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Saturday Football Notes and Nuggets

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Teaser: Football garners its highest AP preseason ranking at No. 9; running back competition remains strong with the "five-headed monster" and offensive line continues to show steady progress leading into the season opener.

Post-Practice Interviews: Charlie Strong | Teddy Bridgewater | Lorenzo Mauldin | George Durant | Jamon Brown

Preseason AP Poll Released
The Associated Press announced its preseason college football rankings on Saturday, and Louisville earned its highest preseason ranking in school history at No. 9. The only other time the Cardinals garnered a top-10 preseason ranking in the AP Poll was in 2007, earning the No. 10 position.

While the rankings are certainly a positive sign for the program, neither head coach Charlie Strong nor quarterback Teddy Bridgewater put too much stock into the top-10 spot.

“It’s great for our city, great for the university, and great for our fans,” Strong said. “The work our players are putting into it to get us where we are right now. The preseason is only the beginning. We got to make sure where we are at the end is where we would like to be.”

Bridgewater said, “It’s just a preseason ranking. We still have to go out each and every week and protect that ranking. We’re going to play like we’re not even ranked. We’re still trying to earn something, whether it be an undefeated season or a BCS game. We’re just going to go out and earn everything.”

Running Back Competition
As has been the case all preseason, and even more so with the addition of 2011 BCS MVP Michael Dyer, talk surrounding the running back competition has been rampant. Along with Dyer, Louisville’s backfield stable consists of physical backs Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry, and Brandon Radcliff and the speedy Corvin Lamb.

Perry didn’t participate in Saturday’s scrimmage, but Strong commented, “It’s part of the plan. We just want to rest him and get him to that first game.”

The group drew strong praise from other student-athletes who spoke to the media on Saturday.

“The entire room - they’re pretty talented,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “Dominique Brown has been phenomenal, protecting the quarterback in the passing game or running the ball, or even in the passing game, getting out and catching the ball. He’s been exceptional.”

Linebacker George Durant even gave the stable a nickname based on the caliber he has seen during camp.

“With Brown, Perry, Dyer, Corvin Lamb, and Radcliff, you got like a five-headed monster back there. They’re very shifty. They all have moves. They have speed. They set you up to make you do what they want you to do and get tough yards.”

On Dyer, Durant added, “He’s a very low-to-the-ground guy, good center of gravity. (He’s) got real strong legs and runs behind his pads. He has shift, but he’s a real downhill runner. He’s a tough guy to bring down if you lunge at him. He can make you miss if you don’t wrap up and drive your feet. He can make you fall backwards.”

Offensive Line Continuing to Mold
The development of Louisville’s offense line remains critical in determining the success attained by the offense this year, despite the number of weapons Louisville can line up.

On Saturday, Jake Smith lined up at center, with Jamon Brown and Ryan Mack serving as the tackles, and Chris Acosta and John Miller at the guard positions.

Fortunately, Bridgewater says noticeable progress has been made by the group.

“They’re coming together very well,” the quarterback stated. “They’re establishing that chemistry. Jake Smith’s making the calls at the line, and guys are triggering the calls down the rest of the line. They’re forming that line of communication that is going to be very important. They’re also doing a great job of not just protecting in the run game, but keeping their pads low and driving off the ball. They’re doing a great job overall.”

Offensive tackle Jamon Brown, who started 13 games on the line last year, is one the tenured members of the group. His expectations, even with a group that lost veterans Mario Benavides and Alex Kupper, remain high.

“I believe we’re going to be a physical front five. It’s something we stress every day in our room. We know that of course we have to protect the passer, but when it’s time to run the ball, we have to buckle it up and get out there. I think we’re going to be a physical front five.”

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