Last season there were multiple true freshmen that not only saw early action, but we’re key factors for the team. We won’t see nearly as many in 2012, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few guys that see the field on September 2nd. The Cards return quite a bit from last season, but there is still some competition going on in practice for starting positions. Here are five freshmen that I think could make an early impact for Louisville.
Gerod Holliman – Safety:Holliman was originally a member of Louisville’s infamous 2011 class, but was forced to enroll in prep school last season due to academic issues. Teddy Bridgewater, Eli Rogers, D’Vante Parker and Andrew Johnson were as good as advertised last season, but out of all of Louisville’s 2011 signee’s, Holliman was ranked the highest in the Rivals top 250 overall. Sophomore Calvin Pryor had a very solid freshman season and will likely be the starter at safety aside Hakeem Smith, but Holliman will definitely be there to give Pryor some competition. Holliman had a very strong finish to the fall camp.
Keith Brown – Linebacker: Enrolling early at Louisville seems to have really paid off for Keith Brown. The Miami native spent the majority of fall camp practicing with the first string linebackers. Brown was previously committed to Miami and Illinois before finally deciding to bring his talents to Louisville. He was rated as one of the 7th best linebacker in the 2012 class by Rivals.com. It’s certainly not a guarantee at this point, but there is a good chance that Keith Brown will be your starting strong-side linebacker.
Sheldon Rankins – Defensive End: Rankis, a 6-foot-2 287-pound Georgia native wasn’t one of the more talked about signee’s in Louisville’s 2012 class, but his name has been mentioned quite a bit since arriving on campus. Anytime Charlie Strong is asked by the media about some of the true freshmen, Rankins has been mentioned nearly every time. He has his work cut out for him when it comes to Louisville’s defensive line depth chart. The Cards return nearly every defensive lineman from last season’s team, but Rankins still manage to get some reps with the first and second string during fall camp.
Josh Appelby – Punter: Most punters and kickers usually get a year to redshirt before actually having to step on the field during the season. That’s not the case for freshman Josh Appelby. The Athens, AL., native will be looked upon right away this season. He was originally a soccer standout before deciding to switch to the gridiron and put his boot to use. Appleby is one of the few kicker/punters that are on scholarship for Louisville. At 6-foot-3 225-pounds, Appleby is built more like a tight end rather than a punter. I’d be very shocked if we wasn’t the first string punter on September 2nd.
James Burgess – Linebacker: Burgess is also a guy who greatly benefited from enrolling early at Louisville. The Miami native has been on campus since January and had a solid spring for the Cardinals. Keith Brown and Nick Dawson are the two linebackers that received the most attention in Louisville’s 2012 class, but Burgess isn’t far behind. He chose Louisville over Miami (Fla.), LSU, Florida, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Illinois, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Pitt, Rutgers, Wake Forest and West Virginia. Burgess is battling with senior Daniel Brown for the starting weak side linebacker position.
Others to watch: Nick Dawson Linebacker, DeAngelo Brown Defensive End and Hunter Bowles Tight End.
Note: This was for true freshman only, which is why Corvin Lamb and Charles Gaines were not mentioned.