Smooth transition?

It happens every spring. Players move from one position to another. This spring, Sergio Spencer and Brandon Heath made position switches designed to help improve a Louisville defense that struggled mightily last season. How is the transition going? InsideTheVille.com spoke with both players about the ‘switch'.

It happens every spring. Players move from one position to another. This spring, Sergio Spencer and Brandon Heath made position switches designed to help improve a Louisville defense that struggled mightily last season. How is the transition going? InsideTheVille.com spoke with both players about the ‘switch.'

While Heath, a former high school standout who chose Louisville in a highly publicized recruiting battle over West Virginia on national signing day three years ago, moved from safety to linebacker this spring, Spencer made the switch to safety from running back, a position he played his first three seasons at UofL.


Spencer (28) and Heath hope position changes
help improve Louisville's woeful defense.

"I think it's going well," Spencer said of his transition to the secondary. "The first couple days of practice I made a few mistakes because the switch was confusing me a little bit but I've got it now and I'm learning fast."

With Bilal Powell and Brock Bolen entrenched at running back and young stars like Victor Anderson, Dale Martin and incoming freshman Darius Ashley waiting in the wings, the decision to move Spencer to safety was a relatively easy one, especially considering the struggles Louisville had with its last line of defense last season.

"It hasn't been difficult it's just been a little bit confusing," said Spencer. "I'm used to running forward on offense. Now, I'm running backward. I've just got to work real hard this spring and summer to get faster running backward instead of running forward."

A former standout at Male High School, Spencer carried 14 times for 75 yards last season. He was also a key member of the special teams. And while he spent his first three seasons at Louisville on offense, Spencer was a standout defensive back in high school, intercepting 17 passes as a senior.

"I need to learn as much as I can, get better with my back pedal and just help the team and the defense out the best I can," Spencer said.

For Heath, a defensive back his entire football career, the move from safety to outside linebacker has been a major adjustment this spring.


Heath is currently running with the second
team defense at linebacker.

"It's going great so far," Heath said. "This is my first time playing linebacker in my life so I'm just adjusting to it on the run. It's only been six or seven practices but I think I'm doing pretty well. The coaches have high expectations for me to compete for a starting job."

Linebacker coach Bill Miller says Heath's biggest adjustment is becoming accustomed to the physical demands of his new position.

"The closer you move to the ball it's a little more physical and I think he's making that adjustment," Miller said. "He's done some coverage things very well and he's working at being more physical."

With veteran safety's Richard Raglin and Bobby Buchanan returning this season and former starter Latarrius Thomas on his way back from off-season knee surgery – plus the additions of two junior college prospects this spring – Josh Wiley and Justin Matthews – Miller and new defensive coordinator Ron English felt Heath's talents would best help the team at linebacker.

This spring, Heath is trying to work his way up the depth chart at his new position. While Josh McDonald and junior college transfer Chris Campa are getting most of the reps with the first team defense at the two outside linebacker spots, Heath has been working with the No. 2 defense.

"This is probably where he's got to end up playing," said Miller. "There's such a need at our position that he's going to have a shot there. He's got a long way to go but he's done some good things."

Heath spent the off-season preparing for his move to linebacker. He increased his weight to 225-lbs. and increased his strength with an intense off-season weight-training regimen.

"I mainly had to gain weight and work harder in the weight-room and film room watching our old linebackers and how different colleges scheme," Heath said. "The linebackers are the key to Coach English's defense. I'm just trying to compete for a job and trying to master his playbook."

While Heath is being indoctrinated to the linebacker position this spring, he knows the hard work will continue over the summer once spring practice comes to an end April 18.

"I have to stay in the film room and listen to my coaches knowing that this is different than playing safety," Heath said. "At linebacker – it's run first. At safety – it was pass first. So that (mentality) is a bit different. Beating the linemen off the ball is a bit different for me."

While there aren't many players on the Louisville roster with much experience at linebacker, a few veterans have reached out to help guide Heath in his transition from safety.

"My fellow linebackers that have played the position all their life are helping me out a lot," said Heath. "James Bryant and Mozell Axson, players like that, have helped me out. They just tell me to play fast and physical and don't be timid at linebacker or you'll be flat on your back. That's always something I take to heart."


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