In the weeks leading up to the University of Louisville's Spring Football Game, the one defensive player who was lauded the most by the coaches and other players was probably junior defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin.
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said Mauldin had "turned into a player," while safety Calvin Pryor said he "goes hard all the time."
U of L head coach Charlie Strong said Mauldin had a solid spring.
On Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Mauldin proved them all correct. He was one of the best defensive players on the field.
Mauldin had 2.5 sacks and finished with five tackles for the defense.
"I don't know if there a player in the team that goes harder than Lorenzo Mauldin does," Strong said. "You can tell my man to slow down, but I don't know if he knows what that means."
Mauldin, a late signee to the U of L recruiting class three years ago, started six games last season and had 4.5 sacks and a career-high 22 tackles.
But even after a solid season and helping the Cardinals to a Sugar Bowl victory, Mauldin said he knew there was room for improvement.
"I had to get better at pass rushing and the coaches wanted to make me get better in the run game," Mauldin said. "So, I have been focused on that the entire spring. I think I did a pretty good job."
Mauldin was on the field for the Spring Game but the Cardinals' were missing six defensive linemen, many who are expected back by the start of fall practice.
"We were missing a lot of guys, but others just have to step up," Mauldin said. "It changes things a little, but we have other guys."
For Mauldin, he's a long way from where he started his career.
Mauldin, a former South Carolina signee, has overcome a lot of adversity in his life. He's lived in as many as 16 foster homes during his younger days.
But he found a home at Louisville.
As a freshman, Mauldin played tight end and special teams for much of his freshman season before switching to defense. He quickly became a solid defensive player as a sophomore and missed two games with injury.
Now, he's expected to be a defensive star.
"I still have a million miles to go, like coach (Clint) Hurtt says," Mauldin said. "I have a lot to learn still, but it's a good start."