The University of Louisville football team is loaded with experience and talent on both sides of the ball heading into the new season.
When both fans and media gush about the team's abundance of talent, often they point towards the explosive offensive backfield or to the depth at the wide receiver position.
But somewhere they often don't look is the defensive line, which is arguably the most crucial component of a college team.
Even with some injuries, the interior of the defensive line looks to be one of the strengths of the Cardinals. Senior tackle Roy Philon seems poised to be a leader for this group as they prepare for the new campaign.
Despite appearing in all 13 of Louisville's games last year, Philon, a Lexington native, battled back problems throughout the entire season. Even with the pain, Philon was able to accumulate 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his seven starts as a junior.
While the same back trouble that hampered him last season kept him completely out of the team's spring practice in April, Philon says that he's now at full strength. With injuries to Jamaine Brooks, DeAngelo Brown, and Sheldon Rankins, the team will rely heavily on Philon as the season begins.
"I feel like coach prepares us very well," Philon said. "I'm fully confident that if Brandon (Dunn) went down or I went down, the guys behind us could step up, take our place and do our job."
The team understands the importance of defensive line play, especially after the unit's struggles last season. Dunn, a fellow tackle, singled out Philon as one of the players who has emerged as a leader through camp and noted the importance of strengthening a defensive front that yielded opponents an average of 148 rushing yards per game a year ago.
"The strength of the defense has got to be the defensive line," Dunn said. "We've got to set the tone. We take it upon ourselves to come out here and be physical at the point of contact, to let the offense know it's going to be a long day."
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford noted at last week's Media Day that he plans on being more aggressive in his play calling this season. After his solid showing as a junior, Bedford also stated that he expects to see Philon up his production as a senior.
Now with more expected from him, Philon feels that he's made progress this offseason and is ready to end his career with a bang.
"I try to come out and work everyday," he said. "Last year I had some back problems, I now feel 100 percent. I'm just working everyday to get better overall and help my defense."