2012: Was a little different for the safety position than the previous two years of the Charlie Strong era. But then again so was the entire defense. In the past two seasons Louisville safeties were much more aggressive and played quite a bit closer to the line of scrimmage. The Cards put up some of the most impressive defensive totals in 2010 & 2011 but were susceptible to the big play. In 2012 the philosophy was different. Less aggression & forced opposing offenses to make a mistake. It’s hard to argue with the results with the only game that the style change really cost the Cards was Syracuse. Louisville was 49th against the Run and 17th against the pass in 2012.
The safety position was the saving grace of defense that gave up the most yards & points of the Charlie Strong era. With the linebackers relying heavily on two true freshman the safeties were forced to carry a heavy burden in 2012.
Calvin Pryor (6-2, 213, JR) was easily the MVP of the Cardinals Defense in 2012. Pryor played much further back than we’ve seen for a Free Safety under Charlie Strong. Calvin was trusted with a lot of responsibility behind the defense and the Cards gave up fewer big plays in 2012 than the previous two seasons. Pryor can cover a lot of ground and is a sure tackler in space. I think Calvin may have an opportunity to be an early entry into the NFL Draft in 2014 with the big season I think he is capable of. Safety is a tough position to enter early into the NFL but I think Pryor has a shot. He’ll definitely play in the NFL the question for Calvin will be in 2014 or 2015? Pryor finished with 100 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, 5 pass break-ups, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 2 INTs, a sack, and a fumble recovery. He was also 2nd Team All-Big East.
Pryor is a hard-hitting safety. He has good timing, he breaks the ball loose, and packs a punch when he gets there. But if I have one concern with Pryor’s game it’s the way he sometimes delivers the blow. Calvin often dips his head while tackling and though he actually avoids the ‘targeting’ penalty almost across the board I have concern for his safety. Dipping your head while tackling is extremely dangerous for the tackler and can often result in spine & neck injuries as well as concussions. If Pryor is going to continue to play this game for years to come his tendency to tackle in this way should be fixed. It’s true that the point of the helmet can force fumbles……but I’d rather Pryor be healthy when he is 55.
Hakeem Smith (6-1, 187, SR) was an All-Big East performer for the 3rd consecutive year. It’s hard to get on a player with 245 career tackles and 3 All-Conference selections, but I think Hakeem Smith is WAY better than he played in 2012. Hakeem is best close to the line of scrimmage and he is very physical in run defense. It’s against the pass the Smith sometimes has trouble. Case in point: 3 seasons, 1 Interception at the safety position. Also just 1 forced fumble in 2012. Lastly, against Syracuse Hakeem Smith really didn’t have his best game trying to cover Alec Lemon……..
Now that I am through nit-picking on Hakeem Smith I’d like to say that he has a great attitude and has all of the potential in the world. I just think he can be better than he was in 2012. I want him to reach the next level of his ability.
Jermaine Reve (6-0, 188, Soph) made perhaps the most impressive play of the Sugar Bowl that no one ever talks about. Reve knocked the ball loose from Florida Tight End Jordan Reed in the back corner of the endzone with :13 remaining on a 3rd Down play. Why is that impressive? Well for one Jordan Reed had both hands on the ball and Jermaine Reve knocked it out perfectly. Two, Jordan Reed is widely regarded as one of the Top 3 Tight Ends in the 2013 NFL Draft. Reve was a freshman in 2012 and finished with 32 tackles, a sack, and 4.5 TFLs. Very excited to see him in the nickel position again in 2013 and onward at Safety. Vance Bedford said last week that they will test Reve out at Corner in an effort to get him on the field, but I expect him to play quite a bit at nickel in 2013.
Gerod Holliman (6-0, 208, Soph, RS-FR?) was the player everyone was talking about rather than Jermaine Reve. Holliman played in just 3 games registering 2 tackles (recently Vance Bedford said he was a redshirt freshman, so maybe the coaches were able to save his year). The former U.S. Army All-American came to the Cards with a lot of hype, we’ve just yet to see it on the field thus far. I’m hoping to get an extended look at Holliman this Spring to see how he fits in, but with Pryor, Hakeem Smith, and Jermaine Reve’s first year we’re running out of snaps as the Cards rarely sub their safeties.
