Michael McCammon

Cardinals Authority provides a closer look at the Louisville linebacker position

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. Our latest installment provides a look at the Cardinals linebackers.

OVERVIEW

It's a position that has defensive coordinator Todd Grantham excited - linebacker.

With the return of Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields - who both could have elected to put their names into the NFL Draft last spring - the Cardinals are loaded with talent at linebacker.

Under Grantham's scheme, the defense plays two inside and two outside linebackers for the most part.

The group returning also features James Hearns and Stacy Thomas - currently out with a non-football related injury - who are expected starters along with Amonte CabanGary McCraeIsaac Stewart and Jonathan Greenard.

"We've got some really good pieces there," Grantham said. "We have some guys who are pretty versatile."

BREAKOUT PERFORMER

Devonte Fields, Senior

Yeah, I know he's already been a breakout guy. Well, just think about this - the staff believes he'll be much better than he was last season and he was pretty dominating in the final few games.

Fields, a former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year at TCU, arrived at Louisville just before camp last season and was out of shape and didn't really know the defensive scheme. It took him a while to get adjusted.

"Last year, that first day wasn't a good day for me," Fields said. It wasn't good at all for me. Probably by the end of warm-ups during individuals, I threw up. This year, I'm good. No throwing up."

But he'll still be hunting quarterbacks.

Fields is an All-American candidate and finished last season tied for second in the FBS and second all-time at U of L with 22.5 tackles for loss. He had 18 of those in the final seven games. He played the final nine games with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

"We're expecting big things from him," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said.

SLEEPER

Jonathan Greenard, Redshirt freshman

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Greenard has been drawing rave reviews from the staff in spring ball and now into fall camp.

He can play the outside linebacker spot and could spell Fields or James Hearns. In fact, the staff has been so high on Greenard it wouldn't shock us to see him in the starting lineup against Charlotte.

Greenard will be a guy who makes a ton of plays this season.

EXTRA POINTS

----Thomas, who played nearly all of the final two games last season in the middle, suffered a non-football related injury the first weekend of camp and has been sidelined since that time. Petrino said he expects Thomas back on the field before the opener.

----Kelsey had a career-best 107 tackles last season and had 10 or more tackles in five games. He has 218 career tackles.

----Sophomore Isaac Stewart played a lot of special teams last season and will see more reps in the middle, while Amonte Caban was a redshirt last season but the staff has high hopes for his future.

----True freshmen Tobias Little and Malik Staples are trying to battle for some reps.

----Gary McCrae is a junior college transfer who arrived just before the start of fall camp. He'll try to work his way into the outside linebacker spot and could be a nice addition to the depth at that position.

----Trevon Young is sitting out this season after his hip injury in the Music City Bowl.


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