U of L's 10 seniors becoming leaders

The University of Louisville football team has one of the smallest senior classes in the country, but head coach Charlie Strong said those guys have become leaders. Check out a story on the 10 seniors and what they're doing to lead the way.

University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong has preached a lot about the need for leadership this season and for good reason.

With one of the smallest senior classes in the country, Strong said those players had to "really step up for us," and some youngsters also had to lead.

"We don't have many seniors, but the seniors that we have are doing a better job of leading and that's big for us," Strong said. "Mario (Benavides), (Alex) Kupper, Andrell (Smith), (Will) Stein, Daniel Brown and (Scott) Radcliff are those guys.

"We have guys trying to lead but we're also playing so many young players that we need someone else to also step up and help be the voice of this team."

Benavides, the starting center, Brown, a starting linebacker, Smith, a wide receiver and tight end Nate Nord are the only seniors on the roster who originally signed with the Cardinals. Adrian Bushell is a transfer and former player at Florida.

Stein, Kupper and Radcliff were all three walk-ons from Trinity, while wide receiver DeMarcus Topp is a former walk-on from Paducah Tilghman and fullback Nick Heuser is a former walk-on from St. Xavier.

"We have some good seniors, just not many of us," Kupper said. "But leadership doesn't always have to just come from senior. We provide the leadership that we need and have shown some young guys they can also do that for this team."

Only eight teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision have fewer seniority than the Cardinals, led by Texas-San Antonio with only seven seniors. Indiana, Alabama, Marshall, Rice, Colorado and Wisconsin all have eight and Florida Atlantic nine.

U of L only had nine until Strong recently put Topp on scholarship.

Without that core of senior leaders, the U of L coaches have been working on guys all throughout the offseason. Strong said the staff identified some younger players they told needed to step up and met with the seniors about leadership.

"We know that there are only nine seniors, but still the leadership is still there because you have guys who have played enough," Strong said. "There's enough guys that have played that you feel comfortable, that even if it's a junior or a senior that can step up and be a leader, that's what we're looking for.

"Now what we need to do is just establish an identity. That will help us down the road because those guys will know what we need them to do for this team."

Benavides, the most veteran guy on the roster with 34 career starts, noted at Big East media day that this team "will be just fine."

"Most of the (10) seniors have all played and all contributed and for the most part at least been part of this program for a few years," Benavides said. "I think we'll have the leadership we need from those guys and some other young guys.

"We're going to be fine with leadership."

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