Position series: Defensive line

Sheldon Rankins

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. Our fifth installment provides a look at the Cardinals defensive front.

OVERVIEW

The biggest change with the new coaching at the University of Louisville is the 3-4 scheme the Cardinals' will run on defense.

And the change will be some guys you might normally see at defensive line or end - like Lorenzo Mauldin - are now considered outside linebackers under the system of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Grantham and defensive line coach L.D. Scott will move guys around a lot on defense. The Cardinals personnel will be determined a lot by down and distance as the rotations will be fast and furious on the defense.

"I am very comfortable with our guys," Scott said. "Pio (Vatuvei) was a great addition and some guys that were not as ready in the spring who are stepping forward and can help us.

"I really like our depth."

The guys running with the first team right now up front are Sheldon Rankins, DeAngelo Brown and B.J. Dubose, a senior. Rankins and Brown are expected to be team leaders with Rankins a junior and Brown a sophomore who missed last season.

Rankins has started nine games in two years at U of L and Scott said he's taken that next step on the field and as a leader.

"He's really come on," Scott said. "I think he's my best player along the defensive front and I am going to expect a lot from him. I'm going to coach him hard and I expect him to play hard and lead the other guys a long the way."

Dubose and Brown have also started games at U of L, while Vatuvei played nine games as a freshman at Washington and came to the Cardinals after spending last season at the College of San Mateo. He's 6-foot-2, 275-pounds and a "very nice late addition," according to Grantham.

James Hearns and Johnny Richardson have taken a "major leap" since the spring, according to Scott. Both were freshmen who took last season as a redshirt year, along with Kyle Shortridge, who is also in the mix.

BREAKOUT PERFORMER

Pio Vatuvei, Junior

Vatuvei played nine game as a freshman at Washington and competed well in the Pac-12. He spent a year at a junior college and will add major size and strength to the U of L line.

Vatuvei played rugby in high school and is Tongan. He is strong and has been super impressive in early season workouts.

After missing most of the summer workouts, Vatuvei jumped right in and only spent one day with the 'newcomers' group before U of L head coach Bobby Petrino moved him up. In one drill on the second day of practice, Vatuvei went past one of the current starters on the offensive line in a drill and that player said "I've never been beaten like that before."

Scott said he's behind in the playbook but making up ground and has a chance to be "really, really good for us."

SLEEPER

B.J. Dubose, Senior

The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Dubose has played in 31 career games and has started seven times.

One might not think he would be the sleeper candidate but Todd Grantham was bubbling with excitement when talking about Dubose and his ability to move him around because of his athleticism and his versatility.

"He's a guy playing in and has shown some ability to be hard to block one-on-one," Grantham said. "We can mix and match and put him in both spots. He's a good one because of all of that.

"We can use him a lot of ways."

Dubose played a lot as a freshman but then had some off-the-field issues with a suspension for part of his sophomore season. He played a lot last season but this should be his best.

EXTRA POINTS

***Hearns has added 47 pounds since he arrived on campus and could be a major player for the defense as a backup to Rankins.

***Richardson came to U of L known as DeAsian Richardson, but now likes to be called Johnny.

***Terry Ramsey and Tae Thibodeaux are two true freshmen who could be redshirted. Both have the potential to be key players in the future.

***Dominique Dishman is a senior walk-on who played a lot of reps last season.

COMING UP

***Coming later today is a video preview of the defensive line, along with features on Pio Vatuvei and DeAngelo Brown.

***Watch for the position series to take a look at the safety position tomorrow.

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