Kamal Hogan (6-0, 209, JR) played his first two seasons as a Card at the running back position and made the switch to Safety for 2012. Jack Tatum’s grandson should be a natural in the defensive backfield, but we’ve yet to see that. Hogan appeared in just one game (FIU) in 2012 and did not register statistics.
Alex Witcpalek (5-11, 205, SR) walk on from Oswego High School in Illinois. Witcpalek did not appear in 2012.
Kevin Houchins (5-11, 194, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and will factor in this upcoming season. I really liked Houchins film when he signed as a part of the 2012 class because of his ability to come up and hit. Potentially Houchins could play Corner, but I think he’ll be at free safety for his career. Houchins chose the Cards over Cincinnati and the entire MAC conference and is from Cleveland.
Charles “Chucky” Williams (6-2, 180, FR) just signed with the Cards out of Champagnat Catholic High School in Miami (where else?). If it seems like you know more about high school football in the Greater Miami area than you do in Kentucky at this point, pat yourself on the back. You are paying attention. Chucky not only has one of the coolest nicknames of the incoming guys (imagine Chucky Dolls in a few years around PJCS) but he can also play some ball. Charles chose the Cards over Ole Miss, Nebraska, Arkansas, Boston College, Clemson, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi State, Purdue, South Carolina, South Florida, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, & West Virginia. Williams could end up playing corner, but I’m going to put him at Safety for now. Williams is big, physical and can cover a lot of ground. Chucky also played QB for his high school.
Terrence Ross (6-2, 190, FR) comes from Wekiva High School in Apopka, FL (Orlando). Ross chose the Cards over Cincinnati, NC State, and Wake Forest and is a definitely safety. Ross HITS. While watching some of his films the amount of pleasure he gets while delivering a hit is evident. Ross can be very dangerous at the safety position and he was also a very good return man for his high school. Louisville is set at safety for 2013 but the spots are going to be wide open following the season. I think Ross takes the season, develops his body and understanding the scheme and competes for a starting role in 2014. It will be interesting to see if Ross red-shirts or whether the coaches elect to play him on special teams right away.
Jarrod Barnes (5-11, 185, RS-FR) is a walk on from Westerville, Ohio and redshirted last season.
The Louisville safety position is in good shape for 2013. Calvin Pryor is an elite safety. Hakeem Smith has been a very steady safety. I look for both players to have bigger years in 2013 than they had in 2012. I really would like to see Hakeem Smith create more turnovers & improve in pass coverage. If Hakeem does both of those things I think he could become a next level player. Calvin Pryor, in my opinion, already is a next level talent and after 2013 I think he will have a difficult decision to make. Jermaine Reve and Gerod Holliman are extremely talented reserves and will play quite a bit in 2013.
2013: Hakeem Smith, Alex Witcpalek, Calvin Pryor, Kamal Hogan, Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman, Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chucky Williams, Terrence Ross
2014: Calvin Pryor* (if not early entry), Kamal Hogan, Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman, Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chucky Williams, Terrence Ross
2015: Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman, Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chucky Williams, Terrence Ross,
2016: Kevin Houchins, Jarrod Barnes, Chuck Williams, Terrence Ross
2017: Chucky Williams*, Terrence Ross* (*if redshirt is used)
Want to know how to train for Spring Practice?
Think you have what it takes?
Who is WalterFootball.Com?
I don’t know, but he likes Teddy, so he is alright in my book.
2012: Were operating without the services of Dexter Heyman and lost senior Daniel Brown for a HUGE chunk of the season due to injury. Preston Brown moved to Middle Linebacker from the SAM position and as a result every position at linebacker was new. As mentioned in the D-line breakdown Run Defense was down from 10th in the nation in 2011 to 49th in 2012 (a difference of 48 yards per game). There was also a significant drop in Tackles for Loss and Sacks. The Defensive Line and Linebackers work together to achieve the Lion’s share of these metrics and so if I’m going to lay blame on the guys up front, I’ve got to do the same thing with the LBs. The production dip is understandable given the shifting of players and also the addition of two true freshman that played A LOT.
Keith Brown (6-1, 230, Soph) came to the Cards as an Army All-American and played as a true freshman in 2012. I really thought Brown had a very nice inaugural campaign for a freshman. Keith played in 10 games & finished with 57 tackles (5th on the team) and saw action in a lot of different rotations. Brown also added 2.5 Tackles for Loss and a forced fumble. Brown is a sure tackler but has some developing to do before becoming an All-Conference performer but I’m excited to see what he can do after a Spring and full off-season.
