Perhaps the biggest player on the team a year ago, High's impact was minimal during his first season after transferring from El Camino (CA) College. But the Compton, California native seems intent on making a bigger impact for Charlie Strong's Cardinals this season.
It's evident High put in the work during the off-season to get himself in shape to challenge for a starting job this spring. He's clearly leaner and quicker to the ball after dropping 25 pounds during the off-season. Nearly topping 340-pounds last season, High entered spring practice at 6-2, 312-pounds – a testament to strength coach Pat Moorer's winter conditioning program.
"Winter program was great for me," High said. "I worked very hard to get my weight down so I can run and get after the quarterback and stop the run. I've dropped about 25 pounds. It was just a lot of hard work, sweat and dedication."
High's off-season work has been rewarded this spring. He entered spring practice as the starting nose tackle ahead of junior college transfer Randy Salmon and senior Joe Townsend. Now, High wants to show the coaching staff that he's got what it takes to hold onto the position throughout spring drills.
High's job is an important one. He's charged with clogging the middle to free Louisville's linebackers to make plays and apply pressure in passing situations. He's adjusting to Strong's new defensive system this spring and learning the nuances in technique that line coach Clint Hurtt prefers.
"My job is to get after the quarterback and stop the run in the A and B-gap," High said. "There are small coaching techniques that Coach [Clint] Hurtt likes that we have to switch around and get on his page."
High said the coaching staff challenged the returning players during the off-season to determine which players are serious about turning Louisville's program around from Big East also-ran to BCS contender.
"The coaches expect a lot out of us and they know we can win so they're going to push us to the limit," High said. "The other coaching staff pushed us but the coaches here now are digging deep down inside and questioning us if we really want to be here, if we want to win and be Big East champions."
High and his teammates responded to the challenge. Like High, the returning players all appear in better physical condition this spring. There also appears to be a more positive – and confident – attitude taking shape throughout the team.
"We've responded pretty good," High said. "We met our goals for winter and now we just have to turn that into spring ball, get the pads on and see what's up. Practice is going pretty good and it's exciting. We don't know what to expect but we just do what the coach says and react."