The Cardinals defense, like the offense, is built on speed and aggressiveness. At first glance, the 2007 unit seems to be weaker than the defense before them. However, even with Amobi Okoye leaving for the draft and three new starters in the secondary, the defense appears to be at least equal to that of the 2006 squad.
The best pro prospect on the Cardinals defense appears to be Peanut Whitehead. Whitehead is a sophomore defensive end that is ready to shine on the national stage. He held a complimentary role in 2006 but still managed to sack the quarterback four times. At 6-6 250-pounds, Whitehead has the body to be a run stopping force, but also possesses the speed to record double-digit sacks this season.
The linebacker corps is lead by senior Malik Jackson. At the beginning of last season, Jackson hadn't started a single game but was a quality special teams player. By season's end he found himself on the all-Big East second team as a linebacker. Jackson led the team in tackles for loss, forced fumbles, and sacks in 2006.
Junior Rod Council is hoping to regain his freshman form at corner this year. After a solid first year, Council lost his job to the now graduated Gavin Smart due to an ankle injury in his sophomore season. The coaching staff is hoping Council can be the shutdown corner he was recruited to be this season.
Other noteworthy players on the Cardinals defense include cornerback Bobby Buchanan. Buchanan is the younger brother of former All-American and NFL star Ray Buchanan. Junior Earl Heyman switched from end to tackle last season and is 40 pounds heavier than he was at his high school graduation.
Perhaps the most interesting player on the Louisville roster is junior linebacker Willie Williams. If the name sounds familiar it's because this is the same Willie Williams that had 11 arrests on his record before enrolling at the University of Miami a few years back. The former Parade All-American was granted his release from Miami in 2006 after being hurt in his freshman campaign and playing as a reserve in his redshirt freshman season.
Former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino took a chance on Williams last season and now he will hope to shine under new head coach Steve Kragthorpe's system. With two years of eligibility remaining, Williams is a high-risk, high-reward player that has the potential to be an upgrade or distraction depending on his actions.
While offense takes the headlines at Louisville, the defense is not to be overlooked by any means. Middle's best bet to exploiting a solid Cardinals defense is to throw often on an inexperienced secondary. The Blue Raiders offensive line must show tremendous improvement from the FAU game in order to keep quarterback Joe Craddock upright in this one. If not, expect a long day for the Blue Raider offense.