Mark Ivey, YaYa Diaby Talk Spring Practice for Louisville

The Cardinals head into their second week of their spring football season.
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(Photo of Trever Lawrence, CJ Avery, Jared Goldwire: Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville football program is quickly progressing through the early goings of spring practice, as they are already heading into week two of their 2021 spring ball schedule.

Following their practice session on Monday, defensive line coach Mark Ivey and defensive end took some time to meet with the media. They discussed the early goings of spring ball, the position battle at nose tackle, the newcomers on the line, and more.

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

Defensive Line Coach Mark Ivey

(On how the first week-plus of spring practice has been for the defensive line)

Well, first of all, it's been a whole lot of fun. We've got some guys returning, obviously, so that makes it a lot easier. One of the huge bright spots this past week - a lot of the time it's like that, it's his second year in the program, but YaYa Diaby has really - he's a bright spot. He's moving around, he's explosive off the ball, which we we knew he could be. He showed that in spurts last year. I hope he'll continue to progress like he is right now, because right now, it's becoming a consistent everyday thing. That's one of the super huge bright spots, is seeing YaYa move around. But as a whole, it's been a lot of fun. The guys are are moving, and playing well, and doing well. Some guys are making some things happen, some guys that can really be, and have excellent athletic ability is Ashton Gillotte, who just got here in January. He's been a pleasure so far because of what he can do. He's still got some - he's going through that learning process. Very smart young man, who does great in the classroom, but when you're out there and it's live bullets, things are moving fast. But he's coming along very, very nicely. His athletic ability is gonna take him a long ways. The other two that are really playing exceptionally well are Mason Reiger and Ramon Puryear. Those two guys are making a lot of plays and playing with great pad level, and being very explosive. Chasing the ball like crazy too. Those are those are some guys that are really shining and as of right this moment.

(On replacing nose tackle Jared Goldwire)

Well, Jared leaves a huge question mark. Obviously, that's another really talented player that had a lot of productivity for us last year. I think he was our most productive defensive lineman, as far as sacks, tackles, all that kind of good stuff. Right now, Malik Clark is continuing to get better on a day to day basis. He had a really good day Saturday. So, the deal for him will be developing some some knockback, being able to get people off the ball, some things that Goldwire could do. He is getting much better. Now, the guy that's really really interesting at that position, and we still got a lot of question marks, but he's got the potential - Jared Dawson, who came in last year. Obviously didn't redshirt because of the whole COVID deal, but would have last year, is at times - it looks like he could be your heir to the throne, and at times he looks like he's still a freshman. What he can do mentally will allow him physically to decide what he's going to be. He's got some twitch, he's got some strength, super long arms. Really excited about what he can be, now just gotta keep working with him until he gets there. But he's gonna have the potential to be really great. Then obviously, we're missing a guy that did a great job last year as a freshman - Dezmond Tell. He got injured in the UVA game, and he's coming along great, but he won't be able to participate in spring ball. He'll be back soon, he's doing great, but that's a that's a body that's going to be huge for us next fall. Miss him right now.

(On the benefit of having a veteran such as Malik Clark on the roster)

Well, he's played a lot of snaps. My first year here, which was 2019, he was actually a defensive end at the time. I believe he started several games, and was a backup several - he went back and forth between ones and twos, and did a nice job. He moved to nose guard last year, and I was truly hoping that he was going to push Goldwire to be the starter. Never really got to that level, now he did play a ton of reps, did do a good job. That job though, Malik is running with the ones right now, and I'm really pleased with his progress. But that job's open, It's an everyday competition. I don't say that that none of them are doing well, they're all continually getting better, but it is an open competition, and it'll be a while before that thing is decided from what I'm seeing right now. They're all doing some good things, whose going to be the best, it'll be a while before we see that decided.

(On having depth at the defensive line position as opposed to when he first arrived at Louisville)

Well, it's gradually improving from two years ago, to last year, and then again this year. Obviously having Tabarius Peterson coming back, that's a big deal. He's a guy that's started since I've been here. He has been one of our starting defensive ends. He's a two year starter in our scheme, a lot of knowledge, great kid, awesome young man. Very, very glad that he decided to come back and play with us. Speaking of depth, one of the guys that as you watched last year, I knew what he could do, still not sure where he'll end up, but Ja'Darien Boykin has started to relax a little bit, and be able to use some of that speed, because he is extremely fast, extremely explosive. I told him, 'hey man, you're like a missile launcher. If I got all these missiles, but I can't hit anything with them, they're no good. So we got to get you going in the right direction'. He's like a heat seeking missile. If we can get him going in the right direction, then he's a dangerous weapon. He's starting to do some of those things. There is some good depth, and the biggest thing is trying to get them just to compete, and understand that I'm not okay being number two, and I'm not okay being number three, and I'm not solidified at number one. Wherever they're at, they got to fight like crazy every day. If we get that, then that depth really helps you. If we don't get that, then you've just got bodies that are sucking up oxygen and eating chicken on Saturday afternoon. But there are some guys that are starting to build towards that.

