With all the talent returning on both offense and defense for Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino, coaches keep bringing up the name Elvis when talking about the 2005 defense.
Coaches are excited about 6-foot, 256-pound senior defensive end Elvis Dumervil and haven't been shy about their praise him as the season nears. So what makes coaches so excited about an undersized defensive end?
"He came to me right after we got back from our little break after the bowl game last year," Coach Petrino said. "He came walking into my office and sat down, and I thought, 'oh, no, what's wrong?'"
It is normally after a bowl game and between semesters when players make their big decisions. Some players decide college football isn't for them, some players start looking at other schools and still others make a new dedication to the game. When faced with a potential starter walking into his office for an unplanned meeting in the off-season, Petrino was justifiably a little uneasy.
"He said, 'Coach, I want to be the leader on the defense," Petrino explained. "He said, 'What do I need to do to be the leader on the defense? I want to take it over. I am really excited about my senior year.' That was great to see that happen and now, the way he has prepared himself to do that."
A signal that Dumervil is ready to take a leadership role on the defense was certainly welcome for Petrino and defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen. Dumervil led the team with a career-high 10 sacks in 2004, registering three in one game against Tulane.
Of all the players returning for the eight teams in the new Big East conference, Dumervil is the leading player in terms of sacks last year. And while coaches normally want a defensive end to be built along the prototype of 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Dumervil has garnered pre-season all-conference honors at five inches shorter and 20 pounds too light.
"Elvis is kind of in a unique position because he is only about 5-11 and a half, but he has the arm reach of a guy that is 6-5," Petrino explains. "That makes it very difficult to block him.
"I know I like to watch our offensive linemen when they come to the line of scrimmage. We flip our offensive linemen and we flip our defensive linemen, and the tackles will come up to the line knowing it is a pass play, they get in their stance and everytime they look over and see Elvis you can just see them go, 'Oh, no... I've got to block him again?'"
Like the reach measurement in a boxing ring, Dumervil's long arms lets him block the linemen's attempt to grab his jersey or push his chest. His short stature makes it difficult for an offensive lineman to get low enough to block him, and his speed off the corner and quick spin move make it next to impossible for a large lineman to stay in front of him.
"He's really difficult. How short he is and how long his arms are gives him a big, big advantage," Petrino said. "He did a great job rushing the passer for us last year and he did an excellent job this summer really taking over the leadership role for the defense."
Fall practice begins Saturday afternoon at the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium practice fields. Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. fans are allowed to observe Louisville's first practice and CardinalSports.com will be there to take pictures and bring you reports from on the field.