I may be a little bias toward our next group we look at since the defensive line is where I spent the majority of my time during my football “career” but also because it’s a group of guys who could very well be the biggest strength on the Cardinal defense. Coaches Charlie Strong, Vance Bedford, Clint Hurtt, Brian Jean-Mary, Tommy Restivo and the rest of the defensive staffers helped guide the Cards to a third straight season finishing in the top 25 nationally, finishing 23rd in total defense and 16th versus the pass. While the defense returns 10 full time starters, losing only Adrian Bushell, there are 12 guys back with at least 3 starts last season including defensive tackles Jamiane Brooks (6-foot-4, 330 lbs. Jr) and Brandon Dunn (6-foot-3, 285 lbs. Sr) and defensive ends, Lorenzo Mauldin (6-foot-4, 240 lbs. Jr), Marcus Smith (6-foot-3, 252 lbs. Sr) and the very versatile Deiontrez Mount (6-foot-5, 243 lbs. Jr). Not to be outdone, the Cards have some serious talent in reserve linemen DeAngelo Brown (6 foot, 310 lbs. So), BJ Dubose (6-foot-5, 273 lbs. Jr), Roy Philon (6-foot-3, 290 lbs. Sr), Sheldon Rankins (6-foot-2, 287 lbs. S0) and redshirt freshman Pedro Sibiea (6-foot-3, 293 lbs. R-Fr).
Mauldin is the team’s leading sack leader from 2012 with 4.5 while Marcus Smith is second with 4 but is also the only linemen with an interception credited to his name. Mount has the ability to pass rush and fall back in coverage but is also big enough and strong enough to stop the run. Mount finished with 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 pass break up and 2 quarterback hurries. Look for a big explosive year from Mount with much improved numbers. Dunn finished with 28 tackles including 2 sacks and is a big athletic body in the middle that is capable of being an all-conference tackle. Brooks had a great spring campaign and is poised to have a break-out season.
Philon keeps getting better and better and played in all 13 games and made seven starts, finishing the season with 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. DeAngelo Brown and Rankins both stepped in as true freshmen and played very well and should continue to provide quality minutes and push guys like Dunn, Brooks and Philon for playing time. The wildcard here is Dubose. Dubose was highly touted coming out of Northeast high school in Oakland Park, FL and in 2011 as a true freshman played in all 13 games making 3 starts. In his first start he made a career high six tackles and two sacks. Last season he only played in 7 games making 4 starts as he got into Strong’s doghouse and was suspended for the remainder of the season. BJ has the size, athleticism and skills to be one of the best defensive ends in the country and he is now focused on having a huge junior season. Sibiea redshirted last season and should benefit from that and could be a sleeper to watch at the tackle position.
Strong and his staff pulled in one of the better defensive line recruiting classes in Louisville history with guys like Finesse Middleton, De’Asian Richardson, Kyle Shortridge and Stacy Thomas, who is listed as a linebacker but I believe will ultimately end up at end. Middleton enrolled in school in January and had a pretty good spring camp so he has a leg up on the other guys for early playing time. Expect Richardson, Shortridge and Thomas to contribute early, just not this season as I believe they will redshirt and gain valuable skills and strength. If the Cards can stay healthy Middleton will likely redshirt as well but don’t be surprised to see him this season on the new field turf making plays.
By: Shane Stovall – Cardinal Dominance Co-Owner and Senior Writer
*Cardinal Dominance will next take a look at the ultra-talented and deep receiving corp. that features DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland, Eli Rogers and Michalee Harris among possibly the best group of tight ends in recent UofL history. Since I’m on vacation next week, look for the receiver’s breakdown during the middle of June.