Immediate Impact?

If there's a concern for Charlie Strong's defense it's depth on the defensive line. Newcomers DeAngelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins could improve the situation.

It's hard to find many weaknesses on Louisville's defense, a Top 25 unit last season that returns 10 starters in 2012. But if there's a concern for Charlie Strong after the completion of spring practice it would be depth on the defensive line.

The return of junior defensive tackle Roy Philon, who missed spring practice because of injury, will help matters up front. So, too, could the additions of DeAngelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins, a pair of highly regarded defensive linemen from Georgia who signed with the Cardinals in February.

Brown, a 6'1, 300 pound defensive tackle who maxes out on the bench press at 500 pounds, was a dominant force for Savannah Christian's undefeated state championship team as a senior. Louisville's top interior defensive line recruit, Brown has been preparing to make a quick impact for the Cardinals.

--Photo Credit: AJC "I've been working hard every day running and conditioning and hitting the weight room hard," Brown said. "I'm hoping I can come in and contribute. I'm excited to get up there and I'm ready to play."

With only three experienced defensive tackles returning - juniors Philon and Brandon Dunn and sophomore Jamaine Brooks - Brown could be a major addition up front for Charlie Strong's program.

"I just want to help this team win and put us in a situation where we can win games and be very successful," said Brown. "I'm hoping to go in there, work hard and hopefully give them some more depth on the d-line."

Brown is excited to join a program that will begin the season ranked in the Top 25 nationally and favored to win the Big East title.

DeAngelo Brown will add strength and quickness on Louisville's defensive front.
"I feel like we've got a chance to make a run for it," Brown said. "Coach Strong and his staff have done a great job getting this program on the rise. Hopefully this class coming in and future classes can continue building this program and make it one of the top [teams] in the nation."

Brown, who is fully qualified to play as a freshman, graduates from high school May 20. Shortly after graduation, he will enroll at Louisville for summer school and begin working out with his new teammates for the upcoming season.

"All I've got to do is graduate and walk across that stage," Brown said.

While Brown is expected to add power on the interior, Sheldon Rankins could provide the Cardinals more versatility at defensive end. A former three-star prospect from Covington Eastside, Rankins had his final high school campaign cut short when he broke his leg midway through the season.

"I've just been getting my leg back to where it needs to be so I can come in early June and compete for a spot," Rankins said. "I've been cleared to do everything. It's just a matter of getting my strength back to where it was before. I'm probably about 90 percent right now."

Rankins says the biggest challenge overcoming his injury is the mental aspect of trusting his fully healed leg.

"Regaining trust is the biggest [issue]," said Rankins. "Once you break it your mindset is to favor it a little more. I'm trying to get away from that and trust my leg and trying to go as hard as I possibly can."

Rankins, who will enroll in summer courses at Louisville May 29, spoke with Cardinals assistant Kenny Carter Wednesday night about the details of his pending arrival.

"He said they're ready for me to get up there and compete for a spot at defensive end," Rankins said. "I'm excited to go up there, enroll in school and practice. They've been talking to me about getting in there early, paying attention to detail and going hard in practice because depth is an issue. They're telling me if I work hard and do what I'm supposed to I will be playing."

At 6'3, 255 pounds, Rankins could emerge as an explosive player on the defensive front. Though he possesses the size to compete right away, Rankins has been timed at 4.58 in the forty - an impressive time for a prospect with his size. During his final two seasons in high school, Rankins recorded more than 100 tackles and 24 sacks.

"I think I bring versatility to the defensive line," Rankins said. "I'm quick enough off the edge to get around tackles and I'm also strong enough to play the run inside and out."

Just like Brown, Rankins is eager to help Louisville take another big step this season under Charlie Strong's guidance.

"I really think the program is something special," Rankins said. "Coach Strong is a national name brand. Recruits all over the country know who he is because of what he's done. We're going to be special with the young talent that we have and the classes that are going to come in. We're going to be a real special program in the future."

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