BOZICH | Louisville football takeaways with Bonnafon, offensive - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville football takeaways with Bonnafon, offensive line questions, dominant defense

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Reggie Bonnafon will be the quarterback. The offensive line will have Bobby Petrino crossing his fingers. The defensive front seven will have Petrino high-fiving.

If I formed any more conclusions after the University of Louisville spring football game Friday night at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, I'd risk running a retraction by August. Three are risky.

But I'll make those three with confidence. After watching the scrimmage, won by the Red team over the White team, 59-0, this is why:

1. Bonnafon makes plays. His accuracy looked improved. His upper body is stronger. Bonnafon is also the guy who can dance around missed blocks and through broken plays to deliver unexpected yardage.

He completed 15 of 19 throws for 238 yards and a touchdown. He made one bad throw that was intercepted. Bonnafon flashed for another 37 yards on 10 carries.

When Bonnafon pulled off his jersey and shoulder pads after the game, there was no doubt about the time he invested in the weight room since the end of last season. He said that in the last year he has gained 15 pounds spread across his bouncy 6-foot-3 body. But the muscle was apparent in his shoulders and upper arms.

Bonnafon said he weighs between 210-215. In the game notes for the final regular-season game against Kentucky last season, Bonnafon was listed at 205.

“I think the last two weeks when we made it live tackle and he gets to run down the field and show his ability (he looked good),” Petrino said.

“I was happy with some of the deep balls he threw. I wanted to make sure we got enough throws and challenged him … I thought he made some real accurate throws.

“He's way ahead of where he was last year. A better understanding of the offense.”

Kyle Bolin, the star of the Kentucky game as well as the starter in Louisville's loss to Georgia in the Belk Bowl, also threw several crisp passes. Bolin played for both teams, finishing a combined 11 for 18 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

Petrino declined to identify a starter for the opener against Auburn. But Bonnafon is the guy who played exclusively with the first team. Bonnafon is the guy who maintained more consistent pressure on the defense. And Bonnafon is the guy danced away from developing trouble.

And that is always important.

2. The offensive line needs work. The Cardinals dressed only nine offensive linemen.

The three other blockers on the field were guys who started last season and are finished with college football. John Miller was named the top grinder from last season's offense. Jamon Brown was honored as the team's most durable player.

Jake Smith did not earn an award, but I'll recognize him as the team's most versatile blocker because you could plug him into at least three slots on the line.

Without those three, there will be work to do in the fall. Quarterbacks were off limits Friday night. If a tackler touched the quarterback, the quarterback was considered down. That system and a leaky offensive front resulted in nine sacks.

That's a large number for a team that plays two of its first three games against the athletic defensive fronts of Auburn and Clemson.

Five more linemen – three high school guys and two junior-college players – will arrive before fall camp. Offensive line coach Chris Klenakis will have to assemble the parts.

3. Petrino said that he believes his defense can be dominant. I have to admit that I was surprised by that statement, considering four former Louisville players are ranked among the Top 150 prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft.

“I really think we'll have a dominant defense,” Petrino said. “That defensive front and linebacking corps is very physical and very strong. They made it real hard on our second offense.”

Petrino won with defense last season. Defense will matter greatly again in 2015.

Sheldon Rankins, at 303, is difficult to move off the middle of the line. Ditto for DeAngelo Brown at 308. Pio Vatuvei also plays with force.

At linebacker, Keith Kelsey is another hitter. James Burgess didn't play, but he didn't have to play. Burgess has proven his skills for three seasons.

The secondary will need fine-tuning. Don't expect 26 interceptions again because there likely won't be 10 teams in the country that intercept 26 passes. But even Gerod Holliman, the guy who intercepted 14 passes last season before deciding to enter the NFL Draft, said that Josh Harvey-Clemons, his replacement, will be fine in the middle of the defensive backfield.

“He's a different kind of player than me,” Holliman said. “He's a longer athlete who can play all over the field.”

“We've got a long way to go before that opening game,” Petrino said.

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