It's a tough job to replace one really good safety, so that's what makes the University of Louisville defensive staffs efforts this season look so daunting at that position.
The Cardinals not only have to replace one - first-round draft pick Calvin Pryor - but also a second - Hakeem Smith - top-notch player from last season's 12-1 team.
"Those guys were good," U of L coach Bobby Petrio said. "Watching the film, they were really good and will be tough to replace."
But the Cardinals have some new - and changed - pieces to try and fit in the puzzle.
Terell Floyd has been moved from cornerback to safety and is expected to be a starter along with former U.S. Army All-Americans James Sample and Gerod Holliman. Sample is a transfer and former Washington player, while Holliman has been around and played some last year behind Pryor and Smith, who is also in the NFL.
"I feel good about the guys we have there," Petrino said. "(Sample) has really come in and done a nice job early on."
Floyd made the play of the year two years ago with the pick six to start the Sugar Bowl and was a solid performer last season. But the staff feels like he helps the team more at safety, while Holliman is the experienced safety of the group after playing 11 games last season and starting twice.
"Holliman is a guy that you look at where he is today relative to the spring, he's very much improved," U of L defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "He's come back ready to be a player in this defense."
U of L doesn't have a ton of experience depth at the position but has some talented youngsters that could see the field.
Sample has been perhaps the most impressive newcomer in fall camp. He arrived on campus just two days before camp starter and said he "had some academic stuff to work out," before he was officially a Louisville Cardinals.
The staff was certainly happy he came. He's a former four-star prospect and out of high school has offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Utah and plenty of others. He played five game as a freshman at Washington and last season starred at American River Community College.
"Sample is a guy who has been a pleasant surprise in that he wasn't here all summer," Grantham said. "He has shown he has the physically tools to play at this level and help us. He's really picked it up."
Sample could be a difference maker.
You say how can a guy who has played in 38 games and started 26 be a sleeper?
Well, it's a new position and he will now be the center of attention in the defensive secondary and I suspect he has a banner year.
Floyd would have been one one of the top two cornerbacks on this team, but the defensive coaches saw something they liked at safety.
"He's a guy that in spring when he was playing corner, I saw a lot of passion in him and a guy who is physical as far as tackling goes," Grantham said. "He has size also and can tackle, so we felt like it was best to play him at that position for us and for him.
***Walk-on Jarrod Barnes was the No. 1 strong safety in spring ball. He's likely not going to start over the new guys at the position but in an emergency he would be there for the staff.
***Two of the best safety prospects on the team can't play this season. Jermaine Reve is sitting out with a knee injury, while Shaq Wiggins is practicing but must sit after a transfer from Georgia. Both are expected to be in the lineup for the first game in 2015.
***Chucky Williams, Terrance Ross, Richard Benjamin and Kevin Houchins are guys who have been around. Williams is talented and will likely see time, while Ross was expected to contribute last season until he hurt his knee.
***True freshmen Zykiesis Cannon De'Eric Culver and Trumaine Washington all have talent. It's uncertain if any will see the field or redshirt, but they will be part of the future plans on defense for the Cardinals.
***Watch later today for video on the U of L safety position and stories on Gerod Holliman in his new role and the two newcomers to the position - Terell Floyd and James Sample.
***The position series rolls on tomorrow with features on the cornerbacks.
Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. Our sixth installment provides a look at the safety position for the Cardinals.
Position series: Safety
Cardinal Authority takes a look at each posiiton on the Louisville football team - today it's safety
Aug 20, 2014