Position series feature: Pryor and Johnson

Two true freshmen – Calvin Pryor and Andrew Johnson - were forced into action in the secondary last season and had to start for the Cardinals. Now, a year older and more experienced the two players are key cogs for the defense.

The University of Louisville football staff started 13 freshmen in games last season for the Cardinals, but two youngsters were really counted on for quality time.

Defensive back Andrew Johnson started nine of the 11 games he played in, while Calvin Pryor played in all 13 games, starting the final seven.

The two turned in some big plays but will both be expected to do more this season, a year older and more mature, for the Cardinals' defense.

"They're still young and they still have a long way to go," defensive backs coach Tommy Restivo said. "But as long as they keep working, they're going to be just fine.

"We have some high expectations for them this season."

Johnson and Pryor are among four starters back in the secondary. Restivo hopes both can help the DBs make the interception total take a jump this season.

"We are getting better and better every day with the competition around us," Johnson said. "It's every day not just for (the two of) us but for all of us (DBs). We can be great if we just come together as one."

The highly-ranked Johnson made an immediate impact in the secondary, making his first start in the opener against Murray State. He had one breakup in the game.

The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Johnson, who missed two games with an injury, finished the season with 25 tackles and had the memorable blocked kick return for a touchdown against West Virginia.

"Just by starting as a freshman, I was playing off talent," Johnson said. "I wasn't really sure about the defense all that much last year. But this year, I've been in my playbook a lot lately and working on my technique and going hard.

"I am very comfortable with the position I am in."

Pryor, a 6-2, 213-pound safety, also made an immediate impact and showed he can make a big play and is a big-time hitter. Pryor played in every game last season, but only started from the Rutgers game on. He came in for Anthony Connor, who went down with a career-ending injury, and against the Scarlet Knights made five tackles and returned an interception 25 yards.

"You don't know how early a kid can help you," U of L coach Charlie Strong said. "Any young kid, you wait until start practicing and put them in situations and see how well can handle situations. (Pryor) really handled it well.

"Now, there can't be any steps backwards for those guys. They have to keep working and know what the standard of excellence is."

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