--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Seth Spalding
Bobby Petrino and the Louisville Cardinals released their first depth chart of 2018 Monday, ahead of Saturday’s matchup with No. 1 Alabama. On the initial listings, there were a few key things to take away. Here’s a few standouts:
Rodjay Burns will have an impact this season
Louisville’s redshirt sophomore cornerback is listed as a starter for multiple positions, on defense and special teams. The transfer from Ohio State is listed as an option for the strong side corner, and is the punt returner and kick
He is not a bad option. He was a two-way specialist at Trinity, and was on the 2014 state championship team. ESPN had him as the No. 3 athlete in Kentucky. He was also in the top 50 athletes by ESPN and Scout. Burns was the No. 73 cornerback of the 2016 class by 247Sports.
He appeared in seven games at Ohio State, returning a touchdown against Bowling Green, and tackling one.
The defense looks… different
No unit changed as much as the defense in 2018. They switched defensive coordinators, and only return one starter from last year’s initial depth chart. That starter, MLB Dorian Etheridge, proved to be a stud for Sirmon last season.
Aside from him, there is some talent on the defense. Burns could be an interesting corner. Russ Yeast was a four-star when recruited. PJ Mbanasor was a four-star transfer from Oklahoma.
Only one freshman is projected to start. That is linebacker Nick Okeke. Aside from that, VanGorder’s first string is comprised of mainly sophomores and juniors. The senior leader in the secondary is Dee Smith; who is a senior. He also may compete with Cornelius Sturghill, who enters their last year of eligibility.
Only five Seniors are on the depth chart on defense. Even if they don’t come together this year, the defense will be a unit to keep an eye on in 2019.
The offensive line is stacked
Mike Summer’s unit is stacked up front. The sizes are 6-4, 301 lbs; 6-6, 328 lbs, 6-3,316; 6-6, 318; and 6-7, 355. All of the players listed are above 6-feet, and near or above 300 lbs. The right side, comprised of Lukayas McNeil and Mekhi Becton, looks like a brick wall on paper. Becton is 6-7, 355, while McNeil is 6-6, 318. McNeil is also a redshirt Senior, and brings experience to the unit.
Another noticeable fact, is that there are only two freshmen on the depth chart on the line. Three linemen are Seniors. With experience, hopefully comes results.
Louisville’s stacked line will hopefully keep the opposing team’s front seven off Jawon Pass, and keep the trenches clear.
Six Running backs?
Last year, Louisville had three listed on the first depth chart. This year, they have six. It’s the largest unit by one position, and includes two familiar faces (Trey Smith and Dae Williams), as well as three freshmen.
This, in addition to the stacked line and Jawon Pass’s rushing ability, should give Louisville no shortage of running options.
The legs are strong
Both players that will be using their legs on a football return from last year. Mason King proved to be a good punter, and Blanton Creque was one of the best placekickers Louisville has had. King can boot a ball over 40 yards. Creque is accurate, and doesn’t fold under pressure often. If a game comes down to the wire, and is within three, you can bet the kickers will have it under control.
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