Stu Holt, Marshon Ford Talk Spring Practice

Louisville football tight ends & special teams coach Stu Holt and tight end Marshon Ford discussed several aspects of spring practice with the media.
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(Photo of Marshon Ford: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

LOUISVILLE, Ky - The end is almost near for Louisville football's spring practice schedule, as they are now heading into their fourth of five weeks back on the practice fields of the Trager Center.

Following their practice session on Monday, tight ends & special teams coach Stu Holt and tight end Marshon Ford took some time to meet with the media. They discussed how spring ball has been for the tight ends, the progression of the younger guys, and more.

Below is the transcript as well as the videos from their press conference:

Tight Ends & Special Teams Coach Stu Holt

(On what spring ball has been like for the tight ends)

Well, Marshon's been my assistant coach. He's been helping out with those guys, and he's getting back (from a shoulder injury). He's actually doing quite a bit, he's way ahead in his performance. It's been great, because you hate him not being able to go, but at the same time, you get some young guys a lot of reps, and that's been fun to see. We have five guys going, knock on wood, they're staying healthy and playing hard, and proving every day. That's been a lot of fun.

(On how the young tight ends are performing)

I think where we've really improved is, our guys are on the ball. Dez Melton and Francis Sherman, two guys that are playing attached most of the time, they've improved every day, and gotten better and better. Both did well today, and then DJ Martin, a real young guy, got to play last year as a true freshman. Saw some time against Syracuse, Boston College and maybe a couple others. DJ has done well. Isaac Martin has been around here for a while, but his reps have increased with Marshon (Ford) being out. He's kind of developing into that leadership role we've got on the field that the younger guys are looking towards. Josh Lifson is doing a nice job. He's playing on the ball and off the ball, and he's doing a nice job as well.

(On seeing Marshon Ford take on more of a leadership role)

Well, he was a captain last year. It was quite an honor for a young guy. He's trying his best to grow as a leader. In some ways, it's probably helped him having - it's kind of forced him to lead by speaking and actions off the field, rather than - he's a good player, so he makes plays on the field. He's one of those guys that can do that on the field, as far as making plays, and showing up, and being one of our better guys. But now he's kind of forced to use what he sees, and to speak into action what he sees. I think that's been great for him. I think I've seen him really grow, and really take on that leadership role in a serious fashion. He was serious about it last year, but again, being a young guy and having some older guys in those roles, he's just going to continue to grow.

(On the communication he's had with signees Vic Mullen and Christian Pedersen)

Honestly, I haven't meddled too much with either one of those guys, in terms of preparing them because they're both playing. In Illinois and in California, their seasons got pushed to the spring. It's a tough deal from our side of things, because I don't want to mess up what they got going on. Your senior year is a very important year, so I certainly wouldn't want to be a distraction that way. But it would be nice if we could get them going a little bit with the offense, but I just felt like that they needed to concentrate on helping their team. They'll be here in the summertime. We communicate a lot, they're there on the text message chain. We talk probably once or twice a week, just kind of keeping up with - Vic's playing basketball, and I always want to know how many points he's got, and how many fouls he's got. He was 14 and 4 the other night, so I like that. I want him to keep playing. I want to be physical when he gets here, so might as well work on that on the basketball court.

(On how walk-on Francis Sherman will help out in the tight end room)

His work ethic is what's given him a chance to contribute. He shows up every day, he's very consistent. We talked about being consistent a lot, and he's taken that to heart. He works very hard to improve every single day. He has respect of his teammates because of the way that he works. I think that he has respect to the room for the very same reasons. I think he also had the ability, because of what he's done to improve his game, he's kind of brought other guys up in the room as well. Really just a consistent approach and staying hungry. It was a lot of fun to see that pay off for him. We didn't really expect that to have to happen this past fall, but I didn't - I hated that Ean (Pfiefer) wasn't able to play our last regular season game. But, quite honestly, I really wasn't worried about having to play Francis. I thought that he would play well, and he did. He really rose to the occasion, and did some nice things for us. He works at it, it's important to him, I liked it. It's very important, day to day, how he does. I think you say it for a lot of our guys, but when you're in that that non-scholarship role, and you're scratching and clawing and trying to get opportunities, it's very important to be that way every day.

