CRAWFORD | Transcript: Petrino talks quarterbacks and offense at - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Transcript: Petrino talks quarterbacks and offense at ACC media day

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U of L coach Bobby Petrino. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.) U of L coach Bobby Petrino. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.)

PINEHURST, N.C. (WDRB) — If you like hearing an offensive-minded football coach talk about how he goes about things, you’ll like this 20-minute discussion with University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.

Petrino is rarely better than when he sits down and just talks football at length. This is 16 questions, most of them involving his five-player quarterback race, but expanding into his wider offensive views, strategies and practices.

It’s pretty interesting, for those hard-core football folks among you, and worth reading in its entirety.
  
These questions were asked by a group of reporters at ACC Football Media Days.

Q: You ready to name a starting quarterback?

PETRINO: Obviously, that’s not it. But I’m excited to get started and get out on the practice field and let them compete for it and see where we’re at. They all look good. They had good summers. They’re stronger, bigger, excited to get going. They did a nice job while the coaches were gone for a few weeks in leading the program.

Q: Where will you start? Are they all on a level playing field?
  
PETRINO:
The way I’ve always done it is you give each of them an opportunity to jump in there with the number ones. So sometimes it might be like, two guys a day, so if we’re doing a blitz pick-up period, have one quarterback in there with the ones, the other guy split the reps that are left over. Then in the team period you put somebody else in with the ones. But I think the only way that it’s a fair competition is if they get to go with the best offensive linemen and best wide receivers and running backs and tight ends, against our best defensive players. And that’s how you decide who is able to move the team, and who is able to operate the offense the way we want it operated.

Q: Have you ever had five to work through?

PETRINO: Yeah, we have a lot. Early on, what we’ll do the first four practices or the first four days is we’ll split the practices. So we’ll take our newcomers and practice them separate from the vets, and that gives guys opportunities to get more reps there. Although they’re shorter practices and a little more intense as far as the number of reps they have to take, it does provide opportunities. And then once we come together on that fifth practice, obviously the guys that do better are going to get more reps.

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Q: Do you have them on a shorter leash, if you mess up one game it could be someone else the next?

PETRINO: No, no. We don’t really have a tight leash. You’ve got to let them go out there and do what they do. The biggest thing is, for myself, coach McGee and our offensive coaches, we need to do a great job of teaching the entire offense to them. We’ve gone through it already two times in the spring. Now we’ll do it again in August. Then we need to know what parts of the offense each guy operates the best, and mold that around them, and let them highlight what their abilities are and what they do real well, and try to hide what they don’t do real well.

Q: In this situation, do you let the quarterback practice against live hitting any more than you might?

PETRINO: That’s a great question. I kind of felt like in spring, we weren’t sure we really know enough about Reggie, if he starts running the ball maybe it’s different for him. I always worried about that with Stefan LeFors. When he was quarterbacks, I told our assistant coaches all the time, ‘I”m not sure we’re really going to know how good he is until it’s live and people have to tackle him.’ And then look what happened, he either threw a completion or ran the ball for yards, and led the country in completion percentage. It wasn’t because he threw the ball really accurately, it was his ability to run it. That’s going to be something we have to evaluate ongoing. You don’t want to lose anyone in practice, but you want to find out exactly what your best way to win is going to be.

Q: You mentioned Lamar Jackson. What impresses you about him?

PETRINO: Lamar has the talent. He’s an unbelievable athlete. He can throw the ball naturally. So there’s not a lot of coaching that you have to do with his release and what he does as far as his upper body and throwing the football. So it’s just learning the drops, getting his feet into position, and throwing it that way. But he has a strong arm, and, you know, just give him an opportunity and see where he is. How much he gets into the competition will be up to him and how much he does in that first four days showing us how quickly he can pick things up and how he can adjust.

Q: Will he be the only quarterback in that first four?

PETRINO: We’re trying to figure all that out. One of the things you have to do is work around school. You’re in summer school up until Wednesday, so we have four days of practice during summer school. So you don’t really get the two-a-days like you used to do. You have to deal with it. If we’re able to get another quarterback to work with them, I would like to have two guys go with the newcomers just to get more opportunities for receivers catching the ball, and just more plays to run.

Q: James Quick may be your biggest target this year. Where does he stand?

PETRINO: That’s a great question too. James had a very good spring. And he’s shown that he’s a very hard worker. He likes that role. He’s cherished the fact that he’s going to be the first guy in line all the time, any drill we do, he finishes hard. He’s shown leadership. He’s been very productive in the spring. Caught the ball better than he has. But we’ve got to develop other guys. I like the group overall, when you line them up and you look at them, they can run. But we’ve got a lot to learn. We’ve got some talented freshmen who want to fight their way into some reps. And we’ve got some guys who played well in spring, and we have to find out where the depth really is.

Q: Was there anything Reggie didn’t show you in spring that kept you from just saying, ‘He’s our guy?’

PETRINO: I just want there to be competition. It wasn’t a case of him not showing me something. I thought he played real well in spring, executed really well in the Spring Game, but he needs to come in and compete, go in the meeting room and answer the questions. I want him to be able to answer the question before Will (Gardner) does, or Will try to answer it before Kyle (Bolin) does. I want there to be pressure on them to practice real well and compete for the job and out-work the other guy. I think that will make them all better.

Q: Can you go through the four and tell us what you like about each of them. You mentioned Lamar already.

