BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU football team’s next opponent might seem like a one-man squad, but Louisville is so much more than that.
So as the LSU Tigers prepare to play the Louisville Cardinals in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 31, we here at SEC Country are counting down our picks for Louisville’s top 10 players you should know about heading into the game.
On Monday, Alex Hickey started off the countdown by highlighting the man who drives Louisville’s run game and the man who will be tasked with slowing down LSU’s. Yesterday, I highlighted a menace in the middle and a speedster on the sideline.
Today, we continue the countdown with players Nos. 6 and 5.
No. 6: WR James Quick
Puns about his reflexes aside, senior wide receiver James Quick is one of Lamar Jackson’s most reliable targets. Quick led Louisville in receiving yards with 688, averaging 16.38 yards per catch en route to a six-touchdown season.
Just like his Heisman Trophy winning QB, Quick established himself as a threat early in the season. Quick accumulated 64 percent of his yardage in Louisville’s first five games, over which he also caught four of his six touchdowns. Since then, Quick has only accounted for 35 receiving yards per game.
That said, Quick does have a way of rising up to his competition. Against Florida State and Clemson, Quick made 14 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown, counting as arguably his two best games of 2016.
No. 5: Edge rusher James Hearns
In the pass-happy state of modern college football, there is nothing more valuable than a disruptive and opportunistic edge rusher who can affect a quarterback’s rhythm.
For Louisville, James Hearns is this man.
A junior out of Tallahassee, Fla., Hearns served the role of sack-master for the Cardinals this season, recording a team-high eight sacks that combined to set opponents back 71 yards.
But even when Hearns wasn’t bringing the quarterback down, he was influencing the passing game. Hearns forced five fumbles in 2016, tying him for the third most in the nation, broke up two passes at the line of scrimmage and finished the year with seven quarterback hurries.
And this performance wasn’t clustered in one or two games. Hearns recorded a sack or a QB hurry in 10 of Louisville’s 12 games this season.
Hearns and sophomore linebacker Henry Famurewa were shot at a party near Louisville last Sunday morning, but there are multiple reports that the injuries were not thought to be serious. Louisville has not made a comment on the situation.
Be sure to check back to SECCountry.com/LSU tomorrow to see our picks for the Nos. 4 and 3 most difficult players LSU has to contend with.