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)