The monotony of spring football is nearly over, and an opportunity to compete in front of the fans is on the horizon.
The University of Louisville football team is gearing up for Saturday’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Game, which will begin in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at 1 p.m.
With practice No. 12 in the books, the Cardinals continue to build on their team chemistry, but on the defensive side, the opportunity is there to continue to learn the new scheme of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
“We are all trying to learn this new defense,” cornerbacks coach Grady Brown said. “I didn’t know a lot about this defense, but Brian (VanGorder) is very detailed, and it has been good. It’s a very detailed system, and as long as we continue to put the work in, the scheme will put us in position to have success.”
In the midst of learning his third scheme in the last three seasons, senior Dee Smith but has been pleased with how the defense has come together this spring.
“It’s a pro-style defense,” Smith said. “Some days it takes more studying and some plays you can pick up because you have football knowledge. You have to take notes and then go back over your notes, and after practice, you have to go back and watch film.”
One of three new coaches on the staff this season, Brown has to replace a pair of starters at the cornerback position, including a possible first-round draft pick in Jaire Alexander.
With the all the new faces, Brown has been pleased with the progress his entire group has made this spring.
“All the players have had their time when I’ve been excited about their play,” cornerbacks coach Grady Brown said. “I would say every player has made gains or made a step in the right direction. Everyone is learning the defense and putting in the work in the meeting room.”
With two practices remaining, Brown said spring practice is just what this defense needed with so many new players and coaches on the defensive staff.
“This spring has been what we needed to have,” Brown said. “Everyone is learning a new system, and I’ve had to learn new players. It’s been an opportunity to go out and get practice reps – learn what to do and what not to do. We took advantage of this practice time, and I’m looking forward to seeing our progress.”
One player chomping at the bit to get on the field in local product Rodjay Burns, who sat out last season after transferring from Ohio State. A graduate of Trinity, Burns is ready to make his debut in front of his hometown fans on Saturday afternoon.
“It has been good,” Burns said of the new scheme. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn a new defense and play with the guys, actually getting out on the field. It’s been more fun. We’ve had good energy with the guys. I’m excited about the game Saturday, but we still have a few practices left to get ready.”
Burns will be one of the starters at the cornerback position for Saturday’s spring game, and the redshirt sophomore is anxious for the opportunity to get back on the field to showcase his abilities.
“It will be fun getting to be playing in that stadium for the first time since high school,” said Burns. “It’s been a good spring, and I’m looking forward to finishing the spring on a high note.
The Cardinals will be back on the field on Wednesday at 3:50 p.m.
NOTE: University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Chris Mack will sign autographs before Saturday’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Game. The first-year head coach will sign from 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. on the stadium concourse near Gate 7. To keep the line moving, fans may bring one item to get autographed.
by Rocco Gasparro