UK Football

Louisville's Scruggs primed to gobble up Cats

LOUISVILLE — Greg Scruggs, who starts at defensive tackle for Louisville, breaks down his off-season preparation this way: work out, eat, sleep.

While some players were slimming down and adding speed, Scruggs' job was adding bulk. Pat Moorer, U of L's strength and conditioning coach, supervised.

At 6-foot-4, 273 pounds, the junior out of Cincinnati's St. Xavier still will be about 20 pounds less than the Kentucky players who will line up against him in Saturday afternoon's season opener.

Scruggs ate 6-8 times a day every day. Since January, he has added 25 pounds, 15 since May.

"Anything and everything that I could find to eat, that was my job," he said. "I ran into Coach Moorer at Subway and I had a sandwich, like a grilled chicken sandwich.

"He said, 'I hope you got extra mayo. Get extra bacon. And why don't you grab three or four cookies while you're at it.'"

Anything and everything included lots of bagels. "I hate bagels now," he said. "I used to love them."

Now, he's still a mean, lean tackling machine, yet bigger than a year ago.

There is little resemblance to the Greg Scruggs who, through his first three years of high school, played in the marching band.

His first year of football, as a senior at St. Xavier, he helped his team to a 15-0 record, an Ohio state title and a No. 1 national ranking.

He made three starts for U of L as a true freshman and, last year, started all 12 games. Of his 24 stops last season, 6.5 were tackles-for-loss.

Buoyed by former U of L and Denver Broncos standout Tom Jackson, Scruggs has no fear of competing against bigger opponents.

"Tom Jackson ... told us that on defense gaps open this way," Scruggs said, spreading his arms horizontally. Then, moving his arms to a vertical position: "Not this way.

"So I would say no, our size is not the issue. It doesn't matter how big or how small you are as long as you execute your fundamentals, as long as you execute your technique."

Coach Charlie Strong has planned for this game, knowing all along that his defensive line would be at a size disadvantage.

"We're going to have to use our speed and quickness," Strong said. "And once we get our speed and quickness going, then we get stronger. What you can't do when you're little, you just can't allow people to lock in on you, and that's why we're going to have to do some movement. We can't blitz them all the time, but we need to move them just to give them a chance because we're not very big."

There's no doubt about the cross-state rivalry being big.

UK leads the series 13-9, with wins the last three years.

As a relative newcomer to the sport and being from across the border, Scruggs said he didn't grasp the intensity of the rivalry right away. He knows now, though.

"The game means a lot and I think that on Saturday at 3:30 you will see from both sides of the ball how much it means, how much emotion that's going to go into the game, how much passion that we have for each of our respective teams," he said. "I think this rivalry is a great one. I love being a part of it because not everybody can kick off their season with an opportunity like this to go and compete, actually compete, in a tough battle."