The University of Louisville defense has talked the entire fall camp about playing fast and more physical. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford also spoke at length about his defense playing more aggressive and playing keeping the pressure on.
The Cardinals have three players coming off the edge this season that can change the complexion of the game in an instant.
Defensive ends Marcus Smith, Deiontrez Mount and Lorenzo Mauldin have the ability to be big-time pass rushers in Bedford's attacking, pin-your-ears-back scheme. Smith had four sacks last season and Mauldin led the team with 4.5 in an admittedly laid-back style of defense. However, Bedford has talked extensively about getting after the opposition, and that could benefit the defensive ends. The defense didn't perform to its capabilities last year, which disappointed Mount, who has played the last two seasons.
"We didn't feel like we did too good last year. We kind of let down our fans," Mount, who had 2.5 sacks last year playing in all 13 games, said. "We just want to run to the ball more, being more aggressive, trying to get to the quarterback, staying in our gaps. We're just going to be more gap sound defense and more of a strong front."
Mauldin agreed with his teammate and wants to come out with a totally different attitude.
"Last year, we played a little slow," Mauldin said. "This year, we are playing much faster. A couple people have been saying this is the biggest they've seen the UofL defensive line. (Defensive line) Coach (Clint) Hurtt has stressed on us about our feet and our hands. We've gotten quicker with our feet. We've gotten better with our hands."
While the Cardinals finished in the top-25 nationally for the third-straight season, they dipped a little statistically, which disappointed Mount, and he can see some of the improvement.
"We are running to the ball better," Mount said. "We want to be more aggressive and get to the quarterback. We want to stay in our gaps and be gap sound. We just want to be more of a strong front."
Like everyone else, the Cardinals are tired of beating each other up and are counting down the days until the Sept. 1 season opener against Ohio. Louisville just finished practice 19 and have gone non-stop since taking the field on Aug. 6.
"To be honest, we are anticipating (a lot) the season," Mauldin said. "We are really anxious to get out there. We have seen a lot of guys get better and we want to see that out on the field this year."
Mount agrees with the growing anticipation sentiment transposing through the locker room as the game gets closer and the practices get longer and longer.
"We have been hitting each other for the last two weeks," Mount said after the hottest practice of the fall. "I've been going against the same guy every day in practice, so offensive tackle Jamon Brown and I really don't like each other much right now."
With a few guys banged up right now, the Cardinals have gotten an opportunity to see the younger guys perform, and Mount likes what he has seen out of some of the rookies.
"Kyle Shortridge is coming along well right now," Mount said. "I think De'asian Richardson is coming along as well. I will say that Finesse (Middleton), who is playing Fox, is coming along. He is a little small right now, but he is doing a few good things."
The Cardinals will need all the pieces this season on the defensive line if they are going to be solid up front and be a more aggressive defense. The season is a physical grind, and the Cardinals will need their three ends and depth on the defensive line to make this a top 25 unit for the fourth-straight season.