April 3, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- It's ever easy to learn a new defense or offense in the spring, however, that is exactly what the University of Louisville football team is going through right now after finishing practice No. 10 on Wednesday afternoon.
Under new head coach Bobby Petrino, the Cardinals have finished their offensive and defensive installations and continue to learn what the coaches have installed this spring.
"Spring practices have been going well," junior defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said after practice. "We have been working hard. There has been a lot thrown at us."
Todd Grantham, who was the defensive coordinator at Georgia last season, has taken over the defense this spring and instituted a fast-paced, attacking style of defense. There are some similarities to last season's defensive scheme, but for the most part, the Cardinals are starting over.
"Coach Grantham is a great coach," Rankins said. "He brings an NFL-style defense to our program this spring. He is preparing guys to play at that next level. I feel like I have a good grasp of the defense, but I still have a long way to go."
Last season, Rankins didn't have to be that guy up front because of the senior-laden group ahead of him in Brandon Dunn and Roy Philon. Rankins missed the first couple games of the season with an injury, but closed the year by starting against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, which helped propel him to the top of the depth chart this spring.
"I credit (Roy) Philon, Brandon Dunn and Lorenzo Mauldin for helping me come into my own last season," Rankins said. "I still have so much to learn at this position and every day is a learning experience."
Junior college outside linebacker Trevon Young also has had to step in and learn a new defense quickly, but he has come into the program this spring and has displayed an ability to play the position and get to the quarterback.
"It's been a challenging adjustment and a big difference from what I'm used to. I like this defense because it puts the player in a position to make plays."
Young was one of three early enrollees this spring after coming to Louisville from Iowa Western Community College. A fierce pass rusher off the edge, Young totaled 13.5 sacks a year ago and tallied 22 tackles for loss. However, Young knows there is a difference in competition jumping to the Division I level.
"It's a big difference playing at this level. The speed of the game is different and it is obviously much different than the high school and junior-college game."
It's especially important this season because the Cardinals lost seven starters from last season's top-ranked defense. The Cardinals are looking for leadership, and senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin is a guy who can provide that experience.