Head coach Charlie Strong stated two goals for his team this spring, improving team depth and becoming more fundamentally sound.
"You like to feel that you are competitive at each position so you can build some depth," said Strong.
"It's also still about fundamentals and technique work, where guys have to understand that it's all about them getting better and improving. You can't worry about just coming out here and going through the motion. Let's come out here and make sure that we are fundamentally sound."
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has stressed the importance of improving tackling during the spring and Strong agrees that it's an area that needs attention.
"If you look at the big plays against us on defense, we missed so many tackles and that can't happen," he said. "The guys have to learn to wrap up and get guys on the ground.:
DAWSON ON THE MOVE
As noted in our spring preview, redshirt freshman Nick Dawson, a highly touted linebacker from Charlotte, N.C., continues to bulk up is getting a look along the defensive front.
"Nick continues to grow and that's what you like about him. He doesn't mind it. A lot of times guys will come in at a position like linebacker and feel like they don't want to gain anymore weight," said Strong.
Dawson received a number of snaps at the fox position during day two of spring practice.
"If you look at fox and the sam are kind of the same position and we feel like he is athletic enough to play it," explained Strong. "We will put him down with a three-point and stand him up."
Due to injuries along the Cardinals defensive line, freshman Finesse Middleton is going to receive a large share of the snaps this spring.
"He's a freshman and he's just getting his feet wet," said safety Calvin Pryor. "Over time we'll learn about him and know what type of guy he is and how he can help the defense."
During day two, Middleton displayed plenty of emotion on the field and gave an all out effort.
"We love that," said Pryor. "You have to bring that intensity and that fire to play Cardinal defense. We love what he's doing already."
GAINES ON DEFENSE
Charles Gaines appeared in seven games at wide receiver last season, but this spring he's on the other side of the ball.
"Gaines is an unbelievable athlete," Strong said following practice. "He can play wide receiver and defensive back, so we moved him to defensive back because we need some help right now. He does a great job breaking on the ball. The issue with him will be can he tackle."
Junior safety Calvin Pryor has been impressed by Gaines abilities and believes that the sophomore could earn his way onto the field in the Cardinals secondary this fall.
"Charles Gaines is one heck of an athlete and he has ball skills," said Pryor. "He's fast and he breaks on the ball quick. If you learns the defense, so he knows what to do, you could really seem him out there at the beginning of the season playing for us."
TWO TO WATCH
With the majority of the defense returning, Pryor believes two will take their play to another level in 2013.
"If I had to to say which guys are going to stand out, I'd say [Terell] Floyd is definitely going to take his game to another level and Lorenzo Mauldin. Everybody knows about Lorenzo Mauldin, but there's so much more. Those two guys are really going to stand out as key members of the defense this year."
BROWN IS BACK
After suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2012, running back Dominique Brown is back and working with the first team. Brown, who rushed for 533 yards in 2011, is excited to back on the field.
"I'm excited to be back out here," said Brown. "It means a lot, because I've been out of football for a whole year."
Calvin Pryor noted that while the defense communicates well on the field, he mentioned that senior linebacker Preston Brown has become the leader of the pack.
"Preston Brown is really standing out as the leader for the defense and everybody just kind of falls in behind him," said Pryor. "At the same time, it's kind of a group effort. We are all on the same page on defense."
Minford, Ohio offensive lineman Jared McCray made a return trip to Louisville on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound prospect attended Louisville's Junior Day last month and picked up a scholarship offer from the Cardinals soon after. McCray also holds offers from Akron and Kent State.
The Cardinals will practice in pads for the first time this spring on Saturday morning.
Junior DeVante Parker had a highlight reel catch, pulling in a 30-yard bomb from Teddy Bridgewater while in double coverage.
Redshirt freshman Zeke Pike, an Auburn transfer, wears #80 and is working with the tight ends.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Will Gardner received the majority of the second team snaps.
Walkon freshman Darius Skinner (5'7, 190) saw plenty of action as the second team running back. The Winchester, Ky., product, who is listed as a defensive back, ran well on Wednesday.