Position series: Defensive line

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a new preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. The sixth day of the series takes a look at the defensive line position.

OVERVIEW

One of the positions improved the most since Charlie Strong took over at the University of Louisville is the defensive line.

It doesn't matter if it's Strong, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford or defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, the coaches perk up and smile any time they have been asked about the improvement and depth in the position during fall camp.

"We've got some guys that get you fired up even looking at them," Strong said.

Hurtt said he is comfortable at this point going with eight and perhaps even nine players in the rotation at the two tackle and two end positions.

"All of those guys are doing really well right now," Hurtt said. "We feel comfortable with a lot of combinations."

The leader of the bunch is senior nose guard Brandon Dunn, the former Pleasure Ridge Park standout. He says he's in the best shape of his life and the coaches have been raving on his performance in camp.

Junior Roy Philon missed some time with an injury in camp but is another solid tackle, along with sophomore Jamine Brooks. The coaches have also been talking a lot about freshmen DeAngelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins.

Juniors Marcus Smith and B.J. Butler and sophomore B.J. Dubose are tops at the defensive end position, while Lorenzo Mauldin and Deiontrez Mount are considered hybrid guys and will play "up, down and all over," according to Bedford.

Strong said it's nice to have some size and athleticism at the position.

"You have a group of guys that are just coming on," Strong said. "Marcus Smith, guys that are coming on at that position that are just athletic enough that you can go rush the passer. You can put pressure on them where you don't have to blitz every time. I told Vance, this may be the group -- we're still young, we're still developing -- that we can go rush four and hope that we can get some pressure on the quarterback with those four guys."

BREAKOUT PERFORMER

Brandon Dunn, junior

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Dunn has dropped weight, is in the best shape of his life, has a motor that won't stop and is primed for a fantastic season.

The coaches are high on Dunn, who has a chance to garner some Big East Conference honors this season. He's a local kid and very vocal leader.

Dunn was slowed early last season by some injuries but has played in 23 games – starting 12 – during his career. He has 30 tackles but that number should rise drastically after this season.

"He just refuses to give up," Hurtt said of Dunn.

SLEEPER

B.J. Dubose, sophomore

Another who isn't actually a true sleeper but one of those guys that you can expect a great deal more production from this season.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Dubose was tied for third among defensive lineman with 22 tackles last season. But he did that in limited time and should see plenty of more action this campaign.

Dubose could turn into the team's best defensive player.

EXTRA POINTS

*Philon was the leading tackler among the defensive linemen last season with 36 tackles, including six tackles for a loss. Dubose is the next leading returner with 22 tackles, followed by Dunn (16), Butler (15), Brooks (13) and Smith (12).

*Dunn is such a key because of his leadership. Greg Scruggs provided the defensive line leadership last season but he's graduated.

*Hurtt said the defensive line isn't a place you "really want to use a true freshman for a lot of minutes," but noted Rankins and Brown are likely to see action and could "really help us by the end of the year."

COMING UP NEXT

*Watch later today for a feature on the depth at the position and a story on the leader of the bunch – Brandon Dunn.

*The position series will continue tomorrow with running backs.


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