Louisville football has the numbers if not the experience

If sheer numbers of players are any indication of progress, the University of Louisville football team has come a long way under Charlie Strong at the beginning of his second year.

Wide receiver Andrell Smith goes high to pull in a pass from Teddy Bridgewater despite the best efforts of linebacker Thaddeus Franklin.

Last spring, remember, the coach had less than 40 players on the practice field. There were at least 15 or 16 players on sidelines in various states of disarray, either recovering or getting ready for corrective surgeries. 

On Friday, there were almost 100 healthy young athletes going through the motions in U of L’s second practice.

A common complaint from some recent coaches, including John L. Smith and Steve Kragthorpe, was a shortage of bodies. Even Bobby Petrino had major problems with recruits never making it to school. The published numbers never seemed to match reality.

College teams are allowed only 85 scholarship players on their roster but the handouts on Friday listed 99 players, including a number of walk-ons trying to get noticed. And possibly a few others, like Darius Ashley who was listed but is on indefinite suspension.

Quite frankly, I was shocked to see so many players after having attended opening practice sessions over many seasons. Charlie Strong is changing the culture and he now has people getting in line to play for him.

U of L may be short on experience this season but numbers are no longer an issue.

Charlie Strong not giving up on Darius Ashley

Darius Ashley likely won’t be available next season for University of Louisville football.

Maybe never again.

Ashley is the last player anyone would expect to be a problem. A good student, a team guy, a likeable individual, the kind of person one wants representing the school. One of the most talented running backs in Ohio during his high school days, Ashley agreed to switch to defense during his sophomore year. No hesitation, doing it for the good of the team.

Darius Ashley

But then there are the incidents. Is this is the same Darius Ashley? Surprise and shock the first time. Disbelief that it could actually happen a second time. Within a few months.

He has been suspended indefinitely by Charlie Strong. The coach has made it clear that the player’s future in college football is up to Darius Ashley. The easiest thing Strong could have done was boot him off the team. But he recognizes that Ashley has many redeeming qualities and wants to help him improve his decision making abilities, especially when it comes to drinking and driving.

“Here’s a young man who has never been an issue on our team until those two issues that he had, which are two serious issues, but he’s a young man, he went to class, never had a class issue with him, did all the right things,” said Strong. “It wasn’t where I was going to walk in and say you’re out of this program. We have to help young people. Now, he may not ever play here again, but he’s going to be provided the right resources and enough help to get his life straight.”

We hope Darius Ashley makes it, whether or not he ever plays football again at Louisville.

Catching up at the drive-through

WLKY is reporting:

A Louisville man was charged with DUI after he passed out in a restaurant drive-through. Police said they were advised by another driver around 2:30 Friday morning that 20-year-old Darius Ashley was passed out at the restaurant on 1500 South Brook Street.

According to an arrest citation, officers found Ashley unconscious behind the wheel of a car with the engine running and in gear. Ashley woke up when officers knocked on his car window. Police said that when he opened the car door, Ashley was glassy eyed, had slurred speech and smelled strongly of alcohol.

Police added that Ashley was unsteady on his feet when he got out of the car. Ashley also failed a field sobriety test, police said. After which he was arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence under 21-years-old.

Unable to locate a restaurant in the 1500 South Brook Street block using Google Streets, but Card Chronicle found a Taco Bell outlet.

We’ve all done dumb things. Fortunately most of us never had to answer to Charlie Strong.

Ashley getting handle on defense for Louisville

Louisville’s Darius Ashley wraps up quarterback Cannon Smith for one of his two sacks in U of L’s 56-0 win over Memphis last weekend. (Photo by Menefee Seay.)

Specific moments linger in every football game.

During the Memphis game, it was the sight of Darius Ashley, with blinding speed, chasing down Memphis quarterbacks. No chance for them to escape. Boom. Boom.

Sacks haven’t been that common around here for three seasons. They stand out.

Ashley had the potential to be a premiere running back when he signed with the University of Louisville. As you know, Charlie Strong had other ideas, switching him from offense to defense, specifically to corner back. He had never played defense, ever.

After six games, Ashley may be getting a handle on the position. He had six solo tackles and two assists to go with the two sacks against Memphis. He had one tackle going into that game.

Ashley goes against his home town school Friday night. He has plenty of motivation. Now all he needs to do is add a few more interceptions to his stats.

Cincinnati will never catch him.

Louisville vs. Kentucky: Sizing up the secondaries

Johnny Patrick is the proven leader in the University of Louisville secondary.

By Paul Sykes

Look it up in any dictionary, and you’ll be reminded that “secondary” is defined as somewhat subordinate in rank, order and importance.

However, the secondary may well be the key factor when the University of Louisville football team takes on Kentucky.  Someone has to cover all those shifty receivers and break-away running backs. Let’s take a look at the secondaries:

Darius Ashley

Louisville — Returns Johnny Patrick at cornerback and he’s probably an All-Big East candidate but after that the experience and depth drops off significantly. Just who will line up at cornerback with Patrick is one of the more hotly contested battles this fall on the Cardinal practice fields. Bobby Burns, Preston Pace and converted running back Darius Ashley are all trying to claim the spot.

Safety is even more of a question mark. Terrance Simien, back from last year’s injuries, looks to be the leader at strong safety and Shenard Holton has been impressive at free safety.  Their on field experience is slim, though. The depth here, too, is weak and the deep four for the Cardinal defense looks to be the weakest link in the chain. After Patrick, there are no proven game day starters.

Kentucky — Returns two starters from last year in the secondary with corner Randall Burden and free safety Winston Guy. They’ll miss Paul Warford (dismissed from team) and graduates Trevard Lindley and Calvin Harrison.

Tadeio Smith is the front runner for the strong safety spot and the other starting corner is anyone’s guess. Kentucky allowed 15.9 yards per pass play last year and with the three leading secondary tacklers gone…the Cats will be susceptible to even an average passing attack. Their deep four is also the weakest link in the Cats’ defense.

Advantage:  Neither team. Kentucky returns more game day experienced players but Louisville’s Patrick is the best of the bunch.