*Coach Bedford said that they are going to use Keith outside in 2013 to maximize the use of the Linebackers on roster.
James Burgess (6-0, 213, Soph) filled in very nicely for Daniel Brown and played a significant role for the Cards. Everyone remembers Terrell Floyd’s Pick 6 in the Sugar Bowl, but James Burgess actually had a lot to do with making that play successful both on the throw and the return. Burgess played in 10 games and had 28 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 INTs, and a forced fumble. I think Burgess can do better on his tackle totals with some experience and strength training but he covers a lot of ground and is very disruptive. Burgess’ true freshman year was better than I expected when the season started and I think he’ll take another step forward in 2013 at WLB.
Preston Brown (6-2, 255, SR) led the Cards in tackles with 109 in 2012. That’s a big number. I want Preston Brown to play in the NFL so I am going to be critical in that he needs to be more physical at the point of attack and behind the line of scrimmage. Brown played in all 13 games, had 109 tackes and only 3 TFLs, 1 INT. Compare that to Dexter Heyman from a year earlier (90 tackles, 16 TFLs, 3 INTs, 1 FF) and consider that Heyman was an UDFA and was released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Is Preston Brown a GOOD Middle Linebacker? Yes, of course. Preston was 2nd Team All-Big East, like Heyman was in 2011. Linebacker in the NFL is extremely competitive and to be a part of an NFL team Preston must find something in his game that sets him apart from the other 67 linebackers in college football that had a 100+ tackles in 2012. Preston needs to take his game to the next level if he wants to hear his name called in April 2014. He has the tackles, now he needs to get the turnovers and the TFLs. Preston will be given the chance as he will be the Cards’ starting MLB in 2013 and he has a great disposition.
George Durant (6-0, 235, SR) is a personal favorite of mine. I love the players who come out of nowhere and make an impact. Durant wasn’t on anyone’s radar until late 2011, but Hard Work pays off. Durant battled all season and finished 6th in tackles playing in all 13 games. Durant and Keith Brown play the same position but the Cards do have certain packages when Durant and Keith Brown are on the field at the same time. Durant gives the coaches an experienced player who is also going to push a young Keith Brown and provide depth. Durant is much better against the run than he is in pass coverage and ultimately that is why Keith Brown likely plays more snaps in 2013, but having Durant on board is huge.
Deon Rogers (6-2, 199, SR) is just constantly under-sized. Louisville has had players in the past that just could never put on weight (or lose it) and Rogers is definitely a classic case of that. Deon, however, has been a fantastic special teams contributor during his career and because of that I always thought he could be capable of more. There is no doubt that Deon is a football player, but the Cards just need him around 215 with the same speed in order for him to really factor at WLB. Rogers played in all 13 games and tallied 12 tackles.
Champ Lee (6-0, 218, SR)
signed as a part of the 2009 class and blocked the only kick for the Cards in 2012 against Pitt. Lee played in all 13 games for the Cards and like Deon Rogers, is a big part of Louisville’s special teams. It remains to be seen whether or not Lee will crack the regular rotation of linebackers in 2013.
Mike Addesa (5-11, 214, SR) is a walk-on from Meade County, saw action against Missouri State in 2012 and is questionable during Spring Drills due to injury.
Daniel Brown was limited in 2012 with an injury as he played in just 4 games. Still Daniel had 17 tackles in his senior year and was a very solid player during his career. He was a big reason why Louisville was able to put a respectable defense on the field the first two seasons of Charlie Strong.
Chris Zelli was a walk-on from Jeffersonville H.S. (IN) via Franklin College. Zelli did not see action in 2012.
Jalen Harrington (6-2, 227, Soph) could actually be coming back to Linebacker as he is listed there on the updated roster. But I’m going to stubbornly leave him at tight end. I liked him there and until I see him take snaps on defense I’m going to list him on offense.
Nick Dawson (6-3, 250, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 after a death in his family interrupted his Fall Camp. It worked out for everyone as Louisville had adequate depth at linebacker and really didn’t need to play 3 true freshman at linebacker. Dawson now has some space between this year’s seniors and will be able to really have an impact for the Cards. Still red-shirting U.S. Army All-American linebackers is not something the Louisville program is known for doing. Dawson had 126 tackles, 12 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles in 11 games as a senior and chose Louisville over Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, UK, Maryland, Miami, Pitt, UNC, UCLA, USC, NC State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. Dawson will battle for snaps this Fall, watch for him this Spring.
