Louisville enters the 2018 season with a lot of question marks. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass and his ability to replace Lamar Jackson is the talking point, but the Cardinals have a lot to fix on the defensive end.
At least 13 of Louisville’s 23 signees in the Class of 2018 were defensive prospects. The Cardinals also added dynamic offensive playmakers. Louisville’s class ranked 29th in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
That incoming talent gives Louisville a chance to be a contender in the ACC in the years to come. With that said, here are three Louisville freshmen that have a strong chance at seeing the field in 2018:
Robert Hicks, linebacker
Robert Hicks is the second-highest rated prospect in Louisville’s recruiting class, and the highest-rated to arrive this spring. The 240th-best prospect in the country also plays a position of need.
The Cardinals lost their best linebacker from last season, Stacy Thomas, who recorded 154 total tackles, 15 for loss, 4 sacks and 2 interceptions over the last two years.
Louisville needs somebody to step up if it wants to improve upon its defensive performance from last season. The Cardinals ranked ninth in the ACC in rushing yards per game (163.4) and 10th in passing yards per game (224.7) in 2017.
A playmaking middle linebacker would boost both the rushing and passing defense, and Hicks will likely be the starter.
Marlon Character Jr., safety
Marlon Character Jr. has the coverage ability at safety to be a ball hawk in the back-end of Louisville’s secondary.
Character is the top-rated junior college safety and the 18th-best junior college player in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
The Cardinals have depth at safety with senior Dee Smith and sophomores C.J. Avery and TreSean Smith, who is recovering from a knee injury. Freshman Trenell Troutman will also join the group in the summer.
Given Louisville’s struggles defending the pass last season, Character’s ability to cover makes him an ideal candidate to start this season. Last season at Northwest Mississippi Community College, the Atlanta native logged 28 tackles, an interception and 7 pass deflections, which ranked tied for second on the team.
Tutu Atwell, wide receiver
Defense may be the biggest area of need for Louisville, but an offense can never have enough dynamic playmakers.
There may not be a more dynamic player on the roster than freshman wide receiver Tutu Atwell. The Miami native clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash and gained the attention of the coaching staff this spring.
“Now we have to figure out how to get him the football and utilize his game-breaking ability,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said, according to 247Sports’ Jody Demling.
The 3-star wide receiver flashed his ability during the Cardinals’ spring game, catching 6 passes for 73 yards.