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Louisville's Vance Bedford promises an aggressive defense

Louisville went 11-2 last season, including a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, despite a defense that was a bit too conservative, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said Thursday.

Bedford also said his defense wouldn't be that laid-back this season.

"We were conservative with blitzing last year because we felt good about the offense," Bedford said. "We could move the ball, and I didn't want to give up a big play."

The offense should be even better this season, but Bedford said that won't matter to his defensive play-calling. The upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl drove the point home.

"In the bowl game, we played loose and aggressive, and we were better," he said.

This season, expect consistent aggressiveness from the Cardinals' defense.

"We must blitz and put pressure on the offense," Bedford said. "We have to be the attacker all of the time."

Louisville had trouble mounting a consistent pass rush last season. The Cardinals finished with only 22 sacks, and only two players had more than two sacks. In addition, Louisville managed only 4.5 tackles for loss per game, a surprisingly low number for a team that won 11 games.

The move to a more aggressive defense should pay off for a few Cardinals players, most notably senior strong safety Hakeem Smith, junior free safety Calvin Pryor and senior defensive end Marcus Smith.

"Marcus Smith came here as a quarterback," Bedford said. "We moved him to linebacker, and then pushed forward to the defensive line. He's a fantastic defensive lineman."

Marcus Smith (6-foot-3, 252 pounds) is in his third season at end and has become a well-rounded player. He has some pass-rush skills, and a revamped scheme should give him more chances to get to the quarterback this season.

The Pryor-Hakeem Smith duo is one of the best safety tandems in the nation -- they combined for 173 tackles last season but had only 4.5 tackles for loss between them. That number should at least double this season.

"People may say he's not big enough or not fast enough, but the guy makes plays on defense," Bedford said of Hakeem Smith (6-1, 179).

Pryor (6-2, 208) is a big hitter who forced five fumbles last season. Consistency in coverage is something he needs to work on this fall.

Follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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