English assesses Louisville's program on the way out

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
11:03
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The Courier-Journal's Eric Crawford caught up with former Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English before English departed to become head coach at Eastern Michigan. English, who spent one season with the Cardinals after several years as an assistant at Michigan, had some interesting things to say about the state of the Louisville program.

"I watched Louisville for years, and from a talent standpoint, they were easily a top-20 talent team, and even top 10 at one point," English said. "And I was kind of surprised when I came here. The big-time schools win because of depth. You can't win playing 22 guys. Honestly, you need 18 guys on defense who can really play.

"Right now at Louisville, it's a building deal. It's not even like they're at the back end of a deal where you were rolling. This is a flat-out building phase. That's just the reality. You just don't have the players. ... You can't have attrition like they've had and not take a step back."

The Cardinals' defense melted down in the season-ending 63-14 loss at Rutgers. But English noted that he had only 23 defensive players to work with that game, and several of them were walk-ons. He recalled a defensive meeting that week.

"I'm getting upset," English said. "I'm asking, 'Where is everybody? This thing starts in 30 seconds, and people aren't here yet.' I was getting ready to lay into people, then somebody tells me, 'Coach, this is everybody. They're all here.' That's when it hits you."

I'll never forget the look on English's face during Louisville's first open scrimmage of spring practice earlier this year. The Cardinals were playing walk-ons at linebacker and repeatedly gave up long touchdown passes to the offense -- including a 99-yard pass on the offense's first play from its own 1-yard line. English looked shocked, like he couldn't believe what he'd walked into.

The numbers game isn't going to be much better next year for Louisville, at least not with experienced players.

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