LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Like every other college football program at the Division I level, Louisville has certainly been impacted by the transfer portal this offseason.
Just past the halfway point of the month of January, the Cardinals have had 13 players enter the portal since the end of the 2022 regular season, ranging from potential starters to strictly role players.
While, in theory, there could still be more players that decide to depart the program, Louisville is starting to have some semblance as to who they will actually have returning for the 2023 season. Especially considering the deadline to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft has passed, and that the 45-day transfer portal window closed this past Wednesday.
On the other side of that coin, newly-hired head coach Jeff Brohm and the rest of the coaching staff has done an amazing job at bringing in talent via the portal. So far, 12 transfers have committed to Louisville, and many of them have the potential to be high-impact playmakers from day one.
But, Louisville is far from done. As of Jan. 19, the Cardinals are currently at a 77-man scholarship roster – well short of the designated 85-man limit. Not to mention that there will be another window from May 1 to May 15 following spring practices in which players can enter the transfer portal without penalty, on top of the plethora of uncommitted players still in the portal.
The staff is certainly still recruiting out of the high school ranks for the 2023 class after a sizable haul during the early signing period, but most of these open spots are very likely to go to more D1 transfers.
What type of players should Louisville look for in the portal? Here are their four biggest current roster needs:
The utilization of the linebacking corps is likely going to look a lot different in 2023. Gone is Bryan Brown’s 3-4 scheme, and the Cardinals will likely shift to a 4-2-5 scheme should Ron English be officially tabbed as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator.
But even if this is not the exact defensive scheme that Louisville will run, inside linebacker is still arguably their most dire area of need. Both Monty Montgomery and Dorian Jones, who were projected to be the starting ILB duo for next season, entered the transfer portal and will finish their careers elsewhere.
That leaves the position extremely thin and inexperienced. K.J. Cloyd was behind Jones in the linebacker rotation, Jackson Hamilton played just 13 defensive snaps all season, Jaylin Alderman didn’t play a single snap on defense or special teams in 2022, and T.J. Quinn will likely back up Benjamin Perry at STAR should Louisville adopt English’s 4-2-5.
True freshman Stanquan Clark is talented enough to have a sizable role in year one, but Louisville has to grab at least one starting inside linebacker out of the portal. Perhaps even two.
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It’s a changing of the guard on the offensive line. Three starters in Caleb Chandler, Adonis Boone and Trevor Reid all graduated, and a projected 2023 starter in Luke Kandra entered the transfer portal and is now at Cincinnati.
Louisville does retain their starting center in Bryan Hudson, starting right tackle in Renato Brown, and Michael Gonzalez should have a seamless transition to starting left tackle. Not to mention that the Cardinals have likely landed their starting left guard in Virginia transfer John Paul Flores.
However, depth is a little bit of a concern. Austin Collins is a serviceable backup center, and true freshmen early enrollees Madden Sanker and Luke Burgess will likely work their way into the rotation. But after that are five scholarship players who have hardly seen the field, or even not at all.
The consensus in 2022 was that the offensive line was good, but underachieved a bit given the talent they had. If Louisville wants to avoid a large drop off in protection and run blocking, they’ll have to keep searching the portal for more offensive lineman, especially at the guard position.
The tight end had a very specific role in Scott Satterfield’s offense. It had a premium on blocking, with only one – Marshon Ford – having a regular role in the passing game.
Now, Louisville is moving to a scheme that is the exact opposite in their utilization of tight ends, and they don’t have many who fit this play style. In fact, the four scholarship returners at the position – Dez Melton, Frances Sherman, Duane Martin and Nate Kurisky – combined for just three reception for 43 yards in 2022.
By default, Jamari Johnson will likely get a ton of early playing time as a true freshman. However, Louisville will need a veteran receiving tight end that compliments their now-loaded wide receiver room. Even another true freshman might not hurt, so long as they fit the mold of what Brohm is looking for.
This one is pretty self explanatory. After posting one of the best punting seasons ever by a Louisville player, Mark Vassett opted to enter the transfer portal, and later ended up at Colorado. Unless the Cardinals opt to convert Brock Travelstead to a punter, or maybe go with one of their walk-on kickers, they will need to add a punter to their roster
Other Spots to Consider
This past season with all the injuries that plagues the position, we saw first hand how important having a deep running back room is. Jawhar Jordan and Maurice Turner are both back, Brohm added an underrated back in Isaac Guerendo through the portal and Keyjuan Brown from high school. Four should be good enough, but adding a fifth running back – likely a younger one with lots of eligibility left – might not be a bad idea.
Louisville might be losing Kei’Trel Clark to the NFL Draft, as well as a couple other cornerbacks, but they’re still in relatively decent shape here. Quincy Riley and Jarvis Brownlee will likely be the starters, and will be backed up by Trey Franklin, Marquis Groves-Killebrew and possibly even true freshman Aaron Williams. But as is with receiver, you can never have enough playmakers at corner, so taking a look at who is left in the portal once more pressing needs are addressed wouldn’t hurt.
(Photo of Jeff Brohm: Matt Stone – The Louisville Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)
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