We are taking a look at assistant coaches whose position group will be in the spotlight this fall. Up today is Louisville.
Coach: Larry Slade
Position: Defensive backs
Experience: Look no further than last season, when he helped safety Hakeem Smith become one of the best in the league and one of the top freshmen in the country. Before Louisville, Slade worked at Tennessee. In 2008, the Vols were ranked No. 4 in the nation in pass defense. He also coached All-America and future NFL pick Eric Berry. Before Tennessee, Slad coached at Texas A&M from 1994-98. His 1997 unit allowed only three passing touchdowns -- fewest in the nation.
His challenge: Slade clearly knows what he is doing with defensive backs, but he has a gigantic challenge on his hands this fall when it comes to the cornerbacks. The safeties should be fine, but the cornerbacks are the weakest link on what should otherwise be a solid defense. Smith returns along with starting free safety Shenard Holton. But the Cardinals lose both starting cornerbacks -- including first-team All-Big East selection Johnny Patrick and Bobby Burns.
Darius Ashley, who was considered to be a front-runner to win one of the starting jobs, has been suspended indefinitely following his second DUI arrest. One other bit of bad news -- it appears incoming freshman Gerod Holliman has failed to qualify academically and is headed the prep school route. That leaves little in the way of depth and experience headed into fall practice. The Cardinals moved receiver Charles Gaines to cornerback in the spring, a move that may end up being permanent when you look at the holes at this position.
The others in contention: redshirt freshman Jordan Paschal, senior Anthony Conner, senior Preston Pace and sophomore Titus Teague. Conner tore his ACL last season, while Teague had a decent spring. How Slade develops this group could determine how well Louisville does defensively this season.