Last year, Louisville was just another no name school competing in the Big East. Starting a freshman QB in Teddy Bridgewater, not much was thought of them heading into the 2011 season. With a strong season and a close loss in a bowl game, Louisville proved that under Charlie Strong at HC, that they could compete and play against the big boys. Returning a now experienced Bridgewater (though not draft eligible) and a good nucleus of players; Louisville can compete again for another bowl appearance during the 2012 season.
Hakeem Smith, S- Smith is one of the guys that is flying under the radar in my opinion. He has good ball skills and from all I’ve watched of him on the field, he’s a good solid safety. Smith has the ball skills to play at the next level, but there are things I do think he needs to improve on during this year in order to improve his draft stock. At times on film he looked stiff in his hips, although that is to be expected since he’s playing safety rather than corner. At times his footwork did get sloppy and he got out of position, but overall Smith has a lot to like and I see him right now as a solid 5th round draft pick, with the potential to increase his stock during the year.
Mario Benavides, C- Being an OL guy I always love to watch good solid offensive linemen bring it. Benavides is definitely a guy like that. He displays a solid first punch against his opponent and has a bulldog mentality to his game. Benavides just doesn’t stop playing football until the whistle blows and his opponent is on the ground. One of his more underrated traits is that he is a very cerebral center which is hugely critical because he has to make the line calls. He does a good job helping out against other opponents and sliding back against a blitzer. At times he does get a little flat footed against some defenders, and a few times on film he had a hard time finding the 2nd level defender. He needs to improve in those areas, but he seems like a solid ZBS fit because of his feet and ability to get to the 2nd level. Right now he’s a 5th round guy as well, but depending on his senior year I can see him rising up into the 4th round.
Dominique Brown, RB- With every team I profile I try to find that one under the radar guy who could flash and make a roster in the NFL. Brown isn’t a speedy guy, but when he does flash his ability he seems a lot like a guy who could make a solid living as a ZBS RB. He doesn’t have a lot of wiggle, but he hits the hole and gets the yards that are blocked. At times I’m not too impressed with his speed and I’m sure you won’t see him have a great time when he runs his official 40, but we’ve seen numerous times in the NFL guys with poor times who run well in a ZBS scheme or power scheme. Right now I have him in the 7th round range with a good senior year and if not drafted I can see Brown being picked up as a UDFA.
Adrian Bushell, CB - This is one of those guys who has talent and shows it on tape, but has had off the field issues in the past. He is a very good athlete and has shown the ability to be a good KR guy as well as a CB. Bushell is an active player on the field and simply makes plays. The off the field concerns will raise eyebrows for NFL teams, especially with many teams now taking players off boards if they have any off the field issues. However on the field Bushell is instinctive and you’ll see him be a successful player if he’s in more of a zone coverage scheme. If he keeps the off the field issues away and has a solid senior year then Bushell could go in the 4th round because he’s got the talent, but many teams will still put a lower grade on him due to his character concerns.