University of Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford takes a different approach when he talks about winning and his defense. Sure, like any competitive coach, Bedford wants to win, but the thing that makes him happy as a coach is all 11 players demonstrating what he's taught them.
"I don't want to talk about winning," Bedford said. "I want to talk about our guys on each play being the very best they can be and all 11 defensive players doing their job well and winning individual battles. To me, that is having success."
Despite having three top-25 defenses and winning two bowl games in their first three seasons, the Cardinals' coaching staff doesn't think their football team is where it needs to be.
"As a football coach, it's never good enough," Bedford said. "At the end of the season, you can be winning the Sugar Bowl, like we did last season, and it's not good enough. You always want more, and we want to shoot for perfection."
Last season, the Cardinals didn't reach perfection, but it was pretty close. Following the campaign that concluded with an 11-2 finish and a Sugar Bowl victory, the Cardinals return 19 starters and everyone in the country is talking about the Cardinals as one of the top programs in the country.
Head coach Charlie Strong fretted all summer about guarding his team from all the "noise in the system" and not letting his team read the press clippings. Prior to the start of camp in August, he talked about making this the hardest four weeks of their lives, and he hasn't failed to deliver. The Cardinals have gone 17-straight days without a vacation, and the practices aren't for the faint of heart.
"With this camp, we had to guard against complacency and guard against feeling good about ourselves," Strong said. "This camp, we talked about how hard we wanted to make it and it was pretty tough and demanding for our guys."
Most teams would have quit and mailed it in or had difficulty responding to the tough coaching style, but this year's group understands that two-straight BIG EAST titles and a Sugar Bowl have been the result of hard work and staying focused.
"They have responded very well to that," Strong said. "I just like the way their attitude was. Each day I didn't know what was going to happen, but our coaches did a good of pushing them, but the leadership took over. They would get beat up and drag, but the leaders picked everyone up, and the leaders helped us get through the practices."
It would be easy for a young football team to quit and not respond to the hard coaching and the physical style of practice, but Strong is fortunate his veteran-laden team buckled their chinstraps and went to work each day.
"What we have now is a really good class," Strong said. "What it is now, they have been with us four years. Preston Brown is a senior. Then you have the older guys speaking up. But now you have the juniors like Calvin Pryor and Teddy (Bridgewater) speaking up."
Strong backed off a little on Wednesday with one of the shortest practices of camp and they have started preparations for Ohio. He has shifted the focus from the team to finally starting to game plan for the opposition.
"We still have some work to do, but they are pretty set," Strong said. "We have an older group, so they have that mindset of them getting tired of banging on one another."
The Cardinals will get their first opportunity next Sunday to see if their hard work and dedication paid off against a good Ohio football team. If they can continue to work hard and be in the right position, then they might be able to really focus on winning football.