The strength of Louisville's defense in 2012 will likely be the defensive line. And that is just fine with coach Charlie Strong.
Strong, a defensive coordinator for much of his career, knows that a good defense must have a good defensive line. When speaking of his recruiting philosophy, Strong has mentioned his focus on finding excellent defensive linemen countless times.
For 2012, Strong and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt have assembled a fairly young group of talented prospects who could be a powerful crew, especially at rushing the passer.
"Defensively we have to dictate the flow of the game where we need to bring pressure and keep pressure on people," Strong said. "We have to be able to play man coverage."
Louisville could have its best defensive line in years, and, amazingly, there isn't a senior among the top 10 players.
At Fox End, juniors Marcus Smith and B.J. Butler will likely split time. Smith, a converted quarterback, has gained nearly 50 pounds since stepping on campius and is now listed at 6-foot-4, 256-pounds. Butler, at 6-2 and 275-pounds, is almost big enough to be a defensive tackle but still has the speed of an end.
On the other corner, monster sophomore Bryant Dubose (6-4, 273) and physical freak Lorenzo Mauldin (6-4, 240), will be double trouble for offensive tackles. Part-time linebacker Deiontrez Mount (6-5, 243) has the size to be a defensive end, but could also play linebacker.
The lynchpin of Louisville's defense might be nose tackle where junior Brandon Dunn and sophomore Jamaine Brooks will compete for time. Dunn (6-3, 285) is significantly smaller than Brooks (6-4, 330), but both have proven they can be effective.
Junior Roy Philon (6-3, 290) appears to be the starter at the other tackle spot, but redshirt freshman Dominique Dishman (6-2, 296) and junior converted offensive lineman Hunter Stout (6-4, 285) could play as well.
Strong expects a lot of the defensive line this season.
"We have a lot of starters coming back on our defense so they should play like that," Strong said. "You look at (Jamaine) Brooks, Brandon Dunn, BJ Dubose, you look at (Deiontrez) Mount. You have guys that can make plays. You have guys that can rush the passer."
The line is hoping to improve on last season's total of 33 sacks, 10.5 of which were attributed to linebackers or safeties.
One thing is for sure, the line doesn't lack for size. If Butler, Philon, Brooks and Dubose are in the game at the same time, the line would average 6-3 1/2 and 292 pounds. But Strong and company have placed a premium on speed as well and Mount, Smith and Mauldin certainly provide quickness.
Louisville opens the season Sunday, Sept. 2 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium versus arch-rival Kentucky. Stay logged on to CardinalSports.com for news and updates on Louisville football throughout the summer: 100 Days of Football