Defensive line continues to improve

The Cardinal defensive line turned in their best statistical performance against Temple, recording 5.5 sacks and holding the Owls to just 56 yards rushing. Defensive line coach Reggie Johnson talked to ITV on Tuesday about the improved play of his unit.

When a defensive line loses it's two starting defensive ends to graduation, it is expected that the following season could very well have to work through a maturation period. In Louisville's case, it was forced to replace starting ends Devon Thomas and now Tampa Bay Buccaneer Dewayne White.

While the 2003 defensive line has looked impressive at times, it has also shown it's youth and inexperience. However, behind the direction of defensive coordinator Mike Gillhamer, this year's line is a lot more aggressive than Cardinal lines of the past few years.

Due to the aggressive and attacking style, defensive line coach Reggie Johnson has seen his unit have a number of near sacks, only to see the quarterback escape. However, against Temple this past Saturday, the line turned those near misses into success, as the line recorded 7.5 tackles for a loss, including 5.5 sacks in the contest.

"I've been proud of the effort that the guys have been giving all year, but it has just been a matter of cleaning up some things, but there's still a lot of room for improvement," explained Coach Johnson. "Those guys still have a lot of ability and they can do better."

Junior defensive end Marcus Jones led the way with two sacks for a loss of 20 yards. Head Coach Bobby Petrino has stated more than once that he anticipates Jones leading the team in sacks this season and that the play of the 6'2, 235-pound end was vital to the success of this years defensive line.

"Marcus has a lot of natural ability and talent," said Coach Johnson. "He has worked hard and I've been pleased about how he is working, so it's just a matter of making sure that he's giving the same effort everytime he steps on the field."

"Coach was talking to me all week and saying that I needed to get more sacks," said Jones, who now leads the team with four sacks. "Most offensive linemen can't keep up with my speed...I have pretty good takeoff with my first step."

In addition to the added pressure on the opposing quarterback, the unit also helped the Cardinal defense hold Temple to just 56 yards rushing.

"We came into the game doing the same things that we have been doing for the past few weeks," explained Coach Johnson. "The guys did a good job of getting themselves ready to play. They practiced hard all week and they were ready for that game. The thing is that we need to get them to play like that all of the time."

Louisville will once again face a team in South Florida that features a mobile quarterback in junior Ronnie Banks.

"We're going to do what we do," said Coach Johnson about the units preparation for the game against USF. "We'll make a few minor changes, but we're basically going to go in and run the same things that we've been running the past few weeks. We need to come out and give the same or better effort against South Florida."

NOTES:

  • Defensive back Gavin Smart who didn't play against Temple due to a shoulder injury suffered last Tuesday in practice, has resumed practicing and is expected to play against South Florida.
  • Former Cardinal Michael Josiah has been spending time in Louisville recently working out in the U of L weight room. Josiah is receiving interest from the Cincinnati Bengals.

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