Defense tops the long list of fix-up projects for Satterfield at UofL

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - It's abundantly clear to anyone who watched Louisville's bungling football team stumble almost comically through this past season that new coach Scott Satterfield has a laundry list of problems to be addressed in all three phases and up and down the roster - not to mention numerous character and discipline issues.


It's also obvious that when it comes to on-the-field performance, nothing is in more need of repair than Louisville's defense, or what passed for defense in UofL's dysfunctional football world.


To rehash the ugly numbers: The Cards allowed 44.1 points per game, which ranked No. 127 of 129 FBS schools; only Oregon State (45.7 ppg) and UConn (50.4) were worse. UofL allowed 483.5 yards per game (122nd), finished 127th in rushing defense (277.3 ypg) and was dead last in third down conversion defense at 51.9 percent (84-of-162).


And the ultimate embarrassment: the Cards were battered for 50 points or more in six games, the first time that has happened since the Rutgers College Queensmen defeated the College of New Jersey Tigers 6-4 in the first college football game on Nov. 6, 1869, in New Brunswick, N.J.


So is Satterfield the man for the job when it comes to shoring up the defense? His brief history as a head coach suggests he is. Even though his background is playing and coaching offense - he was a quarterback - his teams at Appalachian State also excelled on defense.


And it's worth noting that Louisville's two most successful teams were structured around a solid defense. Because of Bobby Petrino's reputation as an offensive guru, it gets overlooked that his 2006 Orange Bowl championship team that finished 12-1 ranked 17th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 16.3 ppg, and were also among the leaders in total defense at 320.5 ypg.


Coach Howard Schnellenberger's 1991 Fiesta Bowl titlists (10-1-1) were even better on that side of the ball statistically, giving up only 259.6 ypg and 15.9 ppg.


Satterfield guided App State through its transition from an FCS program in the Southern Conference to the FBS Sun Belt Conference in 2014 and for the past four seasons the Mountaineers have ranked among the best defensive teams in the nation.


This season App State is fourth in yards allowed per play at 4.34, behind only Clemson, Mississippi State and Miami. B comparison, UofL was gashed for 6.88 yards per play. The Mountaineers are also 6th in both scoring defense (15.7 ppg) and total defense (279.3 ypg).


Satterfield said at his introductory press conference Tuesday that Louisville fans can expect to see the same 3-4 scheme and the same defensive philosophy that his teams at App State employed.


"What we do is unique on defense," he said. "It is an aggressive defense that creates turnovers, and it does not give up big plays. We are going to run and hit and stay on top. Match the numbers and chase the football. It's very simple and I think it will be a great defensive product here."


Satterfield's defensive coordinator at App State the past two seasons has been Bryan Brown, who replaced Nate Woody when Woody was hired at Georgia Tech. Brown has been on the Mountaineers' staff for seven years.


Asked for an update on the UofL defensive coordinator situation Wednesday night prior to being introduced at the UofL-Central Arkansas football game in the KFC Yum! Center, Satterfield basically said he doesn't have an update yet, adding that he hopes to start filling out his staff by the middle of next week.


There has been no confirmation from Louisville, but the Winston-Salem Journal is reporting that at least two of Satterfield's assistants will join him at UofL.  The report says Brown and quarterbacks coach Frank Ponce will be assistants with the Cardinals in undetermined roles.  Ponce has been passing game coordinator for all of Satterfield's six-year tenure at App State.


"I think the main thing with us defensively is we want to continue the same things we've been doing the last six years," Satterfield said. "It's been very effective, particularly the last four seasons. A top-25 defense in the country every year, one that will create turnovers. I think that gives you a great chance to win."


App State collected 21 turnovers this season (tied for 21st), 15 of them interceptions.


With Paul Johnson retiring as Georgia Tech's head coach, Woody joins Brown as a possible candidate for defensive coordinator, or Satterfield could name the two co-coordinators.


Satterfield said Wednesday that he would bring some of his coaches from App State to UofL, and that he isn't concerned about any of them being able to make the jump to the ACC.


"We've been very successful there the last four years and if you can coach football, you can coach football," he said. "I'm a firm believer in that. There's probably some of the best coaches in the country at all levels, so we'll go outside and get some guys that are doing some amazing things right now."


Satterfield said he isn't likely to retain any of the current assistants, although he didn't rule out the possibility of keeping some of the support staff who have off-the-field responsibilities, most notably director of high school relations Pete Nochta, a former tight end at UofL. Satterfield said Nochta began helping him Wednesday, going over recruiting lists and the current roster.


But not much is likely to happen in the way of staff positions until after App State's New Orleans Bowl game against Middle Tennessee on Dec. 15. 


In the meantime, Satterfield said he will begin looking at video from the past season to get an idea of the personnel on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, it's a good news/bad news situation. The Cards return 18 players off their two-deep chart from the worst defense in the country.


"What I'll probably do is look at some cutups, meaning we'll take cetain clips of guys and watch that," Satterfield said. "I don't need to look at game video per se. Really, to find out about personnel, we can just look at individual tapes of those guys. Good plays, bad plays, and kind of see their skill sets and get a gauge of where we might want to put guys.


"Defensively, we're going to the odd front, so we have to find guys that can be edge pass rushers. Some guys that had their hand down in a four-man front may have their hand up now. That's just an example."


Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college basketball and football for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at www.0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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