PETRINO: Will is coming off an injury. I felt like he was really picking the offense up before he got injured. You look at how we were playing at North Carolina State and first half of the Boston College game, he was on top of it and seemed like he was really getting it. He was accurate throwing the ball, distributing it real well. But it’s his third injury, so you’re always worried about how he’s going to do coming off that. And we might not know for a couple of weeks. We might not know until after he’s practiced five days in a row. So that’s a concern.

Reggie, I think, has shown his maturity, his competitive spirit. I’m very proud of the way he handled everything last year. It’s kind of amazing to me. He’s at his dad’s funeral and finds out the next day that he’s going to start the next week. He wasn’t even traveling with us, and he handled it great. He’s got to get his feet right every time. If he gets his feet in position every time he can be a real accurate passer. He does throw the deep ball real well. And he obviously can make plays with his legs.

Kyle showed that he’s a great competitor. He distributed the ball real well when he was given the chance. And he knows the offense. He’s really picked it up. A year ago at this time Kyle had just been operated on and wasn’t even in competition. So he did a good job getting better as the year went on and found a way to win a game that we were down 13, so I respect that a lot.

Tyler Ferguson had a pretty good spring. He’s got the type of arm that you like. He’s got a quick release. He’s got to be more accountable with his emotions and get on to the next play. He’s high-strung and he doesn’t sometimes, when he does something wrong, put it behind him and move on. So it affects the next play. Or, sometimes you do something right, and you can’t put it behind you and move on and concentrate like you should the next play. So that’s really a great challenge for him.

Q: Because you used three guys last season, do you impress upon them that you want them all to be ready?  
  
PETRINO:
You always do that with the back-up quarterbacks. You always tell them that they’re one play away, then hope it never happens. You hope the starter comes in and has a great year and throws for 4,000 yards and breaks all of (Chris) Redman’s records, or (Brian) Brohm’s or Stefan’s or Browning Nagle’s. We haven’t had that one yet. We haven’t had them kneel at the 50-yard line and see if they can throw it through the upright. I don’t think we’ll do that one. We’ll let Browning keep that one. But that’s what you do as a back-up. And they honestly have to do it. They have to be out there every practice as if they’re taking the rep, looking at the coverage, looking at the front, they tell you what they would do if they were in. They understand that the reps are going to be limited but they have to be ready to play. Now we do practice them hard on Sunday nights. We practice Sunday nights so that the quarterbacks get reps to get better. And that’s where Kyle Bolin improved. Going into the last game of the year, we said, if something happens or if Reggie goes down, this is what we’re going to do with Kyle, because he showed that improvement in Sunday night practices. And that’s why the first play we ran five receivers out there instead of handing the ball off, because he showed that he could do that. He could make decisions and get the ball out of his hand quick. 

Q: What’s your strategy on recruiting quarterbacks in terms of the number you like to carry?

PETRINO: I really think we’re heavy right now, you know. Some of it had to do with injuries and some had to do with the unknown. Obviously I would prefer to carry just four quarterbacks, basically. Maybe a fifth.

Q: Is it just a feel when you know it’s the right guy at quarterback?

PETRINO: When they go out there and light it up. That’s when you really know. Like I said, we had a lot of questions about Stefan. He wasn’t a great route thrower. You didn’t think, ‘Wow look at him throw the out route. Wow, look at him throw the comeback.’ You saw good throws, but you wondered how he would do when he’s getting hit. And then he was magical. You know, he could make plays and make great decisions and was magical with it. 

Q: You’ve had seasons where a guy came in for a series or a longer before. Do you anticipate doing that with these guys?

PETRINO: I don’t know. I can’t say that we would do that. I do know this, the No. 1 play to get good quarterback play is get the ten guys around him to play real well. Then you have a chance. Without the other 10 guys doing well, you have no chance.
  
Q: How does your playbook change depending on who the quarterback is?

PETRINO: There’s a lot in it. It’s a good-sized playbook, and I do believe that it’s our responsibility to take the parts that fit, and give them to that quarterback. Now the best year we ever had as an offense that I can remember is my second year in 2004, when Stefan played the first, third and fourth quarters, and Brian Brohm came in and played the second quarters. And they’re completely different style quarterbacks. Stefan was a movement guy, quick passing game, you could call quarterback runs. We ran zone reads before people knew it was zone read. And he did an unbelievable job. And then would come in in the second quarter and we’d be a drop-back pocket passing teams. And teams really had to prepare for two different style offenses.

Q: Does that evolve over the season or do things more get discarded as you go along?
  
PETRINO:
What we do is after those first three weeks of camp, we’ll just start some parts of the offense. But as the year goes on, we might continue to work some of it. Continue to try to get better at it. One year when I was offensive coordinator at Auburn, we had these great running backs and great, big, old linemen and we could run the ball real well. But by the Iron Bowl all the running backs were hurt. We had a true freshman running back. We had continued to practice our five-wide-receiver package. There were times when Coach (Tommy Tuberville) said ‘Why do we keep practicing this stuff? You never call it in a game.’ Well, when the Alabama game came along it ended up being part of the package that helped us win that game. As it did this year in the Kentucky game. Early in the year when Will was healthy it was a big part of it. Then we kept working it and tried to get better. That’s one of the things you can do is find what a guy does real well and keep doing that for him, but he’s got to keep improving on the things he doesn’t do as well as he’d like.

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