CONFERENCE USA Louisville to use Chaney grad Floyd to return punts
The Cardinals senior excels at safety and has the most interceptions among current players.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Chaney High graduate Anthony Floyd will play an additional role with the University of Louisville football team for his senior season.
Entering his third year as a starter at safety, Floyd (5-foot-10, 202 pounds), also will be the Cardinals' regular punt returner after displaying his talent at that spot late last season.
"Last year I was third or fourth [on the return team depth chart], and a lot of people got hurt who were in front of me," Floyd said. "Some of them graduated, and I was next one in line to do it."
Last year, he averaged a Conference USA-best 14.1 yards per punt return, including a 51-yarder for a touchdown against Houston, which earned him Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
And in Louisville's first scrimmage Aug. 17, Floyd had an 85-yard punt return.
All of these outputs are signs that he can spell double trouble for opponents this season.
He already has established himself as one of the best free safeties in the nation with 17 career interceptions. He leads the nation among current NCAA Division I players -- five more than the nearest challenger.
The 17 interceptions also are Conference USA and Louisville records.
Rated No. 3 in nation
In fact, Floyd is rated the No. 3 free safety in the nation by The Sporting News, and was selected to the Athlon Preseason All-America Second Team.
He was is listed as a preliminary candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation's top defensive back, presented by the Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club.
Louisville is ranked No. 17 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll after finishing No. 16 last year. Coach John L. Smith enters his fifth season with a 34-15 record.
Louisville will open the season Sunday at home to Kentucky in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The game will be televised at 6 p.m. by ESPN2.
Floyd views being the team's punt returner as "another opportunity" to help the team, he said.
"It's just an opportunity to score or get 10 yards or whatever I can get," Floyd said. "It's a bonus for the team if I get 10 or 20 yards."
And just like a pass interception can set up a scoring drive, so can a good punt return.
"I am always thinking touchdown," Floyd said.
Ten of Floyd's interceptions came as a sophomore in 2000, which tied for the Div. I lead.
He is a key part of a Louisville secondary that has come up with 44 interceptions over the past two seasons to rank No. 2 nationally over that time span.
1-2 punch at safety
Complementing Floyd in the deep secondary is Curry Burns, a senior strong safety. The pair give the Cardinals one of the nation's best combinations at safety.
Floyd is comfortable working with Burns in the secondary because of their familiarity and experience playing together.
"I don't have to know where he is at or to guess where he is at," said Floyd, who shared the team lead in interceptions last year with Burns with four.
Floyd has excelled as a tackler and in breaking up passes. Last year, he ranked No. 2 on the team in pass breakups with six and third in tackles with 97, including 59 solo stops.
Also on the Louisville team is Jimmy Riley (6-1, 202) of Ursuline High and Campbell, a freshman wide receiver and one of 26 newcomers.
"He is doing a good job on the scout team right," said Floyd of Riley. "He's been a real good help to the scout team running the routes and catching the ball."
Floyd's main objective this year is improvement.
"I would like to improve on everything from last year," Floyd said. "I just really want to improve on my technique to make plays and be a more complete player."
Floyd already has won a host of honors at Louisville.
In 2001, he gained the All-Conference USA first team and the Preseason All-Conference USA team; while in 2000 he made the Walter Camp All-America first team, the Football News All-America second team, the AP All-America second team and the All-Conference USA first team.
In 1999, he was selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
The son of Patti and Doug Floyd, Anthony is a business marketing major.