*Coach Bedford recently said that Dawson is going to play OLB/DE in the Spring.
Tyon Dixon (5-11, 211, JR) is returning from surgery that required him to miss 2012. The injury happened in Fall Camp. Dixon had cracked the 2-deep at MLB and was definitely going to play a role on Special Teams. I’m not entirely sure where his rehab is for Spring Practice, but the injury happened early enough in Fall Camp that he MIGHT be recovered in time to participate. We’ll keep an eye out. Dixon appeared in 5 games during 2011.
*Note Tyon Dixon is OUT for Spring Drills.
Lamar Atkins (5-11, 223, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 from Miami Norland H.S. Atkins is Keith Brown’s brother and has a reputation of being effective against the run. Atkins had an offer from Illinois as well. I think Atkins is probably a season away from cracking the regular rotation but he’ll play in 2013 most likely at special teams.
Royce Donovan (6-2, 200, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 after walking-on from Male.
Donel Elam (6-1, 200, FR) comes from Fleming Island High School in Orange Park, FL which is just south of Jacksonville. Elam held offers from Iowa State, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, West Virigina. I liked Elam’s video, this is someone who in the last 3 years probably comes to Louisville and plays right away. Elam is physical! He’s gets behind the line of scrimmage and he reads and reacts extremely well. He looks bigger than his listed 200 pounds so I really want to see what his official weight is when he arrives this summer. Louisville signed 3 freshman linebackers in the 2013 class and I think one of those will play this coming season with the other 2 retaining their red-shirt.
Lyn Clark (6-2, 225, FR) comes from New Orleans! A new recruiting ground for the Cards no doubt uncovered from the Sugar Bowl. Clark comes from O. Perry Walker School. Clark is a guy that I think we’ll see pop up in 2015 but I think he’ll be worth the wait. Clark had over 100 tackles his senior season and chose the Cards over Colorado, Kentucky, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Purdue, Tulane, UCF, and Utah.
Keith Kelsey (6-1, 217, FR) is an eventual middle linebacker for the Cards. I don’t know the time frame and he’ll probably go from a Special Teams standout to a Strongside Linebacker to Middle Linebacker but Kelsey can play. The Cards snatched Kelsey out of Gainesville High School and many recruiting analysts did not understand why he did not get an offer from Florida. Kelsey did have offers from Duke, Iowa State, Kentucky, Marshall, Purdue, South Florida, UCF, Utah, and Wake. I loved Keith’s highlight film and I look forward to seeing what he can do at the college level.
Leroy Kelson (Soph) is Donel Elam’s brother and will walk on to the Cards. Kelson comes from William T. Dwyer High School and was teammates with Gerald Christian and Robert Clark at William T. Dwyer. Kelson is questionable during Spring Drills per UofL.
Louisville’s linebacker unit returns completely. Daniel Brown departs, but he was available for just 4 games. The Cards have depth with Nick Dawson coming on board and George Durant waiting in the wings. I DO think we will see a battle at WLB. I don’t think the coaching staff just wants to let James Burgess HAVE the starting job but even behind Burgess the battle for #2 could heat up. I also think the coaching staff might look at putting together a bigger unit of the 3 especially in obvious run situations. The Cards did showcase Preston Brown, Keith Brown, and George Durant at times and Louisville does play a lot of nickel which removes the need for a WLB. But I think in the end Brian Jean-Mary is going to use a lot of different combinations in various scenarios to maximize his group. Louisville’s linebackers have all of the talent in the world and they do need to play better in the coming season than they did in 2012. I wouldn’t mind seeing another top guy or two in this group, but the Cards should excel at this position in 2013.
2013: Preston Brown, George Durant, Deon Rogers, Champ Lee, Mike Addesa, Tyon Dixon, Keith Brown, James Burgess, Leroy Kelson, Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey
2014: Tyon Dixon, Keith Brown, James Burgess, Leroy Kelson, Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey
2015: Keith Brown, James Burgess, Leroy Kelson, Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey
2016: Nick Dawson, Lamar Atkins, Royce Donovan, Donel Elam, Lyn Clark, Keith Kelsey,
2017: *Donel Elam, *Lyn Clark, *Keith Kelsey
Next Release: Safeties March 11, 2013 8:30 a.m.