The top 10 Louisville football players you need to know for 2016. These are the Cardinal stars to watch out for.
1. LB Devonte Fields, Sr.
So far, Fields has been worth the risk for Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals. The once-troubled TCU star has kept his nose clean and opposing quarterbacks on the move as a hard-charging outside linebacker in Louisville. The 6-4, 245-pound Fields basically picked up where he left off in Fort Worth—and at Trinity Valley (Tex.) Community College—by registering 64 tackles, 22.5 stops for loss, 11 sacks and two forced fumbles. With his burst, agility and nose for the backfield, the bar in 2016 should be set at the All-American Team.
2. LB Keith Kelsey, Sr.
Football continues to be in Kelsey’s DNA. And it’s been evident the past two seasons, in which he started all 13 games. The 6-1, 236-pound Kelsey really took off in 2015, amassing a team-high 107 tackles, 12 stops for loss and 3.5 sacks in a First Team All-ACC junior year. Stout and instinctive from inside linebacker, his ability to read offenses and diagnose plays will contribute to his chances of starring on Sundays as well.
3. QB Lamar Jackson, Soph.
Raw? You bet. But the program prefers to see the upshot of its young quarterback, who led the Cardinals in rushing with 960 yards and 11 touchdowns on 163 carries. Jackson is a dynamic all-around athlete, with the speed and elusiveness to break down defenses with his feet. The 6-3, 196-pound unfinished product, though, must develop as a passer after connecting on 135-of-247 passes for 1,840 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. This second offseason is a huge one for Jackson.
4. NT DeAngelo Brown, Sr.
The Cardinals are going to miss Sheldon Rankins and Pio Vatuvei up front. The return of Brown, though, will help to offset the losses. Brown is the quintessential nose tackle, strong, nasty and tough to move off the ball. And the 6-0, 308-pound run stuffer doesn’t just take up space on the interior of the line. Brown will make things happen, notching 40 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss and two sacks en route the All-ACC Second Team.
5. S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Sr.
Harvey-Clemons took a first big step toward resurrecting his career when he became eligible to play for Louisville in 2015. After a spate of off-field issues derailed his time at Georgia, the uniquely sized 6-5, 230-pound safety laid the ground floor in Todd Grantham’s defense. Harvey-Clemons, while still needing to cut down on his mistakes and poor decisions, had three picks and finished third on the Cards with 88 tackles to pick up honorable mention All-ACC.
6. CB Shaq Wiggins, Jr.
Wiggins performed well in his first season since transferring from Georgia, picking up honorable mention All-ACC recognition. The 13-game starter notched 30 tackles, two picks and 11 pass breakups as he adjusted to live action for the first time in two years. At just 5-10 and 171 pounds, Wiggins can be a liability when matched with bigger players, but locking down pass-catchers in man coverage will continue to be his calling card.
7. WR Jamari Staples, Sr.
UAB temporarily shutting down its football program was a boon to the Cardinal receiving corps. Staples had few problems adjusting to a tougher conference, catching 37 balls for 638 yards and three touchdowns after missing the first month with a knee injury. Against a decent Pitt secondary, he schooled the Panthers for 194 yards and a score on nine receptions. The 6-4, 196-pound Staples is a homerun hitter, with the long stride and the wheels to get behind the D.
8. WR James Quick, Sr.
Quick is a key veteran cog in what promises to be one of the ACC’s deepest and most explosive receiving corps. He’s the big-play veteran of the unit, boasting 21 career starts and 39 catches for 624 yards and five touchdowns in an abbreviated junior year. Against a talent-laden Florida State secondary, Quick scripted a career day with three touchdowns. But he needs to improve his consistency by cutting down on his drops.
9. CB Trumaine Washington, Jr.
Sure, Washington has room for improvement in coverage. But he’s got time as well as the athleticism to continuing evolving into a cornerback who sticks to opposing receivers. League coaches voted the 5-10, 181-pound Washington to the All-ACC Third Team a year ago for making 56 stops, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles, four picks and five pass breakups in 2015. And he’s expected to be even feistier this fall.
10. RB Brandon Radcliff, Sr.
Radcliff is the steady backfield presence the Cardinals will continue to employ as support for young QB Lamar Jackson. The 5-9, 214-pound senior won’t run past defenders, but he will wear them down with his size, strength and pad level. Rarely stopped in the backfield or on first contact, Radcliff churned out 634 yards and seven scores on 139 carries a season ago.