Frosh LBers make big plays for Cards

Two true freshmen linebackers have played a major role for the University of Louisville defense this season. Keith Brown and James Burgess Jr., have both started games and have come through for the Cardinals.

The University of Louisville football team had three prized linebackers in the recruiting class the staff signed last February.

Nick Dawson was redshirted this season, but the other two true freshmen linebackers have become major players on the U of L defense.

Keith Brown started five games, is fifth on the team in tackles and was named a first-team Freshman All-American by, while James Burgess Jr., started three games and has two interceptions among his big plays.

"It's great seeing those guys stepping up," junior linebacker Preston Brown said of his two running mates. "We saw in the spring that they had a lot of potential and now they are becoming great players."

Linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary said perhaps the biggest factor for Brown and Burgess and their success was enrolling last December and being able to participate in spring practice with the team.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Brown is from Miami Norland High School. He has played in 10 games and has 56 tackles, including 21 unassisted tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Brown had 13 tackles against Cincinnati.

"For a kid that came in with as high of accolades as he had, he came in and worked and never came out with the arrogance that we owed him anything," Jean-Mary said. "He went out and tried to do it the way we asked him to do it."

Brown was injured on the opening kickoff against Kentucky and missed the next two weeks. He had his break out game against Southern Miss with nine tackles, while also recording 12 tackles against Pittsburgh.

"He can find the ball," Jean-Mary said. "No matter what kind of offense they played against in high school, he was always around the ball and that's the mark of a good high school linebacker. Sometimes he would take the long way to get there, but he was always around the ball. And he's been the same way."

The 6-foot, 215-pound Burgess is from Homestead, Fla., and has been a big play performer for the Cardinals. He made four tackles in the opener against UK.

Burgess was injured against Southern Mississippi and missed the next three games, but returned to make a difference late in the season. He had 10 tackles and an interception against Connecticut and made a key interception against Rutgers in the 20-17 come-from-behind win to clinch the BCS berth.

"I'm very proud of him," Jean-Mary said. "If it wasn't for the injury I think we would have possibly had two freshmen All-American linebackers. He had really bad turf toe and it took him a while to get back.

But once he did, you have seen some of his big-play capability. I think the best is yet to come from him on the field."

Burgess has 24 tackles this season, including 1.5 tackles for a loss and a team-high two interceptions.

Both players figure to be key for the Cardinals in trying to slow the Florida offense on Jan. 2 in the AllState Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Note: The two players were not interviewed for this story because freshmen are not allowed to speak to the media at U of L.

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