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Louisville linebacker Etheridge brimming with confidence as season opener against WKU nears


By Tyler Nunez
University of Louisville

Not since his freshman year has Louisville inside linebacker Dorian Etheridge had so much confidence going into a season.

Now he just wants to capitalize on it.

After an inaugural campaign in 2017 that saw the soon-to-be four-year starting linebacker earn Freshman All-American honors and an 8-5 season (capped by a heartbreaking loss to Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl), Etheridge participated in Louisville’s worst season of the 21st century.

Louisville linebacker Dorian Etheridge recorded 70 tackles and eight tackles for losses a year ago. (UofL photo)

With 2-10 season in the record books and a new head coach on the way, the future of Louisville football, and consequentially Etheridge’s legacy with the program, sat in limbo.

“Coming off the year we were 2-10, it’s hard to have confidence coming off a year like that,” Etheridge said.

But with new head coach Scott Satterfield came new life: Louisville finished last season with an 8-5 record and somewhat serendipitously earned that eighth win in the Music City Bowl against none other than Mississippi State.

During the historic comeback season, Etheridge tallied 70 tackles and eight tackles for losses, as well as the first interception of his career. With that new life came a new opportunity for Etheridge to take the Cardinals where he planned on taking them all along.

“Coming off a year like last year with a bowl game win, that’s my first time winning a bowl game since I’ve been in college,” he said. “We have a lot to build off of. We’re returning like 8 starters on defense. There’s a lot of older guys out there with experience. It’s exciting.”

One of those eight returning starters is fellow inside linebacker C.J. Avery, a fellow senior who has been playing next to Etheridge for both of their entire collegiate careers.

Etheridge and Avery (a converted safety) have tallied a combined 382 tackles and 59 tackles for loss in Louisville uniforms, and their leadership in the middle of the defense will likely play a role in the Cardinals’ success this season.

Louisville linebackers coach Derek Nicholson said the Cardinals plan on using that kind of experience at the inside linebacker position to their advantage in a season in which they expect their defense to serve as an X-Factor.

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“When you’re a middle linebacker, you’re the leader of the defense,” Nicholson said. “Defense wins championships, so they’re the leader of the football team. They’ve done a good job of that. They’re very experienced. They’ve played a lot of football around here. They know what to do. They’re smart. They’re intelligent. They’re in the right spots.”

Going up against an offense designed by Satterfield every day doesn’t hurt thing in the experience department. Etheridge said he and the rest of the defense feel much more comfortable than it did a year ago, and a portion of the credit goes to an offense that has kept them on their toes for a year straight.

But that talented offense is a double-edged sword: With expectations high as can be for the Cardinal’s ability to score, high scrutiny will be placed upon the defense and its ability to keep opponents off the board.

That’s a challenge Etheridge said he and his teammates are ready to take head on, especially with a year of the current system now in the rearview mirror.

“We know what our offense can do,” Etheridge said. “They’re a top 25 offense. We know what they can do. It’s just on us right now. We take pride in that, knowing we can be the deciding factor of how our season goes.

Louisville opens the season Sept. 12 with a home game against Western Kentucky.


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