It happens at the start of every College Football season.
With a blank slate, promises are made. Sometimes a promise that things will stay the same. Sometimes that things will be fresh. Whatever the promise is, they always include success. It’s happened again this year with the University of Louisville Football team. A simple promise: A better defense. The promise has come from many directions. Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford promised an attacking defense. Key contributors like NG Brandon Dunn and DE Marcus Smith promised a ‘return to the old Louisville defense’, adding that they were disgraced with a defense last season that was underwhelming more times than not. Head Coach Charlie Strong didn’t extinguish those flames;he added gasoline, and promised Monday that the defense in 2013 would be ‘a lot better’.
Sunday afternoon, right out of the gates, those promises will be tested against Ohio.
On the surface, Ohio – who has been to four straight bowl games – excels on offense at what Louisville struggled to stop on defense last season. For one, a talented running back. Ohio RB Beau Blankenship rushed for 1,600 yards last season. The Louisville defense ranked near the bottom of the Big East last season, giving up an average 148 yards per game along with an eye opening 4.3 yards per carry. That Ohio RB? He’s a 206 pound bruiser, who runs a 4.4 and is anything but afraid of contact. DC Vance Beford said at the Team’s Media Day, tackling last season for Louisville was ‘awful’.
These concerns are fair. However if you dig below the surface, you’ll see what most see. Ohio is a MAC team, like most schools within their conference, they are physically smaller than Louisville. Louisville should simply be able to ‘muscle them’ off the ball. Additionally, Ohio is a combined 0-16 All-Time against Top 25 teams but that doesn’t help Charlie Strong sleep any better at night.
“Our work is cut out for us,” Strong explained.”We gotta stop the run. Last season we had 7 or 8 backs that ran for over a 100 yards.”
A need to be better at stopping the run, has led the Louisville Football team to making two promises:
Promise 1- “We’ll be more gap sound’ -Preston Brown
The phrase ‘being gap-sound’ was used over ten times by Strong on Monday and for a good reason. To put it plainly, Louisville didn’t do a good job of that last year. Being gap-sound means getting off the ball, fitting the blocks better, essentially getting off the ball and making plays at or beyond the line of scrimmage. Strong doesn’t need individuals to be superstars on Defense, they just have to be effective. As Strong put it ‘I don’t need a great play, I just need you to play your position’. It’s a logical concept. If all 11 defensive players are playing effectively as a unit, the plays will come. Louisville will need them to come on Sunday.
What they said:
“We’ll be more gap sound. That was the biggest thing with us last year. People misplaced the gaps and that led to the big plays that you saw, and the multiple 100 yard rushers. So hopefully we’ll be able to work on the Ohio game and understand the gap schemes and be ready for the game.” -Linebacker Preston Brown
Promise 2- “You’ll see better tackling” -Vance Beford
Perhaps the biggest theme of the Louisville Fall Camp has been tackling. Essentially, Louisville needs to be better at it. Countless of times last season, Louisville gave up big plays simply because they missed the tackle. Ohio RB Beau Blankenship will test the improved tackling skills of the Louisville defense on Sunday. He’s noted as being a ‘run between the tackles’ type of back, but he’s certainly not afraid of contact; in fact, Strong referred to him as ‘power-back’. The tackles, like the one you see in the above picture, won’t work.
Perhaps poor tackling is a thing of the past for Louisville Football?
LB Preston Brown says Louisville has became better tacklers because of type of running backs they face on a day-to-day basis. The trio of Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry, and Michael Dyer are all anything but ‘easy to get down’.
What they said:
“We must tackle better. We were a poor tackling team last year. We have spent a lot of time tackling even in shorts. It’s about fundamentals. It’s about taking the proper step and being in the proper stance. We gave up a ton of big plays. We have to do a better job of keeping the ball in front of us.” – Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford
Like many games this season, the final score Sunday evening might not be the proper indicator of success for Louisville Football. After all, Louisville will be favored in nearly every game they play this season. Sometimes a true win may not be displayed on the scoreboard, but rather what the product was on the field. Ohio is formidable team and should test Louisville. That being said, nobody is picking Ohio to beat Louisville. Nobody should pick Ohio to beat Louisville. Ohio is a ‘nice’ team. They have nice wins like the one at ‘Happy Valley’ last season. Nevertheless, a team that has proclaimed to be more mature, is said to be a National Championship contender, should handle this task.
On Sunday, it may be more appropriate to look at the Louisville Football team and say, ‘Have they got better?’ Promises are fun, but they are also easy to say. Louisville will have to lead those promises until action. Will these promises be viewed as unfilled prophecies or will we say ‘those guys knew what they were talking about?’ We’ll get closer to that verdict Sunday, I promise.
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