Louisville 2022 Football Position Breakdown: Cornerback

0

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As we get closer to the start of the 2022 college football season, Louisville Report will break down each individual position on the Cardinals roster. Next, in our position breakdown series, we take a look at cornerbacks.

Extension list movement:

Return (5): Kei’Trel Clark, Rance Conner, Derrick Edwards III, Trey Franklin, Chandler Jones
Departure (2): Greedy Vance (Transfer – Florida State), Kani Walker (Transfer – Oklahoma)
Incoming (2): Jarvis Brownlee Jr. (Transfer – Florida State), Quincy Riley (Transfer – Middle Tennessee State)

Projected depth chart:

Cornerback

  1. Kei’Trel Clark (5-10, 180, Jr.)
  2. Chandler Jones (5-10, 186, Sr)
  3. Rance Conner (5-10, 186, R-Fr.)

Cornerback

  1. Quincy Riley (6-0, 181, junior)
  2. Jarvis Brownlee Jr. (5-11, 182, So.)
  3. Trey Franklin (5-10, 180, R-So.)
  4. Derrick Edwards III (5-10, 177, R-Fr.)

Breakdown:

Over the past two seasons, high school as a whole has been a roller coaster ride for Louisville. In 2020, the Cardinals had one of the most underrated collections of defensive backs in the ACC, allowing just 189.2 yards per game for 17th place in FBS. They may have only produced five interceptions, but the secondary, more often than not, was in the right place at the right time.

But last season, the secondary took a huge step back, giving up 245.6 yards per game for 95th in FBS. They doubled their interceptions tally to 10, but were also too often burned by opposing defenses in the air.

Heading into the 2022 season, looking specifically at the cornerback room, there is optimism that this unit can perform at a higher level, but there are also some questions.

We’ll start with the star in Kei’Trel Clark’s play first. Although there were a few games in 2021 where he didn’t look like himself, he was still largely the elite cornerback we expected of him. Playing in just nine games, his nine pass breakups tied for second in the ACC, as did his three interceptions, and he finished top of the league in passes defended per game (1.33) with a wide margin. He also finished with 40 tackles and 3.5 for the loss.

But there remains a big question surrounding him: his health. Late in the season against NC State, he suffered a torn ACL and was out for the rest of the season. While his rehab appears to be going well, he has yet to be fully cleared. Clark is arguably the best corner of man-to-man coverage they’ve had since Jaire Alexander, and time will tell how badly his injury will affect his upcoming season. He has plenty of ability to play in an early-round NFL draft pick when fully healthy.

After Clark, the questions really start to arise. Greedy Vance and Kani Walker, two guys who were scheduled to compete for starting reps, were moved out of the program. Even USC transfer Jayden Williams, who signed with Louisville in February, won’t be making it to campus.

Scroll to continue

Those questions were largely answered when Quincy Riley and Jarvis Brownlee, Jr. elected to transfer to Louisville. The two will be vying for starting reps alongside Clark upfront, but it’s likely Riley will end up winning this positional battle here.

While at Middle Tennessee State, Riley was one of the top five defensive backs in the 2021 season. His five interceptions were tied for fourth in the entire FBS, while recording 14 pass defenses, four tackles for loss and one sack for the Blue Raiders. He has above average coverage and is a consistent tackler.

But don’t count out Brownlee, as he was a key part of Florida State’s secondary in 2021. Playing in all 12 games with 11 starts, he was tied for second on the team in steals with two, and finished second in high school. in tackles with 51 — both behind All-ACC first-team safety Jammie Robinson. He’s great on run defense, but what could cost him a starting spot over Riley is that he can be boom or bust in coverage. That being said, expect Louisville to go Clark-Riley-Brownlee when using a three-cornered look.

There are not necessarily deep concerns behind this trio, but more so a question of who will be the one to intervene the most when entering as a substitute. One would hope it would be Chandler Jones, but he’s coming off a 2021 campaign in which he wasn’t as effective despite seven broken passes, or even properly utilized after spending some time at safety. If he can get back to his 2019 form, where he defended a team-best 11 passes, that would be a huge boost for the secondary.

Someone to potentially watch, especially in nickelback sets, is Trey Franklin. His 10 tackles in 12 games don’t go off the page, but the former JUCO product had a great two-game streak against Virginia and Boston College when he landed two interceptions, which ended up being second in the team behind Clark. If he can become an impact reserve, it will greatly help the secondary’s ability to close out games.

Rance Conner and Derrick Edwards III will likely end up buried on the depth chart, but could also have the potential to surprise people when given the chance. Conner saw the field last year in limited opportunities and could translate that to fall camp, and Edwards clearly hit the weight room.

Overall, it’s a position that *should* see an improvement over last year, but still has a lot of lingering questions. Will Clark still be an elite ACC corner when he finally returns? How will Riley and Brownlee’s talents translate to a new home? Can Jones have a rebound year?

If everything falls into place, the cornerback could be a relative strength for Louisville. Otherwise, the Cardinals might have to rely on their offense to win shootouts. On paper, it looks like the position should be in line to bounce back, but that’s why they’re playing the games.

Other job distributions:

(Photo by Kei’Trel Clark via University of Louisville Athletics)

You can follow Louisville Report for future coverage by Like us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

Facebook – @LouisvilleReport
Twitter- @UofLReport
Instagram – @louisville_report

You can also follow Associate Editor Matthew McGavic on @Matt_McGavic on Twitter

Share.

Comments are closed.