Youth and inexperience were the primary reason the Cardinals allowed 210 yards per game through the air last season. Safeties Brandon Sharp and Jon Russell and cornerback Rod Council were all first year starters a season ago. They each return this season, along with senior corner William Gay, a two year starter.
Gay, the unit's most experienced player, appears poised to lead what figures to be a much improved secondary this season.
"Will Gay is our leader and our captain," Council said.
While Russell is locked in a heated battle with Deon Palmer for a starting job, Gay, Council and Sharp appear locks to keep their starting jobs.
"We're just trying to improve each day and go out there and work hard and make plays," said Gay, who was recently voted a team captain by his teammates.
Gay, who had an outstanding spring, looked good during practice last week. The talented senior should compete for All-Big East honors this fall and said he's matured on and off the field since coming to Louisville three years ago as a member of Bobby Petrino's first recruiting haul as the Cardinals head coach.
William Gay will lead an improved
secondary this season.
"Basically when I came in I felt like I had to do things just to survive," Gay said. "Now it's more about being a leader. I've just matured over the years and now I want to lead the team in the right direction and be the one that the coaches can call on to make the plays."
"We lost a lot of people, but we return a lot of people," Gay said. "We're going to get after it and you're not going to see the names – the Elvis' or Brandon Johnson's – but you're going to see a lot of new names pop up."
"All the freshmen have come out here determined," Gay said. "They know what kind of program they're getting into to. They wanted to get in here early and get started. They have shown me a lot. There's a lot of good kids that have come in here and I'm looking forward to playing with them."
Gay hopes a summer of hard work will lead to big things this season.
"It was hard," Gay said of summer workouts. "We came out and we know what it takes to be a champion. We worked in the weight room, the classroom and out here on the field. We're just ready to go and put it all together."
Gay realizes the Cardinals will have to take things one step at a time this season, beginning with the season opener Sept. 3 against Kentucky.
"First, we want to beat Kentucky," Gay said. "We want to win all of our home games and win the Big East. And then whatever bowl game that leads to or the championship. Those are our goals."
With Gay leading the way in the secondary, Louisville just might reach their lofty goals this season.