The Louisville Cardinals are going through a lot of changes as they head into the 2014 season. They have a new/old coach in Bobby Petrino, lose their star quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, and move to a new conference as they join the ACC this fall. To get them through all these changes, they will need some new stars to step up and lead the way. Is Lorenzo Mauldin up to the challenge?
Mauldin enjoyed a very strong 2013 season from his defensive end position, racking up 9.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. His efforts were overshadowed by the incredible season of fellow end and eventual first-round draft pick Marcus Smith, who finished second in the country with 14.5 sacks last season. With Smith now gone, Mauldin is the undisputed leader of the Cardinals pass rush in 2014.
But he will have to prove he can bring the pressure from a new position. Petrino brought former Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Louisville with him this offseason and Grantham will be implementing his 3-4 alignment this fall. That means Mauldin will move from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, adding a new dimension to his game if he can make the transition smoothly. He will still be able to excel at rushing the passer off the edge but will also have the opportunity to show he can drop in coverage and make plays from a standing position.
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound senior has build a solid resume for himself at Louisville by using his length and athleticism to rush the passer. If he can use those same attributes to excel at the outside linebacker position this season, Mauldin will make a name for himself heading into the 2015 NFL Draft and enjoy a breakout senior campaign in 2014.