Louisville football loses one of their key pieces to the defense with linebacker Rodjay Burns departing for the NFL. The corner turned linebacker transferred over from Ohio State and quickly found a spot for himself at Bryan Brown’s “Card” linebacker spot.
Burns played almost every snap at that spot each of the past two seasons. Now he’s gone and Louisville is forced to replace him.
The Card position is designed to be a safety hybrid who aligns as an overhang or in space close to the line of scrimmage. They ideally should be able to eliminate size mismatches while also being able to hold up somewhat against smaller wide receivers.
In his time, Burns played the position the way it was meant in Brown’s defense with the ability to blitz off the edge in addition to bolstering the coverage play of the linebacker unit.
Let’s look at some options to replace Burns at the position
Marvin Dallas – 4th year Jr.
Dallas was a first-year player in 2020 for the Cardinals and was a key contributor on special teams. Throughout the season, he became very noticeable as a factor on the kickoff team where he was often the first player down the field.
He 6’1″ 195-pound junior was ranked as the No. 1 overall outside linebacker coming out of Georgia Military College in 2020. There’s certainly an open door for Dallas now with a completely wide open conversation that is likely to ensue.
He’s a prime contender for the spot and has put in the work and effort with results on special teams to earn his shot.
Jack Fagot – 5th year RS Sr.
He’s in position for a potential position change after a spring roster adjustment listed him as an outside linebacker.
It’s a much better fit for Fagot where he doesn’t have to play in space quite as much flipping his hips. He’s already a solid tackler with decent enough size to play the position at 6’0″ and almost 200 pounds.
In 2020, Fagot posted 24 total tackles in 10 games with an interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery.
The move for Fagot allows for some added experience at the position as well as an added element of competition. Given his experience and veteran presence, Fagot may have a decent shot to make the transition successfully.
Kenderick Duncan – 5th year RS Jr.
Listed as a safety on the Louisville roster, Duncan is a rather large safety who is in his first year with the Cardinals after transferring from Georgia Southern. He only played in six games in 2020, but he made the most of those opportunities.
In those games, he racked in 28 tackles, five pass breakups, and two interceptions. He was selected as a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference safety by Pro Football Focus.
If he had so much success as a safety, why the move down to this hybrid linebacker role?
Well, Duncan is 6’3″ 225-pounds. That’s huge for a college player and bordering on linebacker size. He’s a thumper coming downhill. And while he is a good athlete for his size, Duncan may be better positioned closer to the line of scrimmage to maximize his identity as a player.
It should be expected that Duncan is starting at one spot or another on this defense. Likely, he would be positioned to play strong safety or the “card” position where he is kept from having to play deep in one high safety looks.
If the staff doesn’t like what they see from the “Card” position, Duncan seems like he would fit in seamlessly as an athletic overhang linebacker.
The staff has some options to toy around with if they so choose including position changes to make the fit sensible. While Burns was a very good player for this team for three seasons, Louisville has plenty of opportunity to equal his production with whomever his replacement is to be.