Marlem Louis: Eric Schmidt’s New Wrecking Ball

Marlem Louis lining up with Sean Lewis in the background. (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

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Marlem Louis will be counted on in 2024 as an EDGE rusher. (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

Marlem Louis made the 2,625-mile trek from the University of Richmond in Virginia to sunny San Diego State. Louis entered the portal on December 4, 2023, and the Red and Black scooped him up 16 days later on December 20.

His addition to the roster helped bolster a defense that saw key former players lost to the portal including Cooper McDonald and Zyrus Fiaseu.

The former Spider helps beef up the defensive line as new DC Eric Schmidt is guiding the Aztecs in making the switch from a 3-3-5 to a 4-2-5. Schmidt’s defense requires a constant set of fresh rushers on the line to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Louis was a star at Venice High School in Florida, playing varsity all three years after not playing football as a freshman. Being 6’3 and 225 pounds during his senior year made him a wrecking ball that offensive lines had to attempt to contain. Despite not competing as a ninth grader, he saw his playing time increase throughout his high school career as he would play eight, 13, and 14 games in his three years for Venice.

In Florida, he was a force to be reckoned with on defense. He recorded 174 total tackles (112 solo) and 13 sacks. His outstanding play guided Venice to a 2017 Florida 7A State Championship. To cap off his splendid high school career, he was named Venice High School Defensive MVP his senior season.

His impressive numbers in just three years of high school football caught the attention of the University of Richmond. He committed on February 6, 2019, to play EDGE for the Spiders.

During his time in Virginia, Louis would be an anchor on the defensive line. After redshirting his freshman year, the 2020 Covid season, he saw some playing time in 2021 before exploding onto the scene in 2022.

During the 2022 campaign, he was a staple on the defense. On his way to being named First Team All-Coastal Athletic Association, Louis had 35 tackles and four forced fumbles. He was third in the CAA for sacks, with 8.5 on the season.

The Spiders finished the year 9-4 and won a playoff game against Davidson College 41-0 in the opening round of the FCS playoffs. Louis recorded a sack for a 12-yard loss in his first postseason appearance. The season would end the next week at the hands of No. 2 Sacramento State.

The future Aztec entered the 2023 season highly touted, and he lived up to expectations. He accumulated a long list of accolades, but one that stands out the most is the fact that he was voted a team captain. He started all 13 games for Richmond as the Spiders went 9-4.

Again, Louis would shine in the playoffs as the Spiders breezed past North Carolina Central 49-27. The star edge rusher had a career-high three sacks. His career as a Spider ended the following week at the University of Albany, where his future Aztec teammate Tyler Pastula was punting the ball.

The Portal

When a player enters the portal, many factors play into their decision on where the next destination will be. Some players mention personal reasons, such as family or being close to home. Others prioritize the system they will compete in and where they think they will excel on the field.

Marlem Louis (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

“There was a lot of things,” Louis explained when asked why he chose SDSU. “I’m a guy devoted to my faith, and back in Richmond, I had a church I would go to, and coming here, there’s a sister church of the same church I went to over there. And, also, the culture over here as well, its big defensive team, and I could tell the coaches really wanted me and needed me.”

“Also, trying to go to the NFL. This was the best opportunity I have because I know scouts at Richmond were seeing me more of a 3-4 outside linebacker, so I think this system really fits my wants and needs.”

Like many San Diegans, Louis has also been drawn to the local cuisine. He said he particularly likes authentic Mexican food and hadn’t had guacamole before coming to America’s Finest City.

Coast to Coast

His experience in playoff games, combined with his years of experience, makes him a great fit for the Red and Black. The now-Aztec will look to take advantage of his final year of eligibility on the Mesa.

“I love coach (head coach Sean) Lewis,” Louis said. “Passionate guy, when he comes into the meetings, he always has a lot of inspirational things to say. Really caring guy, if he sees you in the building, he’s going to talk to you, just a great guy.”

Schmidt is a great coach to mold Louis into his defense. He joined SDSU to lead the defense after coaching for the University of Washington where he had success with his 4-2-5 defense and hopes to bring that same level of achievement to his new program.

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“Coach Schmidt has got a pretty deep bag; there’s a lot of things that we can learn,” Louis said. “This is my first time really being able to drop back into coverage, so that’s been fun as well. I think overall, the defense is playing at an extremely high level.”

“The biggest thing is you can really see his love for the game,” he added, describing Schmidt’s level of dedication throughout the spring. “He really pours his heart into the game and he has a certain system going into each practice, with the installs and everything, I think he’s doing an amazing job. He does a really good job understanding everything is new to us and really being a great mentor to make sure we keep on growing and getting better every day.”

Graphic announcing Marlem Louis’ commitment. (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

Throughout spring, this new defense has been implemented at a great pace. Schematically, Schmidt has been making sure his guys get as many reps as possible. During practices, the defense uses an ingenious rotation where the first team is on the field with the second team behind them running against the third defense set up as a scout offense, ensuring 33 players are getting reps every play.

“Making disruptive plays, whether that be making a pick, a fumble or sack,” Louis replied when asked about the new defense. “Just disruptive plays like those and then there’s limiting the big plays and making sure we know our assignments and we’re doing our assignments in the way that it is asked. Overall just being elite in everything you do, it’s more about playing as a unit and not an individual.”

SDSU has been known for its hard-nosed defense for many years and despite the change in defense that reputation should continue. The Aztecs lost some key pieces from last year to the portal, but the new coaching staff brought over by Lewis has done a good job filling those holes through the portal.

Spring Game

Tomorrow, Aztec fans will not only be able to see the highly anticipated Aztec Fast offense, but they also will get a glance at the new defense. From the defensive line to the speedy secondary, there are many new additions to watch this weekend at Snapdragon Stadium.

“Playing free, loose, and playing my ball,” Louis explained about his first practice at Snapdragon. “Everybody has a different style of play. I think being able to take chances sometimes and not think too much, early on in my career I thought too much and it kind of hindered me so being able to play loose and freely, that’s what I bring to the table.”

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