University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong took a few minutes during the slow summer months to address the local media on a number of topics as the coaching staff heads into their vacation time in July.
One thing Strong needs to find before the team takes the field on Aug. 4 is who his leaders are going to be. While it might not look like a big issue to the casual fan, it’s something that Strong has taken very seriously since taking over the program.
When Strong took over last December, he had a large number of seniors he could rely on to get his football program back to a bowl game. With about 71 days remaining before the season opener against Murray State on Sept. 1, Strong is attempting to find a new group of seniors to build his nucleus upon for 2011. Heading into camp in August, Strong has 12 seniors in the program, who he plans to build his team upon.
“We are a very young football team,” said Strong. ”We have 12 seniors and we have a long way to go. A year later, we have 12 seniors. We just hope that what we accomplished spills over to this season. It was all about building confidence. Ours guys know how to work and guys understand what is expected of them in this program. You look at (Josh) Chichester and Victor Anderson. You look at Scruggs and Savoy. You are look at guys who have been in this program like Ryan Kessling and Hector Hernandez. Josh Bellamy has been in this program. There are seniors in this program that have to step up.”
Even though, the senior class is small, Strong believes that he has some seniors in place who can be outstanding leaders.
Added Strong, “You look at a Vic Anderson, who was Freshman of the Year in this conference. You look at Greg Scruggs, who has had a great summer. We have Josh Bellamy too. It’s not a large group like we had last year. It’s a small group. The foundation was laid by the seniors last year where guys understand that it’s important to go to class and do the right things.”
Teams can win or lose games in the summer months based on how hard a team works in the off-season. Through the first four weeks of the summer, Strong has been pleased with the reports he has received from the strength staff regarding the progress of his team throughout summer workouts.
“I always say we have the best coaching staff in the country,” Strong. ”It’s all about trust. When you get someone to believe in you and they trust what they are teaching you, guys are gonna work. That’s what those guys are doing. They are working hard and you can tell they are getting bigger and stronger.”
As Strong heads into his second year, the one thing he can’t stand in his program is complacency. He knows what got his team to this place, and he understands that he and his staff can’t pull back.
“The thing you can’t do is get complacent,” said Strong. “I always ask our guys what got us to this point. You guys worked hard and you bought into the system. The moment you start pulling back, is the moment you start losing. You can’t have any drawbacks. I haven’t changed at all. Now that we are in year two and you see progress, I want to continue to move forward.”
While coaches live to coach, the football season is a grind so Strong doesn’t want to wish his summer away.
“I still want to take that one more month because I know when its over with it’s time to go to work,” said Strong. “The season is going to be here before we know it. The summer passes quickly. I’m enjoying watching my daughter play volleyball. It’s been a lot of fun for me.”
The Cardinals begin fall practice on Aug. 4.