doubt lift the team’s Passing Defense from 68th and hopefully the Cards can get more turnovers from the position as Louisville cornerbacks only intercepted 2 balls last season. I look for that to change in a big way in 2012.
The University of Louisville Defense has been a Top 25 unit since Charlie Strong’s arrival in 2010 but surprisingly has gone about it in two different ways. In 2010 Louisville’s passing defense was 9th in the nation and the run defense was 52nd. This was primarily due to Louisville’s smallish Defensive line teams elected to try to run the ball rather than go against two veteran corners in Johnny Patrick and Bobby Burns. In 2011 the result was the same, but for different reasons. Louisville finished 10th in the nation in rushing defense and 68th in passing defense. This time Louisville’s defensive front proved to be tough to run against, while the Cards were replacing 3 of 4 players in the secondary. In 2012 teams will have trouble figuring out what area to attack as Louisville returns 9 of 11 starters back on their defense.
Vance Bedford and Charlie Strong play an aggressive brand of defense. There are so many different alignments whether it is a 4-3, 3-4, 3-3-5, Nickel, Dime, 3-2-6. And then there are the personnel changes that can happen at any given time, like my favorite of pulling a defensive end inside on 3rd and Long. But no matter what changes the only thing that remains the same is PRESSURE. Louisville’s goal since Charlie Strong’s arrival has been to stop the run and put pressure on the opposing quarterback. The results have been startling since this staff got to work: Two Top 25 Defenses 14th in 2010, and 23rd in 2011. Two Top 20 Defenses in Scoring 18th in 2010, and 17th in 2011, and Consecutive years of Top 20 in Sacks. Still there is room for improvement, last year the Cards were susceptible to the pass, didn’t create many turnovers, didn’t get off the field on 3rd down very well, and was 109th in punting, and 116th in Kickoff Returns. Small gains in these areas collectively would result in a HUGE gain for the season.