So much in football, Louisville coach Charlie Strong says, often comes down to how the linemen look coming off the bus.
"Small guys are just small guys," he said. "Big guys look good."
Strong is used to having a team pass the look test, having come off a long tenure as Florida's defensive coordinator. His new team doesn't measure up -- literally -- when it comes to the defensive line.
One of the key differences between Louisville's Orange Bowl team of 2006 and the three bowl-less editions that followed was elite talent up front on defense. Strong is mixing and matching and making do, but that means a guy like Greg Scruggs was moved to defensive tackle at just 262 pounds. The Cardinals are going to have to try to hold the fort with undersized players.
"You look at the offensive lines in this conference and you're like, 'Wow,'" defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. "We're not big enough right now. We've got guys who are 260, 270 pounds, and when they go against a 330-pound offensive tackle, they're at a disadvantage."
Bedford said he wants his linemen to be in the 280- to 290-pound range and that the primary attribute the Louisville staff is seeking on the recruiting trail is size and bulk. But that's the future. They've still got to figure out how to win games now.
"We've got to load the box more and get as many guys as close to the line as possible to try and slow things down," Bedford said. "We've got to do a variety of things -- eight-man fronts, moving people around -- to give our guys a chance."
Size isn't always everything in football. The Cardinals hope they have other ways to get to the ball.
"Speed and knowing what you've got to do," senior linebacker Brandon Heath said. "Playing fast and executing every play, that will make up for a lot."
A few other notes from Louisville's media day:
Even with the concerns on the defensive line, Bedford said his main worry is the secondary, where only cornerback Johnny Patrick is proven. Finding another suitable cornerback becomes more vital if the defense is loading the box to help against the run, leaving the defensive backs on an island. "As far as depth, there is none," Bedford said. Bedford said as of now, only Heath and Scruggs have locked up starting jobs on defense, though a natural disaster would probably have to occur to keep Patrick on the bench.
Former Michigan signee Demar Dorsey and USC transfer Jordan Campbell -- two guys who could really help the defense -- still aren't part of the team."We're moving forward as if those guys are not going to be here," Strong said.
Redshirt freshman running back Jeremy Wright, who was so impressive in the spring that the staff felt comfortable moving Darius Ashley to cornerback, is out with a bruised knee and his timetable for return is unknown. He missed time in the spring with a sports hernia. Backup tight end Pete Nochta is also out with a knee injury.
Strong didn't offer specific goals for the 2010 season and said he didn't know how long it would take to get Louisville back to its winning tradition. But he said he told the seniors that "we owe it to you to get you to a bowl game this year."