National Signing Day is quickly approaching and for the University of Louisville football program, the major concern is the same as it has been for over a decade: DEPTH. Last year was a prime example of what can happen when injuries decimate a team’s starting rotation. The national powers are able to overcome this challenge by stockpiling talent to ease the strains of a long brutal season. If Louisville is to compete for National Championships, it must improve the depth of its roster and do so in a hurry, especially in the trenches.
Over the last several years, the Cards have been loading up on four star quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers and that trend is looking to continue in 2017. Unfortunately, another trend seems to likely continue as well, the lack of highly rated OL and DL recruits signing with UofL. Cardinalsports.com recruiting information records only nine 4 star recruits that were offensive or defensive lineman for the Cards since 2002. Out of the nine, only two were major contributors to the program, Earl Heyman and Devonte Fields. The Cards have been able to overcome their line recruiting woes by developing talent, but if the program plans on having the depth to compete for National Championships, it must attract four star linemen as well as develop its three star talent. Is this story likely to change this National Signing Day? Let’s take a look.
The Defensive Line
The Cards return 10 players (not counting Young) who accounted for 120 tackles and 3 sacks. 87 of those tackles and the three sacks are credited to two players – Drew Baily and Chris Williams. The depth on the defensive line is shallower than a Kardasian and according to CardinalSports.com, UofL has only three defensive linemen commits for 2017. To add salt to the wound, the 2017 commits are all three star or less prospects. Accompanying this shortage of talent is the assumption that the Cards will switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme, creating even more depth issues. So unless UofL flips some serious defensive line talent on February 1st the narrative seems likely to stay the same for the d-line. Develop young talent in a hurry, move talented players from other positions to the DL, or pray the starters stay at full strength all season.
Additional note – four of the 10 returning defensive linemen will be seniors. Kids, this year………. ask Santa for some d-line recruits.
The Offensive Line
Louisville lists 16 returning offensive lineman for 2017 and many great football minds (of which I am not) tell RRTG that fans can be confident that they have three good ones – Christian, Thomas, and McNeil. Unless things have changed in the last couple of months, that leaves 3 solid O-linemen to fill five spots. Depth is an issue on the offensive line. Currently UofL has four committed offensive linemen in the class of 2017. They, like their d-line brethren, are rated 3 stars or less by Rivals. I’m pretty sure every red and black fan knows that Louisville has a major task of building depth across the o-line and hopefully this National Signing Day will ease the pain of the building process. You know what else would ease the pain? A couple of four star o-line recruits jumping at the chance to protect the Heisman Trophy winner, play for a coach who has put a ton of guys into the NFL, and start as a true freshman. Will our prayers be answered and this scenario come true? I don’t know but we will find out on February 1st.
* Article written before Odoms commitment. Santa must be coming early this year