He's back...

After starting nine games as a true freshman on Louisville's Orange Bowl championship team, Latarrius Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the 2007 season. While he missed spring drills recovering from surgery, the 6-foot-2, 206-pound safety is now back on the field and appears ready to help out in the Louisville secondary.

One of Louisville's top recruits in 2006, Latarrius Thomas made a big impact two years ago as a true freshman, starting nine games and earning All-Big East freshman honors from the Sporting News.

Thomas looked poised for a breakout sophomore season but a serious knee injury in the Cardinals second game against Middle Tennessee derailed those plans. Now, Thomas is back on the field and appears ready to reclaim a starting position at safety.

"I'm still rehabbing it right now but it's getting better," Thomas said of his knee after Tuesday's first practice. "I've just got to stick to the rehab program and things should work out in my favor. I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent but I'm well on my way."

Most of the way back physically, Thomas now must overcome one final hurdle in what has been a grueling rehabilitation process.

"I have to overcome the hesitation," said Thomas. "My knee was messed up and now it's fixed – probably better than the other (one). Now I've just got to get over the (mental) part. I just need a hit in there to get back into the swing of things."

Thomas won't get the chance to do some hitting until the Cardinals put on the pads later this week when camp is closed to the public.

"It will all come in time," Thomas said. "I'm just going to go with it day by day and get through camp. And hopefully everything works out."

Thomas' return is a big boost for Louisville's secondary – a unit that was torched often last season in his absence.

"It's great to be back out here," said Thomas. "I've been playing since Pop Warner and I haven't had a year off. In a way it was good to have a year off but it was just bad the way I had to take it. So I'm fired up to get back out here with the guys."

Thomas began camp working out with the first team at free safety, teaming alongside strong safety Bobby Buchanan. He said it felt good to finally get back on the field on the first day of camp.

"I was always a part of the team but I didn't go through the sweat, two-a-days and camp with them but now I'm back out here and it feels good," he said.

Thomas, like the rest of the defense, has something to prove this season. His presence alone should help stabilize a unit that is breaking in three new starting linebackers and lacks experienced depth at several positions.

"We've (all) got something to prove," Thomas said. "We've been talking about how good the defense is going to be this year but it doesn't matter until we show it."

Thomas is also making the adjustment to playing for a new defensive coordinator – fiery and hard-nosed Ron English.

"Coach English brought in a new system and it's hard learning it but we're getting it down," Thomas said. "He's a tough coach but he's fair. We're learning the system and everybody is buying in. He doesn't sugar-coat it – he's a firm guy. He's firm but fair and we all respect him. He's here to work and if we buy in it will work out for us."

So what's the biggest difference between English and former Louisville defensive coordinator Mike Cassity?

"Schemes, disguises and there are new terminologies," Thomas said, "but for the most part defense is defense. You have to come out with a will to win."

That's something Thomas definitely isn't lacking.

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