The one spot on the University of Louisville football team with the biggest hole following last season is on the defensive line where Sheldon Rankins must be replaced after he was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Rankins had a sensational senior season for the Cardinals.
But while defensive line coach L.D. Scott knows he has a big spot to fill, the Cardinals also have several key players returning and a lot of depth at the position with Scott noting, "we have some really good leaders."
"We have some guys who can make plays," Scott said. "I think Devonte Fields and James Hearns are going to take their games to another level (on the ends) and we'll get more pressure on the quarterback. And that's going to help us (on the line)."
Senior DeAngelo Brown is the anchor in the middle of the line for the Cardinals and is expected to be an All-ACC performer, while Drew Bailey and Johnny Richardson are guys who will be expected to play a lot of snaps.
"We have a lot of guys who can make plays," Scott said. "(Brown) is one of the strongest guys I've ever been around and some other guys that are going to step up. We're excited."
Johnny Richardson, Junior
Richardson has played in a total of 16 games the past two seasons and was expected to make a big impact last season before tearing his ACL. He missed all but five games but has come back strong.
Scott expects the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Richardson to make a bigger impact on the defense.
"He's more consistent," Scott said. "He has all the ability but hasn't played with the consistency. Now, he's starting to figure it out. He's watched Sheldon do it and he's come back really strong.
"He's physical, he's really athletic and he's a better pass rusher than you think. He moves well for his size."
Chris Williams, Junior
The 6-foot-1, 285-pound Williams is a junior college transfer who arrived on campus in January and went through spring drills with the Cardinals.
Williams was good in the spring but has really turned it on in fall camp. He had two sacks in one of the scrimmages and had several other key plays in the second scrimmage of the fall.
Expect to see a lot of Williams up front this season.
----Drew Bailey had nine tackles and a sack last season, while Kyle Shortridge added seven tackles. Both will provide depth this season with Bailey battling for a starting spot.
----Brown is the strongest player on the team, bench pressing 515 pounds in the offseason. Brown had a career-high 40 tackles last season and finished with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks.
----Scott said true freshmen Derek Dorsey and Tabarius Peterson have been standouts at time, noting both "came in great shape and are really picking up the system." Both will be key players in the future.
----Kordell Slater is another newcomer. He was here also for spring ball and will be able to contribute.