Dennison: Cards' defense improved, now hoping for a chance to prove it

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Cort Dennison has heard all the rumors, all the scenarios, all the predictions.


The college football season is poised on the brink, needing just a slight nudge in the form of more COVID-19 infections, to push it over the edge. The ACC will follow the lead of the Big Ten and the Pac-12 in limiting its teams' schedule to conference games only. Teams will play only five teams, but face them twice each.


And Dennison, the co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach for the University of Louisville, shrugs and delivers a consistent message to his players:


"All we can tell our players is control what you can control," Dennison said during a media teleconference Monday afternoon. "What the state, health or conference officials are going to say, we can't control any of that. What we can control is preparing ourselves like we're gonna play on Sept. 2, putting ourselves in the best possible position to be successful."


The challenge for Dennison and the other members Louisville's coaching staff is how to keep the Cardinals motivated, interested and enthusiastic with so much uncertainty swirling around college football just seven weeks before they're scheduled to take on NC State in Cardinal Stadium.


No one knows at this point whether there will even be a season, and if so, how many games? When will it start?


In the meantime, Dennison is excited about the improved depth, strength, speed and talented recruits he thinks the defense has added since last season.


"There are a lot of question marks on that, but we look at it as a positive,"Dennison said. "During this quarantine, I think we've taken a step forward with our defense in many ways, and one of the main ways is mentally.


"Since we haven't been able to do things on the field we've been able to at least do things off the field -- any time you can get in the meeting room and expand your knowledge with the players, your knowledge of the playbook, you're gaining ground on things you need to. I think we've improved our knowledge of the playbook exponentially."


Now Dennison just hopes the Cards will get a chance to show that improvement to their fans and the ACC.


"Our players are getting more comfortable with everything we're doing and we've added new wrinkles, adjustments and it's up to the state and conferences, but hopefully we can put that to work this season.


"Our players has become more comfortable, so they're going to play a lot faster, which is only going to help out our defense. We've made leaps and bounds as far as the mental side of the game, and I'm excited hopefully for them to show it off this fall."


After N.C. State on Sept. 2, UofL is scheduled to visit heavily favored league foe Clemson on Sept. 12. Then come home games against Murray State and Western Kentucky. But if the ACC follows the lead of the Big Ten and Pac-12, those two games will be scratched, along with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 21 and a season-ending showdown with Kentucky in Cardinal Stadium on Nov. 28.


Dennison, a former linebacker at Washington, doesn't really care who the Cards play or when, so long as are on the field competing. If than means playing five teams twice each, bring them on.


"I just like playing football," he said. "I like winning. I like going out and competing and doing everything we can from a preparation standpoint to put ourselves in the best possible position to succeed. I'm a competitor, I don't care if we're playing against an ACC team, a Pac-12 team, a D-III team, a faceless opponent, a no-name opponent, our defense is gonna go out and play the same, do everything we can to win each week."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com

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