The reputation resonated throughout the SEC. When Kentucky came to town, they knew they were going to get hit in the mouth.
So much for history, let's talk about these present cats and what developed on defense in spring practice! "I thought this was a very physical scrimmage," coach Rich Brooks said referring to the spring game. "If you want to win games in this league, you have to be physical."
Among several standouts, which we will talk about, the two players that made the largest splash were Myron Pryor and Dominic Lewis. Given the prior knowledge about Pryor dating all the way back to the numbers he posted at the high school combine at Louisville Ballard High School, we weren't overly surprised. Amongst other superlatives, the word physical was espoused in relation to Pryor through the spring and it wasn't often that he was block. From our observation, the best job that was done on him was via Aaron Miller.
However, Lewis had bounced around to several positions on the team and it wasn't known, despite his athleticism, whether he would take any of one of them and run. "He has learned the position, he is tough and he is going to make plays," Brooks enthusiastically said. From his defensive end position, Lewis had four tackles including a sack for an eight-yard loss in the spring game. In every scrimmage this spring, he post similar or better numbers. This was significant given the spring practice need to develop depth at defensive end.
Travis Day is another defensive end that was being talked up quite a bit this time last year. He broke his hand early in the Idaho State game and slid back into anonymity. He is now making an attempt to re-emerge as a guy who will see the field this fall. Early in the spring, defensive line coach Rick Petrie said Day's play had leveled off but he said that at some point he should break through.
Petrie said: "He (Day) is physical, he likes contact, his greatest asset is he loves contact almost to a fault sometimes. He never backs off of a challenge." Day was the second leading tackler in the spring game with six. Perhaps he's taking Brook's comment to heart when Brooks said that the competition was going to ratcheted up a notch in the fall when the freshmen arrived or maybe Day's just a gamer.
Defensive backs coach Steve Brown on Michael Schwindel: "He's got size and with that size, he shows the ability to be physical." Schwindel is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound free safety. No doubt there's going to be some juggling a the safety position in the fall when Marcus McClinton returns healthy and Corey Goodson arrives but Schwindel has shown he has to be on the field a lot. Another safety with experience and has had the word physical attached to him is Roger Williams, who will also figure in the picture. Right now he's a starter.
"Ben (McGrath) is not the most athletic guy in the world but he's going to make the right call and he's going to be in the right place every time," Archer said. "When he arrives there, he's physical and in an ugly mood." McGrath was the leading tackler in the spring game with seven tackles. McGrath emerged as pleasant surprise last season when Braxton Kelly went down.
After getting hit by Bo Smith several times Louisville's Michael Bush started stepping out of bounds on runs near the sideline. Smith started ridiculing (trash talk) Bush for such tactics and Bush responded, "I am not a fool!"
Coaches have come to expect toughness and physicality out of Wesley Woodyard. Walk-on Adam Richey shows a penchant for contact and was very good on special teams last season. This wraps up the toughness and physical part of spring practice and just because many players weren't mentioned, the defense as a whole took a significant step forward.