The University of Louisville football team will have a lot of new pieces this coming season.
But the unit that will have the most experience returning and will likely be the best on the team this season will be the front seven. The defensive line, led by senior Sheldon Rankins, is expected to be a major strong suit.
"We are a veteran group up front," Rankins said. "I'm excited because we have a lot of guys up there. We have veteran guys back and we have some other guys who have really stepped up and improved and should be ready."
Rankins, DeAngelo Brown and Pio Vatuvei are all three major returning players. Rankings is over 300 pounds and had eight sacks last season for the solid U of L defense.
U of L defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said the front seven is "really going to be fun" to coach and noted they'll be even better because the linebacker group will be so solid.
"We have a lot of guys to put in there and Rankins, Brown and Pio are three good ones to start it with," he said.
Rankins said Vatuvei, a junior-college transfer last season, could be the sleeper of the bunch.
"Pio a good guy to have out there," Rankins said. "He's very even keeled. He doesn't say much. But he's so athletic that he's a really good one to have out there. He's very versatile."
Johnny Richardson played sparingly last season and made huge strides in spring ball, while Kyle Shortridge has also progressed enough to play key snaps and junior-college transfer Drew Bailey has high expectations.
"Kyle and Drew have really come on," Rankins said. "This time last year, we didn't know if Kyle was going to be able to do it. He's really come a long way. Drew is understanding what to do and Johnny knows he's someday going to be the guy.
"Those guys are going to help a lot."