Position series: defensive backs

Hakeem Smith

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a new preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. The seventh day of the series takes a look at the Cardinals defensive backs.

OVERVIEW

Experience. The group of defensive backs at the University of Louisville has plenty of it.

Led by one of the best saftey duos in the nation in senior Hakeem Smith and junior Calvin Pryor, coupled with junior Terrell Floyd and converted safety Jermaine Reve locking down the cornerback positions, the Cardinals secondary is prime for breakout season.

Named a second-team All-American by CBSSports.com, Smith has started every game of his career his getting the nod against Eastern Kentucky on week two of his freshman year. He is a three-time All-Conference selection and finished third on the team with 73 tackles in 2012.

"You could talk about him forever," said Bedford. "He does all the little things right. He's always in position and he's smart."

Backing up Smith is Kamal Hogan, a 6-foot, 211-pound junior Montvale, N.J.

"He's made some strides," said defensive backs coach Tommy Restivo, adding that Hogan has improved his "formations, splits and stuff like that. Knowing his technique has been a big progress for him."

Calvin Pryor had his breakout season last year, finishing second on the team with 100 tackles and being named second team All-Conference.

"He just makes plays," said defensive coordinator Vance Bedford.

Behind Pryor is sophomore Gerod Holliman, who appeared in three games last season before suffering a shoulder injury.

While Restivo is excited about the depth and talent he has at the safety position, he cautions that his two playmakers need to remain humble and focused each day out.

"They have to come out and compete every day," Restivo said of Smith and Pryor. "The biggest thing is, is that they have a lot of experience, but they have to come out and play every day. If you come out and practice hard, you become a good player."

Terrell Floyd made a name for himself in the opening seconds of the Sugar Bowl with a pick-six that helped spark Louisville's victory over Florida. Throughout spring and training camp, Floyd continued to perform well.

Playing behind Floyd is junior Stephan Robinson and redshirt freshman Devontre Parnell.

Robinson, a product of Louisville Central, appeared in 10 games last fall, making one start. Parnell suffered an injury during spring practice, but continues to develop and will add depth at the position.

"He's been injured since he's been here," Bedford said of Parnell. "He was one of the top corners coming out of South Carolina two years ago and right now he's healthy."

After playing saftey for the Cardinals last fall, sophomore Jermaine Reve has secured the other corner spot in the secondary.

"He's an excellent tackler, which is something we need to improve on this year," said Bedford.

Backing him up will be converted wide receiver Charles Gaines and Andrew Johnson.

Gaines has shown big play ability. He led the team in interceptions during the first two weeks of fall camp, but continues to improve his overall techniques and tackling.

"Those guys have really impressed me in camp," Pryor said of the cornerbacks. "Re-routing guys and being more physical. They're understanding more."

BREAKOUT PERFORMER

Jermaine Reve

Making the transition to cornerback from safety will benefit the secondary. He's a physical player and has shown the ability to excel in coverage.

As a redshirt freshman, he played in all 13 games and made two starts. He finished the season with 32 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.

Reve will also slide over and fill the nickelback position when the package is called.

SLEEPER

Gerod Holliman

Rated a four-star prospect and the nation's 10th best safety coming out of Miami (Fla.) Southridge, the expectations were high for Holliman.

After being slowed by injury last season, Holliman has rebounded and has started performing as many anticipated.

"Gerod has been out here making plays," said Pryor. "I tell him to focus on getting better each day because your time is coming. That's the main thing that he's been focusing on."

EXTRA POINTS

*Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor have been named to multiple post season award watch lists.

*Terrell Floyd and Kamal Hogan were both nicked up during fall camp, but are expected to be ready for the season opener.

*True freshman safety Terrance Ross suffered a knee injury during camp and is expected to miss the season. He had been impressive and would have challenged for game time this season.

*True freshman Richard Benjamin made the move from cornerback to wide receiver midway through camp.

*Chucky Williams, a true freshman from Hialeah, Fla., has been impressive during camp and push for action this season.

"We're talking about a 6'2 corner and he wasn't here this summer to even touch the weights and you can tell by his physical presence that he loves to tackle," said Pryor. "He brings a lot of energy to this defense, so he's definitely a guy who can help us."

*Mitchell Nelson, Anthony Branch, Jordan Streeter, Jarrod Barnes and Alex Witcpalek are also listed as defensive backs.

COMING UP

*Check later for features on Calvin Pryor and Jermaine Reve.

*The position series will continue tomorrow with quarterbacks.

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