Competition fuels improving Cardinal defense

The search for new starters has fueled strong competition on the defensive side of the ball this spring and University of Louisville co-defensive coordinator Mike Cassity said that the search for potential starters will continue through the spring game...

The need to replace a handful of starters from a defense that finished among the top 25 units in the nation last fall has fueled competition throughout the spring practice season. A host of linemen are attempting to claim the spots vacated by Elvis Dumervil, Montavious Stanley and Chad Rimpsey, while the battles brewing at outside linebacker and strong safety have also provided for quality performances during the spring.

However, despite the strides made by the returning Cardinals, U of L co-defensive coordinator Mike Cassity says that satisfaction won't come until the season-opener against rival Kentucky.

"You're never satisfied," said Cassity. "We won't be satisfied or comfortable until our first game, but we've had good preparation. We've tried to improve on fundamentals. There's been a lot of competition this spring and that's been a real positive. Each and every guy has had to come to work each day and perform or there is going to be another guy in front of them. I've always said, ‘competition is a tremendous motivator.'"

The search for vocal and on-the-field leaders has also been a focus point for the Cardinals defensive staff and while players such as Adrian Grady, William Gay and Rod Council have displayed leadership qualities during practice, Cassity said that the true test will come during Friday's 7:30 p.m. spring game.

"What we are also looking for is leadership," he said. "We're looking for the emergence of new leaders and that has been a positive this spring."

"I think with our game situation (on Friday) we will know a lot more about our situation," he continued. "It'll be two teams on opposite sidelines competing with one another and we'll know more about them after that."

While spots with the first team defense are still up for grabs, the continued development of prepared depth is more of a concern as the Cardinals bring spring practice to an end.

"Our philosophy here is to build a lot of depth and right now we aren't hung up on who will run out on the field for the first set," he said. "We want to develop depth and I know that it's important to the players and it'll be important to us to know who the starting four are, but the more competition we can continue to generate, the better we practice."

The first team defense heading into the spring game consists Brandon Cox and Zach Anderson on the ends, with Amobi Okoye and Adrian Grady at the tackle positions. Nate Harris, Preston Smith and Terrance Butler make up the first team linebackers, while Rod Council, William Gay, Brandon Sharp and Jon Russell round out the secondary. Earl Heyman, Michael Adams, Deon Palmer and Abe Brown should also see time with the first group on Friday night.

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