3. Who can replace Devonte Fields and Keith Kelsey?
There’s a good chunk of talent returning to the Louisville defense, but Sirmon still has to deal with a couple of key departures.
Louisville’s most important loss is outside linebacker Devonte Fields, who is off to the NFL after recording 31 tackles for loss and 15 sacks over the past two years. All-ACC inside linebacker Keith Kelsey also graduated, so the Cardinals won’t have a lot of experience at the position in 2017.
While replacing the sheer production of Fields and Kelsey is going to be just about impossible, the Cardinals do have a few options to work with. Four-star redshirt sophomore Amante Caban has been getting first-team reps at inside linebacker, with Isaac Stewart and Malik Staples also in the mix.
All three players are inexperienced, so a spring game standout has a chance to become the favorite to land a starting gig come September. Jonathan Greenard looks like the clear choice to take over for Fields and turned in a promising campaign as a redshirt freshman in 2016, but has also appeared in just nine career games.
The good news for the Cardinals is seniors Stacy Thomas and James Hearns are both quite capable and will ensure the unit doesn’t fall off too much. Still, linebacker will have the most intense competition of any position on the defensive side of the ball come Saturday.