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Offseason spotlight: Louisville

We know, we know: A certain former Louisville quarterback might be taken first overall in the NFL draft. But the Cardinals' biggest question is on the other side of the ball.

Spotlight: Junior S Gerod Holliman

2013 summary: Holliman played in 11 games last season and started in two for the 12-1 Cardinals, amassing 16 total tackles, one tackle for loss, three pass break-ups and three passes defended.

The skinny: Louisville enters a new conference facing a number of big challenges, as it has a new head coach and needs a new signal caller, but one of the more overlooked aspects of the Cardinals' turnover going into 2014 is the secondary, and mainly the two safety spots.

Hakeem Smith finished fifth on the team in tackles last season, breaking up five passes and defending eight more. Calvin Pryor finished second on the team in tackles, making 5.5 stops in the backfield and forcing two fumbles. Each player recorded three interceptions last season. Both were first-team all-conference players in the American. And both are now gone to the NFL, with Pryor likely hearing his name called on Day 1 of the draft.

Enter Holliman, who showed flashes of potential last season for a defense that finished tops in the nation overall (and second in scoring). The former ESPN 150 prospect spent a year at prep school and dealt with several injuries as a rookie before emerging into a valuable asset in 2013. Now the spotlight shines a little brighter on the 6-foot, 201-pounder from Miami. The staff often raved about Holliman's practice habits, and the fact that he was able to make a dent in the rotation during what was really his first healthy season says plenty about his playmaking ability. So, too, does the fact that ESPN rated him as the No. 3 overall safety from the class of 2011, and the 49th-best player overall.

The spring will certainly be an adjustment for Holliman -- who shoulders more responsibility -- and for the Louisville defense as a whole, as it welcomes a new coordinator in Todd Grantham and his 3-4 base. Five starters from the front-seven are gone, but few individuals face a bigger burden in the program's last pre-ACC offseason than Holliman, especially as the Cardinals enter a division that is pass-happy at the top with Florida State and Clemson.