(On how important it was for Dezmond Tell to get reps in before his injury)

It was massive. What he did was, in my opinion, he came in with the right type of attitude. I could move him, and let him roll with the ones, and he didn't feel like he had arrived. I could bump him down to the fours, and he didn't sit over and pout. I could put him wherever I want to, and he just he just played at the same level - as hard as he could go. He didn't do everything right, he didn't do everything wrong, but he came in with a, 'I'm going to learn and I'm going to work' mentality. If I get them all to do that, then it'll make the whole group better. He definitely played a ton of reps last year. He was normally going with our twos, he actually started against Georgia Tech. He started that ballgame, and he played well all year. Certainly made some mistakes, certainly a lot of correctable moments, but to play the amount of reps he did as a freshman, is extremely beneficial for us, and of course for him because he's having to miss some time now. He'll catch back up much more quickly because he does have some experience, no doubt.

(On if he thinks he has a good nose tackle core with Tell, Dawson and Clark)

I truly do. I think that the three of them will - they all do something a little bit different, no doubt. If they'll all fight for that spot, then each one of them is going to bring something to the table. Like I said earlier, if Malik continues to improve, and Dawson can grow into his capabilities, and no doubt Tell was - he was more than just solid for us last year, he was extremely productive when he was there. I think those three will have a - they're going to be something you have to plan against if you're the O-line coach next week.

(On the next step for YaYa Diaby)

Last week was - he was dominant. We had full practices, and it was a deal where, he was very consistent with it, but when he makes up his mind to go, there's not a lot you can do with him. His strength is pretty incredible. He's up around 270 pounds right now, so he's put on about 12 pounds of muscle from where he was last year. But he's moving better. A lot of times you put on weight, you don't move as well. He's put on 10-12, maybe even 15 pounds, and he's moving better. He's more explosive, he's more accurate with his hands, his feet are quicker, and he's able to bend better. I truly expect an outrageous year, out of YaYa as long as he'll keep competing like he is. He's, in my opinion, should be one of the guys that is in the hunt for conference deals, and whatever it is. He should be an amazing player next year.

(On his instruction to the signees that are not on campus yet)

Ryheem (Craig) is playing, North Carolina is having spring football right now. Caleb (Banks) is playing basketball, the other two are not playing spring sports that I know of. They're training or lifting, and they're doing all that kind of stuff. They're gonna have to, and I think some of them can no doubt help us next year, but they'll have to be - they got to be training. Not just lifting, and lifting is great, no doubt. But they're gonna have to be running, they're gonna have to be moving. Because what we do up front end is not, it's not for the weak at heart, It's not for the faint. They're gonna have to come in here in very, very good shape, and be ready to work. Now the good news is, they'll all be here in early June. We're gonna have to spend a lot of time talking scheme, talking technique and just talking what they need to do to be able to play in this defense. Skill wise, I think they're all tremendously good fits for what we do, and they'll have to get up to speed. Now the good thing is, some of these guys we've got are very unselfish. Daina Kinnaird, he's actually had a great week last week as well, and he's one of the smarter players that I've ever been around. He'll be a guy that will get with them after I'm done meeting with him, and spend time with them. Having TP back for another year. those guys are doing a really good job leadership-wise, and they'll get with those guys in between our meetings, and in between our stuff, and bring them along and help them get up to speed. But certainly, I'm hoping all those guys can contribute next year. But you never know, it's really hard to say, 'hey, they will definitely be able to help'. I think from what I've seen, they will. But time will tell. They will have to get up to speed in order to be able to do some

(On Henry Bryant and Zach Edwards)

Zach's doing a good job. He actually had a pretty good week last week. Henry's still got some work to do, he's doing okay. He's just gonna keep working and keep plugging. I think Zach's coming along nicely, and if you remember, Zach came in as a linebacker, and then we moved him down there two years ago. He went ahead and came down there, but he really seems committed and into it. Henry's doing well, still got some got some work to do, no doubt about it. Good Kid, good family needs to keep on improvement.

Defensive End YaYa Diaby

(On how he has fared through the first week of spring)

This is my first spring with Louisville, so it's been really fast, moving fast, everything is fast tempo. But I really got better at getting off the ball, being more explosive than last season. It's really helped me.

(On what changed to allow him to be more consistent)

I'm more I'm more confident, more confident, and I got the plays down-pat. I know how to read the O-line. I know when they're coming at me, when they're gone away from me, so it allowed me to play faster and quicker.

(On what his focus was over the offseason)

I just put it in my mind that last season was really not a big season for me, so I had to adjust myself and talk to myself, and tell myself that I needed to come this spring, this offseason, with a better mentality, and eager to get better, and perform better for my team.

(On how difficult the transition from JUCO to ACC play was)

Well from JUCO to playing at Louisville, it's been kind of - everything is fast. Everything moves quicker than it did at JUCO, so I had to adjust and just play plays play-by-play.

(On how he would assess his play so far)

I feel like last season, I went through a minor injury that didn't help me perform well, also was involved in COVID, so I didn't play that many games. But the games I did play, I got better throughout every game, and I finished the season the way I wanted to finish.

(On his overall thoughts on the D-Line)

I just love that TP decided to come back for one more year, and also Derek Dorsey - two of our seniors, they're our leaders, and we look up to them. They have really been helping us, and telling us that we need to be more consistent this season, and run our games and our plays better, and be more physical be more dominant. I thank those two guys for coming back, and showing us the right way to be a dominate D-line.

(On his potential)

I feel like going into the season right now, I'm showing myself that I can be more consistent, and be more reliable to my team and on the defense. That can help me be the All-ACC, or First Team and probably Defensive Player of the Year.

(On if he can back that claim up on the practice field)

Yeah, I feel like I've been more consistent, and that's all I've been trying to be - more consistent, and be violent, and come off the ball, and just be consistent on every play.

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