By Tom Stosberg
Sportswriters and opposing coaches think the University of Louisville football team will finish no better than eighth in the Big East this season. Oh, the doom and gloom of it all.
But there is hope. Iâ€™ll tell you what it is as long as you promise to keep it a secret from anyone who roots against U of L. You see, the hope is based on one asset the Cards have that I have yet to hear a single soul mention.
An interesting concept, and hereâ€™s how it could work. First, Louisvilleâ€™s new offense is designed to work mostly on speed. The passing game requires that the linemen hold the rush for no more than a couple of seconds because itâ€™s a â€œspeedâ€ offense in which the ball is out extremely fast. This could be lethal IF the Cards can master the execution before the first game. And two speed backs, Victor Anderson and Bilal Powell, need only a few inches of daylight.
Moving Darius Ashley to cornerback was a great move. Besides his raw speed, Ashley is both intelligent and teachable.
Now comes the critical part of the concept â€“ defense. Success this season rests on the shoulders of four rotating defensive tackles: Tim High, Randy Salmon, Greg Scruggs and one more yet-to-be-decided fourth D-Tackle. If ( and that is a huge â€œifâ€) this group is successful at holding down the middle of the defensive line, then wonderful things can happen because of the aforementioned speed.
U of L has excellent speed at every defensive position but not a whole lot of depth. They could be dangerous from the edges. Rodney Gnat, Malcolm Tatum and William Savoy are three defensive ends with excellent speed. Moving Darius Ashley to cornerback was a great move. Besides his raw speed, Ashley is both intelligent and teachable.
If the other CB, Johnny Patrick gets his head back on straight, the Cards would really be able to â€œbring it from the edgeâ€ for the first time in over three years.Linebackers Brandon Heath, Dexter Heyman and C.J. Peake all have experience and guess what else â€“ speed. At safety, Terrence Simien is the real deal and he can fly.
Defensive Coordinator, Vance Bedford, is well aware of how speed can cover a multitude of sins. Bedfordâ€™s very young and inexperienced defensive backfield at Florida last year performed extremely well last year, proving that Bedford knows how to teach.
Go to practice at 5:30 p.m. Friday and watch these kids. It’s the last open practice. Strong and Bedford have them flying to the ball. They might not be as skilled, knowledgeable or experienced as they are going to be, but they are incredibly focused on doing whatever it takes to please the coaches because the players like, respect and believe in them.
For now, that attitude and just plain speed might enough to do surprising things for our Cardinals.