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Louisville linebacker Yasir Abdullah adds strength and weight; expected to anchor Cardinal defense

By Rocco Gasparro
University of Louisville

University of Louisville linebacker Yasir Abdullah has come a long way in three years in the program.

After seeing limited action as a freshman in 2018, Abdullah enjoyed a solid second season. The native of Miami, Fla., recorded a career best 45 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, one sack and two fumble recoveries, after taking over as the starter for the final seven games.

According to outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison, adding strength and weight were the two ways that Abdullah could show improvement in 2020.

Yasir Abdullah

Listed at 218 pounds last season, he was undersized for what was expected of him at his position. He is often used a pass rusher on passing downs and sets the edge in the run game against some of the mammoth offensive tackles in the league.

Entering camp at 228 pounds, Abdullah has used that bulk on his frame to anchor a defense that showed improvement last season, but could grow even more this season with the junior’s continued development.

“Yasir is one of the most athletic and fastest players on our football team,” Dennison said “Any time you get a guy that is 225 or 230 that can run like he can you can do things defensively and create mismatches.”

Abdullah’s athletic ability was on display at times last season, including in a win over No. 17 Wake Forest in which he recorded six tackles and his first interception near the goal line.

Dennison loves Abdullah’s speed and knowledge of the game, which allows Louisville to use the 6-foot-1 backer in pass rush situations and can cover the tight ends.

“If you already know where the ball is going to go and you have that athletic ability you are going to make plays and that’s who Yasir is,” Dennison said. “He’s put on some really good weight and doing a great job off the field. He’s done a good job in his playbook and I expect him to have a good year.”

The Cardinals have up a lot of big plays in the running game last season, and Dennison knows that if the Cardinals are going to be better against the run, Abdullah’s athleticism and size will be critical in being a staunch defense.

“If you are 215 pounds setting the edge and you don’t have the right technique on any given play, that’s when big plays happen,” Dennison said. “The weight was huge and in the weight department, adding strength. So that was huge for him since he’ll be going against big bodies so much.”

An upperclassman with a quiet demeanor, Abdullah has become more of a vocal leader on the defense.

“Now I’m comfortable, I know what I’m doing,” Abdullah said. “Speaking up now is like second nature to me.”

Being a third-year player, Abdullah has become an all-around player in all phases.

“He’s had a great offseason and done everything we’ve asked of him, and more. I’m expecting a big season from Yasir,” Dennison said.

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