Mike Cassity, Louisville's defensive coordinator, believes sophomore defensive end Deantwan ‘Peanut' Whitehead could be the Cardinals next super star defensive lineman.
Whitehead gave Louisville fans a glimpse of his promise last season as a true freshman. One of the most hyped recruits in school history, the 6-6, 250 pound Birmingham, Alabama native played in all 13 games, recording 16 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
That effort earned Whitehead freshman All-American honors from the Sporting News, which tabbed him the Big East Defensive Freshman of the Year. He also was selected to the Big East All-Freshman team.
Now, Whitehead appears poised to become a dominant force on the defensive line – just like Dumervil and Okoye were before him.
"Peanut Whitehead was (just) a freshman last year," Cassity said. "It is almost unheard of for defensive linemen to play as a true freshman. We threw him in the fire, he took his bumps and bruises and we're really excited about him."
next dominant defensive lineman.
As a freshman, Whitehead started 10 games, helping Louisville win the Big East title and play in the program's first BCS bowl game, which the Cardinals won 24-13 over Wake Forest. He believes that experience will pay big dividends on the field this season.
"I think playing last season helped a lot because going into this year I won't be thinking as much as I did last year as far as which way to go or should I take this step," Whitehead said. "I think me playing a lot last year will help me this year as far as just going."
Cassity has noticed some big changes in Whitehead since he arrived at U of L last fall. That's what happens when players get an off-season to work and develop their bodies in the weight-room.
"When you first saw him he didn't look like a typical freshman," Cassity said. "Yet at the same time when he got out on the field he sometimes looked gangly and that was through lack of strength. Now you look at him and he's getting heavier, bigger and more muscular. So I have high expectations for Peanut Whitehead."
Despite the loss of Okoye, and several other starters, Whitehead believes the defense won't lose a step this season.
"We're picking up right where we left off," Whitehead said. "We're right where we want to be. Expectations are high but we expect a lot out of ourselves.
"We've just got to work hard. When we're in practice we can't just play around with each other and go through the motions. We've got to get each other better as far as game situations so when we do get in the game everything is slowed down for us."