By Jeff Milby–

With spring practice nearing its halfway point, new football defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon is still learning his players on the fly.

“When you come in, just like when you meet anybody, the first impression is that everyone handles themselves the right way,” Sirmon, who came from Mississippi State, said. “But once you get into the football element of it, it’s, ‘How do they work in individual? What’s their attention to detail in the meeting rooms? Are they coming up for extra meeting time? What’s their demeanor on the field? Are they leading others?’ There’s so much more to the person once you actually get on the field.”

Sirmon, 40, has been called one of the bright, young minds in the game right now, and he has the resume to back it up. He played a six-year professional career in the NFL. As a coach, Sirmon has made stops at Tennessee, Washington and Southern California as a position coach, with the last two adding the title of recruiting coordinator. As the recruiting coordinator at Southern California, Sirmon was responsible for one of the of the top rated recruiting classes in the country in 2015. Sirmon says he’ll be working hard to make his reputation stick through his energy on the field.

“I try to be enthusiastic,” Sirmon said. “Football is a tough game, and coaches are the leaders. Every program wants to have three or four guys that lead from the locker room, but, in my experience, there’s a lot of young men and they’ve got a lot of things going on. It’s our job as guys with experience to come out there and set the tone.”

Sirmon isn’t alone in terms of experience.

New secondary coach Lorenzo Ward has been a defensive coordinator in his career too, at both South Carolina and Fresno State. Ward says the changeover of defensive staff has been a positive for his players.

“Sometimes change is good for young men, and I think that they embrace it,” Ward said. “We really like the attitude, the way they come to work.”

Ward said he’s adjusted well to his new job and surroundings.

“I love the city of Louisville,” Ward said. “Great people, a great foundation, a fan base. You just gotta love the way that the program has played in the past.”

Sirmon is replacing Todd Grantham, who is now the defensive coordinator for Mississippi State. Ward is replacing Keith Hayward, who left for Oregon.

Photo by Laurel Slaughter / The Louisville Cardinal