By Paul Sykes
A third of the 12 defensive linemen on the University of Louisville football roster will be playing in their first collegiate game when the Cardinals kick off against Indiana State. Depth was a major issue last season but there appear to be plenty of bodies as a new season dawns. U of L is currently three deep at each slot,Â but it’s anybody’s guess how effective the unit will be in slowing down the opposition.
If determination counts, the defensive line will manage to get an occasional hand on opposing quarterbacks this season.
Among returning players, Greg Scruggs has bulked up considerably and looks like an absolutely physical beast, anchoring one end of the Cards’ line. Senior Rodney Gnat will get the probable nod on the other side.Â William Savoy and L.D. Scott are veteran backups. If determination counts, the defensive line will manage to get an occasional hand on opposing quarterbacks this year.
Defensive tackle could be a wide open. Joe Townsend, a junior collegeÂ transfer from San Jose, CA. is listed as a starter. Veteran L.T. Walker gets the early nod at the other interior line position. Tyler Jessen is listed as backup at both spots and three other Cardinals will contend for the reserve roles.
Walker was an effective run stopper so most opponents, excluding WVU, just avoided him and threw the ball.Â Both Drew Davis and Dominic Lagone come off red-shirt years to contend for backup positions. None of these guys look like Joe Johnson or Ted Washington yet, but at this point fans must settle for four guys who can create the occasional negative yardage.
A good pass rush forgives a lot of sins. Quarterbacks had plenty of time in 2008 to sit in the pocket and find the ideal receiver. The front four will need to turn up the pressure and finish the season strong. Steve Kragthorpe’s team allowed only one 400-yard-plus effort by an opponent (Memphis) in the first nine games. Unfortunately, the final three foes of the year easily topped that mark.
With experience returning at linebacker and defensive secondary, a steady and productive front four could get the ball back for the offense a little quicker and more often.