Position series feature: D-line now has depth

University of Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt not only has what he believes is his best unit in three years with the Cardinals, but also the deepest. See what Hurtt had to say about the depth up front on defense.

You know the old adage, football is won in the trenches.

Well, those trenches on the defensive side of the ball have been a tough place for the University of Louisville in the first two years of the Charlie Strong-era. The Cardinals lacked depth at defensive line and always didn't play up to potential.

But heading into a new season the defensive line is expected to be a strong point for the Cardinals with a lot more depth a plenty of quality.

"It's unbelievable," defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said when asked what depth can do for a defense. "We have been dealt so much the first two years. Just to be able to go through the course of the year, having depth will be so much better.

"It helps with preparation and keeping guys fresh and just being able to rotate guys in. I just think it makes so much difference."

And Hurtt is not talking just one or two guys.

"Right now, I would feel comfortable with a solid two-deep that we can roll in, and maybe a ninth," Hurtt said. "In some instances, the second group is better than the first group. Those guys are all competing."

The position has so much depth that coaches are singling out different players each time when asked about who looks the part in camp.

At media day, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford mentioned a lot of guys but said especially good things about defensive end B.J. Dubose and Lorenzo Mauldin. Strong then mentioned Marcus Smith and Brandon Dunn.

"We have guys running around and right now we are really excited about our defensive line," Bedford said. "We have a lot of depth. We have B.J. Dubose who was a freshman last year and down to about 265 pounds. He looks like a guy who has been here for three years. If you asked me last year if the guy was going to be a player and I would have said he has no chance. The boy had two left feet. Right now, looks like he's going to be a player and behind him we have Lorenzo Mauldin, who was a freshman last year. So as you can see two sophomores right there.

"Right now, we have a lot of depth. Our defensive line is doing well and for us to have a chance to be successful this year, we must win up front."

Dunn, Roy Philon, Jamaine Brooks (6-4, 330) and freshmen Sheldon Rankins and DeAngelo Brown are guys that will see plenty of action in the middle of the defense.

Dunn is down from around 310 pounds to 285, while Rankins and Philon are both around 290 and Brown is 310.

"Defensively, on the line I was telling Coach Hurtt the other day we're just athletic at that position now," Strong said. "You've got to be good down the middle. When you look at your football team, you have to be good down the middle. I always say it starts with the center, the quarterback, the nose guard, the middle linebacker and goes to the free safety. If you're good down the middle, you're going to have a chance to win a lot of games. Now, we're better down the middle on defense."

Dubose, Marcus Smith, Mauldin and B.J. Butler are the guys on the outside, while Mauldin and Deiontrez Mount are hybrid guys and will be all over the field.

Hurtt said he's been pleased with a lot of different combinations.

"Everybody wants to be a champion," Dunn said. "If we stay consistent we can be one of the best D-lines in the Big East or the nation. If we get the mental down pat we are one of the best in the nation. We have guys who have made big strides."

And again, it doesn't hurt there are more of them.

But if you ask Bedford, he'd take a few more guys to add to the mix.

"You never have enough," he said. "If I give you a million dollars right now, you want two million. You never have enough that's the name of the game. You always want more than you have. But we are better right now to any time we have been here (at the defensive line position)."

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