Defensive line remains strong

Amobi Okoye, a projected first round NFL Draft pick, is gone. So, too, is talented defensive end Zach Anderson. But despite those two losses, Louisville's defensive line figures to be one of the most talented front fours in the Big East again this year.

Amobi Okoye, a projected first round NFL Draft pick, is gone. So, too, is talented defensive end Zach Anderson. But despite those two losses, Louisville's defensive line figures to be one of the most talented front fours in the Big East again this year.

That's because former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino stockpiled plenty of talent in the trenches the past few years.

Earl Heyman, Deantwan Whitehead, Adrian Grady and Brandon Cox each have starting experience. Michael Adams, L.T. Walker, Willie Williams and Jonathan Holston each saw considerable action last season.

Talent? Check. Depth? Check. A drop off in production without Anderson and Okoye? Not a chance.

"It's real competitive," said Heyman, a 290 pound junior tackle. "Myself, Adrian, Willie (Williams), Peanut, Cox and I could go on – you know L.T. Walker. We have a lot of talent and not just a lot of talent, we have depth and experience. We're young, but we're experienced and we're up and coming."


Peanut Whitehead (left) and
Rodney Gnat

That depth of talent along the defensive front has helped make practices extremely competitive this spring. And with new coach Steve Kragthorpe's pledge that all positions expect quarterback are open, everyone, including Heyman, must compete for a starting job.

"We're deep, we have positions filled and we're still competing for spots," Heyman said. "That's what makes it real competitive."

In their first major test of the spring during last Thursday's scrimmage, the defense came out and got punched in the gut by the offense. Led by Brian Brohm and Harry Douglas, the offense scored touchdowns on their first two possessions.

"The first two series the offense really came out and got after it and they just flat out beat us," Heyman said.

It looked like the offense was about to score another touchdown on their third possession with a first and goal inside the ten. But Heyman and mates tightened the reigns, stopped the offense cold and forced a field goal. On the next two possessions, the defense forced the offense three and out.

"We just went to the sideline after the first two (possessions) and got our minds right," explained Heyman. "We said ‘look, we can come out here and just mess around and do stuff the lazy way or we can come out here and get better.' So we decided to get better."

After the offenses dominant start during the scrimmage, several potential defensive leaders, including Heyman, began to emerge. It appears there will be no shortage of positive leadership on the defensive side of the ball next season.

"Myself, Adrien Grady, Rod Council, Preston Smith and Brandon Cox," said Heyman, naming a few of the defenses leaders. "We're all coming together and the tighter we get the better we'll become. We're still getting a feel for each other even though we've been playing with each other for a while. Our group chemistry as a defensive is getting better this spring."


Willie Williams and Adrian Grady

With Heyman leading the way, the defensive front figures to be the strength of another strong and talented Louisville defense.

"Our togetherness and our aggression – our mindset," said Heyman of the defensive line's strengths. "We want to get off (the line) and make plays."

While the line should be a major strength for the U of L defense, Heyman and the rest of the guys up front are still adjusting to new defensive line coach Mark Nelson this spring and the new techniques he's brought to the practice field.

"We've got a new coach and he's bringing a lot of new techniques in and I like them," said Heyman. "They're good techniques and we have to work harder to develop those techniques so we can become better football players.

"He's a technique specialist. He's working with us getting our steps down. He's expecting a lot out of us and he's expecting us to perform well with his techniques. And we're working real hard to do that."

While there's bound to be an adjustment period with Nelson this spring, Heyman said it's really not that big of a deal.

"It's not a big adjustment, but it's the little things that make a difference," Heyman explained. "That's what he's teaching us and helping us with the little things so we can perfect our technique."

Despite new stars, a new coach and new techniques, Earl Heyman and his defensive line mates should again prove a difference-making force for the Louisville Cardinals.


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