Starting defensive tackle Earl Heyman has witnessed to progression since last winter first hand. While the 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior and his defensive teammates have had a period of adjustment with English's new schemes, Heyman believes good things are right around the corner for the Louisville defense.
"The spring was our adjustment period," Heyman said. "We didn't play the run good at all during the spring. The way we played the run in the spring wasn't what he was looking for but now that we've had his coaching and know what to expect we're learning and it's coming together."
So what's English looking for from Heyman and the rest of the Louisville defense?
"He's looking first for intensity," said Heyman. "He always preaches play fast first. We don't run to the ball we get to the ball. He's also preaches knock the ball carrier back. There's no such thing as a soft thud. So we try to ‘thud' the ball carrier very hard."
English has brought a renewed intensity and passion to the UofL defense since arriving from Michigan in January. That new attitude has helped foster more confidence in a unit that lacked it last season.
"We have a lot of confidence in each other," Heyman said. "The practices are intense. There's not a doubt in my mind when that play comes in the game we're going to make it. Practices are a lot more physical than they've ever been."
Besides increased intensity, English has also worked hard to break some bad habits the UofL defense picked up during Mike Cassity's final season as Louisville's defensive coordinator.
"Guys are hungry and they play with reckless abandon and that's what coach English wants," said Heyman. "He's real big on repetition in practice and creating good habits."
Though picked to finish next to last in many Big East preseason polls, Heyman said the Cardinals aren't worrying about the lack of outside expectations for this team.
"We really don't look at (outside) expectations because we only consider the expectations set by our coaching staff and ourselves," Heyman said. "We know what our expectations are as a team. We don't really worry about the preseason stuff – you still have to play and prove yourself. People can say what they want but when push comes to shove you have to play football."
What are Heyman's expectations for his final campaign as a Louisville player?
"The biggest expectation is to come out and play hard and fast," Heyman said. "We have to play hard every play with no plays wasted. We feel like we're talented enough to get the job done and win the game. We just take it one game at a time."
Eric Wood, the Cardinals fourth-year starting center, has noticed several major changes – and improvements – in the Louisville defense since last season. Wood said he's seen the UofL defense playing with more heart and energy each day in practice and thinks English is largely responsible for that transformation.
"They have got the attitude of coach English and it's apparent," Wood said. "He's an intense person and he's really passionate about what he's doing and it's come across with the defense."
During practice, Wood often finds himself lined up across from Heyman and fellow senior defensive tackle Adrian Grady. Wood said he expects big things this season from Louisville's pair of senior tackles.
"I'm more involved with the defensive line and linebackers and Earl Heyman and Adrian Grady have done unbelievable this off-season," Wood said. "They've both gotten stronger and worked their butts off with coach Delgado doing position work five days a week and it's paid off."
Wood also said he's noticed a change in the defense's confidence and energy levels on the field since English's arrival last winter.
"I think the whole defense is picking up the attitude of Ron English," said Wood. "They're big, nasty and athletic and they're talented across the front. We've just got to get some more depth on the defensive line."