BATON ROUGE, La. — In the Louisville Cardinals, the LSU football team has to contend with more than Lamar Jackson.
That’s why this week, we at SEC Country have been counting down the 10 Louisville players that LSU fans should know about heading into the Citrus Bowl on Dec. 31.
Alex Hickey kicked off the countdown on Monday by highlighting key cogs in Louisville’s running game and defensive front seven. I kept the countdown going Tuesday with some analysis about a mammoth defender and a speedy receiver. On Wednesday, I broke down reliable leaders of Louisville’s receiving corps and pass rush.
The countdown continues with a look at our picks for the No. 3 and No. 4 players on Louisville you should know about.
No. 4: Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons
Arguably Louisville’s best NFL draft prospect, Josh Harvey-Clemons isn’t your prototypical safety.
Harvey-Clemons is listed at 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds. By comparison, LSU lists Arden Key at 6-6 and 238 pounds. With that size, Harvey-Clemons roves like a linebacker. He made 61 tackles this season, 4 for loss, with 2 sacks and 2 pass breakups.
As the above video hints at, Harvey-Clemons played his most productive game this season against Clemson, recording 11 tackles, including 6 solo, in the loss.
If you’re trying to figure out where you’ve heard Harvey-Clemons’ name before, you’re not crazy. The Senior Bowl invitee started his college career at Georgia, where he played against LSU in 2013. Harvey-Clemons had 15 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and 1 pass breakup in that game, a Georgia win.
No. 3: Tight end Cole Hikutini
A tight end built in the same mold as Tyler Eifert and Travis Kelce, Cole Hikutini is a 6-5, 250-pound behemoth of a red-zone threat.
Hikutini leads the Cardinals with 49 receptions and 8 receiving touchdowns in 2016. Hikutini caught 6 passes in the red zone this season, and all of them resulted in touchdowns. But he isn’t just a short-yardage threat.
Hikutini averaged 13.39 yards per reception this season. He caught 13 passes that went for 15 yards or longer, and 5 that went for 25 yards or more.
Hikutini has been kind of a “rub it in” player for Louisville this season: 39 percent of his yardage and 3 of his 8 touchdowns this season came when Louisville already was winning by 15 points or more.
Still, Hikutini has at least 2 catches in all of Louisville’s 12 games this season. He had 7 catches in games against Clemson and Kentucky. He’s Jackson’s favorite target because he’s a major matchup nightmare.
But so is LSU safety Jamal Adams, whom LSU probably will have lined up against Hikutini in pass coverage.
Check back to SECCountry.com/LSU on Friday afternoon for the (obvious) conclusion to our countdown of Louisville’s top 10 players.