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By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Charlie Strong isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the kind of guy who leaves things to chance.
The coach charged with restoring Louisville to the glory of its not-so distant past is a stickler for details, monitoring everything from the number of available towels in the locker room to where his players park their cars.
StrongÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meticulousness has instilled a renewed sense of discipline at Louisville, keeping the Cardinals on their toes and delighting a fan base turned off by the decidedly more relaxed Ã¢â‚¬â€ and ultimately unsuccessful Ã¢â‚¬â€ approach of former coach Steve Kragthorpe.
Still, after eight months of sweating the small stuff, even Strong isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so sure about some of the big stuff, like what kind of team heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got on his hands heading into SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cup showdown with Kentucky.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know who we are right now,Ã¢â‚¬Â Strong said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re searching for an identity.Ã¢â‚¬Â
A certain air of mystery may not necessarily be a bad thing, particularly for a team coming off its worst season since 1997.
Strong brings in a new coaching staff, one that features LouisvilleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fourth offensive and defensive coordinators in as many seasons.
Former UNLV coach Mike Sanford will bring the spread offense he perfected under Urban Meyer at Utah in 2003-04. Former Florida secondary coach Vance Bedford will partner with Strong to help a defense that ranked 91st in the country last year.
It has sent Kentucky coach Joker Phillips to the film vault trying to figure out what to expect in a series the Wildcats have dominated in recent years. Kentucky has won three straight over its archrival, swinging the balance of power in the state firmly back to Lexington.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to be mentally prepared for a lot of different things,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just been a pretty difficult team to prepare for.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Well, not entirely.
Phillips has spent enough time watching StrongÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s talented defenses at Florida have its way with the Wildcats over the last seven seasons to know what to expect whenever Kentucky has the ball.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be a blitz-o-rama,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be blitzing as soon as he comes out of the locker room. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just what they do.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Even if the Cardinals wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it with the same kind of athletes Strong had at Florida. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the least of his worries at the moment.
He knows his teams lacks depth and size. He can work on that. Right now, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to see some confidence. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a rare commodity in a program that has gone 15-21 since winning the Orange Bowl four seasons ago.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What these players have heard (for years) is Ã¢â‚¬â„¢YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not very good, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do this, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do that,Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Strong said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a confidence thing with them now because we have nothing to show for it.Ã¢â‚¬Â