Practice Notebook: Ashley moves to defense

Louisville returned to practice Monday afternoon. The biggest news from the practice field: Sophomore Darius Ashley's move from running back to corner. Following practice, spoke with Ashley to get the scoop on his move to defense.

The biggest news out of Louisville's practice Monday afternoon was the move of sophomore Darius Ashley from offense to defense.

A former high school running back star from Cincinnati, Ashley enjoyed a solid redshirt freshman season at running back for Louisville. But with the emergence of freshman running back Jeremy Wright this spring and a major need in the secondary, Charlie Strong approached Ashley recently about moving to cornerback.

Darius Ashley worked with the defense during Monday afternoons practice.
"Coach Strong came and talked to me and asked me to come over and see what I can do in the secondary if I could potentially help the team at all," Ashley said. "We have a stable of great running backs and we're trying to get talent at other places."

Ashley said Strong approached him last week about the move. A star running back in high school, Ashley last played defense in middle school when he lined up at safety. What remains to be seen is whether or not the move is permanent or just a spring practice experiment.

"I guess we'll see how it goes," Ashley said. "I've never played corner before. I'm just trying to learn it. He [Strong] had talked for a while about getting some of the running backs and seeing if they could play in the defensive backfield. So it wasn't surprising."

Ashley said the biggest challenge involved in the switch is learning the proper cornerback techniques and the physical demands of the position.

"Mentally it was okay but physically it's a lot different from running back," Ashley said. "This is the most tired I've been in a long time. I'm basically doing the hitting now."

"He was bent over, had his hands on his sides," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said.

Now, Ashley is ready to get to work learning a new position.

"It's going to be technique," Ashley said. "I don't know anything about jamming [receivers] or coverage. So it is just picking up the technique. I'm going to start doing extra work after practice. One of the coaches walked around with me the entire practice trying to talk me through it. Eventually I want to get to the point where he doesn't have to be there with me."

Besides Bedford's critique, what kind of feedback did Ashley receive from the coaches after his first practice?

"Of course I made a lot of mistake but effort is the big thing they're looking for guys running around and flying to the ball," Ashley said. "That's what I've got to do and part of that is getting in defensive back shape.

Practice Notebook

Darius Ashley wasn't the only running back on the move during Monday's practice. Eugene Sowell, who had worked with the running backs the first half of spring practice worked with linebackers on Monday. Sowell lost a fumble near the end zone during Saturday's scrimmage.

Ashley appeared physical during tackling drills, wrapping up the wide receivers and hauling them down in one on one situations.

Freshman safety Hakeem Smith continues to make a strong impression. After an excellent showing in Saturday's scrimmage, Smith made an interception during Monday's 7 on 7 drill. A long and rangy defensive back, Smith is running with the first defense at safety opposite sophomore Shanard Holton.

Jeremy Wright continued his outstanding play. During one of the first plays in the full team period toward the end of practice, Wright outraced the entire defense down the sideline for a long touchdown. Wright hits the holes quickly, can make defenders miss in the open field and has the speed to outrun most defenders.

Titus Teague, a redshirt cornerback, drew enormous praise from defensive back coach Larry Slade for breaking up a pass from Justin Burke deep down the sideline. Teague ran right with the receiver, then made a great play on the football to deflect the pass. "That's the way to make a play," Slade told Teague.

Jeremy Wright was injured on the final play of the day, but walked off the field on his own. Word is he'll be okay.

Seneca junior defensive lineman Tyrone Pearson, 6'3, 275, attended practice and wore a Louisville t-shirt. Pearson plans to camp at Louisville, Kentucky and Ohio State this summer and is a teammate of UofL commit DaMarcus Smith.

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