The University of Louisville football team took a step forward in its preparation for the season on Wednesday as the Cardinals held its third practice of the preseason Wednesday afternoon on the practice fields.
After two days in shorts and helmets, the Cardinals added shoulder pads for the first time – adding a little more intensity to the beginning of fall camp. Louisville started practice outside, but lightning strikes moved the team indoors for the final few periods of practice.
The Cardinals are experienced on defense with nine starters backs, especially in the defensive backfield, and there is no one more excited than first-year secondary coach Lorenzo Ward.
Ward is excited about his group that essentially returns four starts in the defensive backfield,and brought in some talented football players in this season’s recruiting class.
“We are just trying to get better,” Ward said following Wednesday’s practice. “We are teaching them the fundamentals, but I like that they are coming to work every day and have put in the effort so far after the first three practices.”
Not many coaches can step into the type of situation that Ward has walked into, especially with an All-American candidate at the one cornerback position in junior Jaire Alexander, the team leader last season in interceptions.
A technician and student of the game, Alexander was named preseason all-ACC in July, and is widely considered one of the nation’s best cover corners.
A product of Charlotte, N.C., Alexander was a playmaker in the secondary, posting five interceptions – two coming in games versus Clemson and Virginia. He is also one of the most exciting punt returners in the country, which was evident by his 69-yard return for a score in a win over nationally ranked Florida State.
“Jaire is a really good football player,” said Ward. “He still can get better, both technically and fundamentally. I think he has the potential to be a real good cornerback if he is really good at his technique.”
Despite the high praise from his coach and his name appearing on almost every watch list, Alexander isn’t satisfied with his game, and knows he can get better.
“There is always something that I can do to be a better cornerback,” Alexander said. “I like to focus on being a technician more … formation recognition. Last year, I got the plays call down, but now its formations and seeing the whole defense.”
Another player worthy of high praise is senior safety Chucky Williams, who is set to begin his third year as a starter.
A native of Hialeah, Fla., Williams finished third on the team in tackles and was second on the squad with three interceptions.
“Chucky is a leader on defense,” Ward said. “He gets us set and puts people in the right places. He is having a good camp and continues to progress as a football player.”
The Cardinals will continue fall camp on Thursday, with their third split practice of camp. The newcomers will participate in the morning session and the veterans in the evening.
by Rocco Gasparro