Louisville football: Influx of departures not cause for concern

Tutu Atwell #1 of the Louisville Cardinals in (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Tutu Atwell #1 of the Louisville Cardinals in (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

There have been several key departures from the Louisville football program since the season ended.

On Saturday, Dec. 12, Louisville football went out on a high note with a win over Wake Forest in the season finale following a long and tedious couple of weeks of coaching rumors surrounding Scott Satterfield.

Now, an influx of departures and arrivals is about to take over the program for the next few months.

This is a trend that already began in the middle of the season with Javian Hawkins opting out in favor of planning for the 2021 NFL Draft and Tutu Atwell announcing his plans to do the same.

Now that the season has ended, a multitude of other players have announced their plans to move on.

Dez Fitzpatrick announced prior to the game on Saturday that it would be his last as a Cardinal as he had NFL aspirations to tend to.

Three more Cardinals announced their intentions to transfer Monday morning that included former starters in redshirt senior quarterback Jawon Pass and redshirt junior corner Anthony Johnson. Then, that afternoon, senior safety Russ Yeast, senior and freshman quarterback Tee Webb all entered the transfer portal while senior linebacker Rodjay Burns announced his intentions for the 2021 NFL Draft.


More will continue to roll in and on Tuesday senior corner Marlon Character announced he was going to try his hand at the NFL Draft.

These can be tough pills to swallow for fans to see that players they have comes to know and love are leaving the program despite having more eligibility remaining.

Why are so many players leaving?

Some may be convinced that there may be a toxic culture of sorts within the program relating back to Satterfield’s rumors of him leaving Louisville and that is the reason for so many departures.

I, for one, do not think that is the case in this particular situation.

There is a good case to be made that an influx of transfers and “declarations” for the draft will be at an all-time high in 2020. That seems odd, but let me explain.

The NCAA’s decision to allow for all players who participated in NCAA Fall sports in 2020 to be allowed an extra year of eligibility is playing a massive role here.

Seniors who were expected to be gone from the program after 2020 now have big-time decisions to make about their future.

They can either declare for the draft thinking they do not have much more to prove in the college ranks, they can look elsewhere for a new opportunity, or they can remain with their program they have spent the last few years with for another season.

Normally, a senior would never have to make an announcement to declare for the draft. But, now, players have to announce that decision because of the fact that they are granted another year of eligibility.

The players on rosters across the country are not dumb. They know that monster recruiting classes are coming in as their replacements as soon as year one and that may cause some kids to want to leave.

Coaching staffs have decisions to make on whether to encourage players to stay or pursue opportunities elsewhere.

There simply is not room for everybody with recruiting classes coming in. Players will either be transferring or looking towards the draft in many (if not most) cases.

How is this phenomena impacting Louisville football? Let’s break that down.

The seniors

TE Ean Pfeifer (Undecided)
WR Roscoe Johnson (Undecided)
QB Jawon Pass (Transfer Portal)
WR Dez Fitzpatrick (NFL Draft)
LB Rodjay Burns (NFL Draft)
DE Tabarius Peterson (Undecided)

S Isaiah Hayes (Undecided)
RB Maurice Burkley (Undecided)
OG Robbie Bell (Undecided)
DE Derek Dorsey (Undecided)
S Russ Yeast (Transfer Portal)
LB C.J. Avery (Undecided)
CB Marlon Character (NFL Draft)
LB Dorian Etheridge (Undecided)
LS Mitch Hall (Undecided)
OC Cole Bentley (Undecided)
OG/T Cameron DeGeorge (Undecided)
DT Jared Goldwire (Undecided)

There have been five senior players of the 18 honored this past Saturday who have officially announced their intentions of moving on from the program after the 2020 season.

There are still 13 seniors who need to announce their intentions including a multitude of starters from 2020. If there is no announcement, expect those seniors to return for the 2021 season.

Now, let’s break down why each player who has decided to exit might have made that decision to leave (that does not include grievances with the program).

Playing time

Jawon Pass – He certainly falls under this category. He had not seen the field much in the last couple of seasons while Malik Cunningham took the reins of the team in 2019 and 2020.

Anthony Johnson – Another player who just lost their spot in 2020 due to emergences of Kei’Trel Clark and Marlon Character at corner. He has some talent and production. Johnson is a graduating redshirt junior who will be eligible to play for someone in 2021.

Tee Webb – Webb is a freshman that did not see the field in 2020. These kinds of transfers can happen, but the staff may try to keep Webb in the fold in hopes of developing him as the quarterback of the future. Of all of the players departing so far, Webb is the one player to expect the staff will work to keep on board.

Draft intentions

Tutu Atwell & Javian Hawkins – These two are really in the same boat. They are both likely to be drafted in April and decided that their stock was good enough to make the leap right now. Hawkins, a redshirt sophomore, makes a lot of sense due to the natural durability concerns of the running back position.

Atwell has been very productive in 2020 and making the jump is a wise decision. His biggest knock by the NFL will be his size and he is not getting any bigger anytime soon.

Dez Fitzpatrick – Makes a lot of sense. Fitzpatrick had a career year and had been with the program for five years. He might be a better pro than he was in college and he will certainly get a shot at the NFL whether he is selected or gets a training camp opportunity. He did not have much more to accomplish in Louisville.

Rodjay Burns – Another player who has run his course in Louisville. He spent five years in college and getting his opportunity to play at the next level makes sense for now. Burns is a tweener as a 6’0″ 215-pound linebacker, but he may get a chance to fit as a nickel for a team in a training camp after starting his career as a corner at Ohio State.

Marlon Character – Character has bounced around quite a bit in his college career. He originally enrolled at Auburn and then went to junior college. He is already 24 and will chase what he can in the NFL now. It is hard to blame the guy for that. Character had a big-time impressive season for the Cardinals and could also find himself in a camp after being more of a special teams ace in 2018 and 2019.

Starters seeking transfer

Russ Yeast – Sometimes it is just the right timing to see if guys can have one last shot to make their mark to get to the highest level. Yeast is a good athlete who never quite lived up to the recruiting billing even though he started for two seasons at safety for the Cardinals. Yeast left the program for a time while Bobby Petrino was at the helm in 2018 before returning. Now, with a degree, Yeast will get a chance to be a graduate transfer elsewhere to see if he can improve enough to get NFL consideration.

In conclusion…

Only one starter from 2020 so far has elected to use the transfer portal. The rest are seeking out a dream of playing in the NFL after their time in Louisville has passed or just looking for a new home after limited playing time was available for the Cardinals.

Only one non-graduate has plans to transfer so far with Tee Webb putting his name in the portal. That number could increase as well as others. But, for now, that should not show me or anyone else that there are significant grievances between players and coaches within the program.

The battle of attrition has always been a thing in college football. More so this year, coaches will be able to bring a few key players back that would have otherwise been gone while also bringing in stud freshman recruits to groom in to the program.

A lot could change between now and September of 2021 as far as program attrition.

But, right now, let’s not panic.

Next. Louisville basketball has a return date set. dark