(On the last year dealing with COVID, and what has been the biggest challenge)

There's just so many. What's been the biggest challenge, I would say, was just the inconsistency. You're kind of just trying to stay ready, and having to deal with different scenarios each and every day,. From a lineup on offense, to - I think back to Virginia Tech for example. We had some guys not be able to play that day, we found out that morning. I think we made like 28 changes on the special teams depth chart that morning for a four o'clock kick. That's the uncertainty. I think that the social unrest, nationally, in particularly locally, was something that was tough for all of us. It was it was hard for all of us to - I guess in football terms, you would say, 'Well, those things can be a distraction', but I don't know that you would say distraction, it's just as part of being in college. You need to be paying attention to what's going on around you, you need to pay attention to the world. Just is dealing with those things day in and day out, and just being there to listen, and to pay attention to where our guys were. To our guys' credit, we didn't miss any practice. Guys came out, and they were ready to go. Now, we had plenty of times where we had some heart-to-hearts, and spent probably more time in meetings than we're was allotted that day. But, I can't say enough about our players/ I thought our players, our staff, I thought everyone did the very best they could in some pretty trying circumstances.

(On getting long snapper Mitch Hall back for another year)

That was huge for us. We were really excited Mitch wanted to come back and play another year. He is very consistent, he's very talented in snapping the football. He's another one that is very important to him, day in and day out, the way that he works. That was huge to get him back, and we're certainly tickled to death he's gonna be here.

(On if he's able to get a proper special teams game plan in the spring when they're indoors)

It's tough to punt inside, but we spend a lot of time in, as far as when we kick the ball, we spent a lot of time on our protection. Our punt protection, our field goal protection, we work our field goal block. Then really, all the other phases, we're working technique. Particularly, we're trying to, whether guys are our younger guys or older guys, just trying to teach them as much technique as possible. We're trying to lessen the learning curve as we move into to summer and to fall. There's a ton of technique when you're talking punt return, kickoff return, kickoff, then the other phases where we're really focusing on protection.

Tight End Marshon Ford

(On what he has being in the spring with his shoulder injury)

I've been working, getting better. Of course, I've been doing rehab and stuff like that, staying on top of that so it can get better, get a lot stronger. I'm still doing the same me, it just limits me a little more than usual. Other than that, Matt (Summers) got a great plan to keep everything together. Making sure that my shoulder doesn't get weak. Everything is going pretty well though. I'm not out there playing, so only time will tell as far as that. I'm still lifting, still working out and all that stuff. Still doing the same thing I've been doing.

(On the tight end competition in the spring)

It's great. We got some great guys. We got a lot of guys - of course we lost Ean Pfiefer, but we got Francis Sherman, Dez Melton, those are guys that are ready to step up. They're proving themselves in spring ball that they're ready to do that. DJ and Isaac (Martin) are also really good as well. We try to get the best out of each and every one of us.

(On what he is trying to work on to get himself to the next level)

I need to work on my footwork, more technique and stuff like that. Because you're never arrived .You always want to get better each and every day. Technique, stretch a lot more, run, do all that stuff to get me prepared for this season coming up.

(On what it's like being the most productive returning pass catcher, and being in a bigger role because of it)

I'm looking forward to be that guy. Also, we got a lot of guys that are stepping up in receiver room, too, Justin Marshall, Jordan Watkins, guys like that. They're ready to fill in those roles that from the guys that we lost last year. It's a process. We're in the process of that happening. They're out there making plays in spring ball, and it's it's fun to watch.

(On how the defense is looking)

Man, there's some dogs. There's some dogs. They're putting in hard work each and every day, and you can just tell just by playing against them, and just watching those guys. They're flying around all over the ceiling, and stuff like that. I'm excited to see what what our defense does this upcoming season.

(On how much he has seen the young guys grow since the end of last season)

I feel like they got comfortable. It goes back to when I had my first start. I wasn't really experienced. I was kind of playing a lot slower, but those guys are getting the reps. Francis Sherman, he scored, and man. I think that gave him a lot of confidence out there. DJ, he's also a young guy, and he makes a lot of plays and stuff like that, big runs. I think he's getting his confidence up too. They're just playing very comfortable

(On how he is trying to stay involved and help with the involvement of the younger guys)

Mental reps. Just talking to the guys whenever a play is over, I'm just giving my side of my side of the point of view. They listen, they look up.

(On the last year dealing with COVID)

It was a big wake up call just to everybody. You never knew if you were gonna play football again because of the pandemic, so we just take each and every day - we're blessed that we get to wake up, and come out here and practice spring ball. There's other schools that haven't done that, so we just try to be thankful.

(On the adjustment to his social life because of COVID)

Yeah, we had to meet a lot separated. We wasn't always together and stuff like that in the hotels. But it made us closer. We had to make some adjustments and move on with it, and that's what we did.

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