Football season is fast approaching and The Courier Journal is gearing up for the start of fall camp, which kicks off on August 8, naming those who we believe are the 30 most important players to Louisville’s success.
The Cardinals open their season against Ole Miss in Atlanta on September 6. And this is a ranking of the most important players before this game. The first three stories in this series included all defensive players, but we changed it slightly in the last edit.
The offense has some production to replace after losing wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick in the NFL Draft with running back Javian Hawkins. The defense, although they’ve lost a few starters, are largely coming back to a group that was in the top 50 in total defense last season and expects to improve yet again.
Editor’s Note: Over 30 days, Courier Journal’s Louisville football beat writer Cameron Teague Robinson and multimedia sports journalist Dominique Yates count their 30 most important Louisville players for the 2021 season.
After:Louisville adds Zavion Thomas’ second wide wide receiver to its 2022 recruiting class
Cameron: outside linebacker Nick Okeke
Louisville’s depth at the outside linebacker, especially at his “DOG” position, will be a strength of the defense. Yasir Abdullah has to have a big season, Okeke will support him, but you also have Kameron Wilson. Abdullah will likely start, but Okeke is going to get a lot of shots this season to back him up.
The 6-3, 240-pound linebacker has had a good offseason and the coaching staff are excited about Abdullah and Okeke’s tandem this season. It’s important to note that this offseason the staff have mentioned how versatile Okeke is, so there’s a chance you’ll see him moving through the linebacker body as well.
He had 30 tackles and two tackles for a loss last season. Coming out of this season, in his junior red shirt year, Okeke looks set to improve. If so, it will be crucial for improving Louisville’s defense, again, under the leadership of defensive coordinator Bryan Brown.
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Dominique: running back Jalen Mitchell
Mitchell finished the 2020 season with 347 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a reserve role, but it’s what he did at the end of the season that shows the potential of a breakout year.
After star Javian Hawkins chose to step down at the end of the year to prepare for the NFL and substitute Maurice Burkley was ruled out in the final, Mitchell split his time with Hassan Hall and did good impression. Against Wake Forest, he ran for 168 yards on 20 carries and won ACC Rookie of the Week honors.
Look for Mitchell to build on his momentum this season.
What you missed
# 30: Cameron: security Benjamin Perry; Dominica: DE Tabarius Peterson
# 29: Cameron: cornerback Greedy Vance; Dominica: security Benjamin Perry
Cameron # 28: linebacker Jack Fagot; Dominica: cornerback Greedy Vance