CRAWFORD | Five things to watch as Louisville football opens fal - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Five things to watch as Louisville football opens fall camp

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AP photo. AP photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville football team will open Year 2 under Bobby Petrino this week, with four practices open to the public.

The Cardinals will hold a pair of practices on Saturday and Sunday. The veterans will work out first at 2:30 p.m., while the newcomers hit the field at 6:30 p.m., on each of those days. The final two practices open to the public are on Monday and Tuesday at 4:20 p.m.

There’s no shortage of questions facing Petrino and his staff as they begin work this fall, but here are five things to watch:

1. WHO WILL BE THE QUARTERBACK? Petrino has said sophomore Reggie Bonnafon is the leader coming out of spring practice, but he still has plenty to learn. In fact, Petrino said the entire QB competition is to, in part, push Bonnafon to improve more.

“He’s got to get his feet right every time,” Petrino said. “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.”

But expect Petrino’s assessment of his quarterbacks to be organized and thorough. When the newcomers hit the field, he’ll be taking a hard look at freshman Lamar Jackson. It’s hard to see Petrino going with a freshman in an opener against Auburn, but he likes Jackson.

“Lamar has the talent,” Petrino said. “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.”

Then there’s Will Gardner, and people tend to forget about him, but Petrino and his staff will quickly want to assess his health situation, and how effective he can be.

“I felt like he was really picking the offense up before he got injured,” Petrino said. “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.”

And then there’s Kyle Bolin, the hero of last season’s win over UK, who made great strides throughout the season and will get a chance to show what he can do. And Tyler Ferguson, a transfer who has a great arm, but who needs to show Petrino a more even keel emotionally on the field.

All will get reps with the No. 1 offense.

2. WHO WILL MAKE UP THE OFFENSIVE LINE? “See, now, there’s the competition,” Petrino said when asked about the unit with perhaps the most “unknowns” on the team. Expect to see 10 or 11 players competing for the five offensive line spots in a competition that Petrino says will be “wide-open” when camp begins.

Pedro Sibiea is going to play somewhere, but needs to be ready to handle the guard and center spots. Kenny Thomas looks to have hold on one of the tackle spots and Geron Christian will work at guard and tackle, as will Kahlil Hunter. Kiola Mahoni will compete at a guard spot with Skylar Lacy.

Junior Aaron Epps figures to be the leader. He graduated last December, after emerging late in the season to earn a starting tackle position.

“He came in last year in the last part of the year and helped us be better,” Petrino said. “He did a good job in leadership, and playing hard. He understands the scheme. He should be one of our guys. We need to have somebody behind him pushing him, somebody trying to take his job, so he pushes himself to excel.”

3. IS JAMES QUICK READY FOR A BREAKOUT SEASON AT WIDEOUT? The former Louisville Trinity star has moved into the slot receiver position, and is hoping to put a rocky couple of seasons behind him. He was third on the team with 36 catches for 566 yards (a 15-yard average) last season, but missed the Boston College game because of suspension. With the loss of DeVante Parker to the NFL Draft, and a young receiving corps coming along, Quick needs not only to deliver on the field, but to be a leader. But Petrino stresses he’s only part of the equation at wideout.

“That’s a good question,” Petrino said when asked if Quick is ready. “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.”

4. WHAT NEWCOMERS ARE READY TO PLAY? The Cards got good news when Devonte Fields was cleared academically. Not that they needed another pass rusher on an already-stacked defensive front, but they got one. He comes from TCU, where he was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. So coaches know he can play.

But he’s not the only member of the incoming recruiting class with a good chance to get on the field.

“I’m very excited about the class, because we have some really, really good players,” Petrino said. “Offensive line wise, you’ve got the size and strength that you need. You’ve got Cole Hikutini who came in at midyear as a tight end who can run, catch and block. He’s a really good player for us. Young receivers we’ve got size and speed — Devonte Peete, Emonee Spence, Jaylen Smith — those are big guys who can run and catch and are competitive, so I like them a lot. On defense I think they’ll have maybe a little harder time early. But Jaire Alexander who came in at midyear at corner, can really help us, and  G.G. Robinson on the defensive front is going to need to play for us, for depth. We’ll need him to be productive.”

5. HOW WILL THE REPLACEMENTS PLAY IN THE SECONDARY? Strange as it seems, little concern has been expressed by U of L coaches even after losing NFL talent at the safety and cornerback spots. That’s probably a vote of confidence for Georgia transfers Shaq Wiggins (who started eight games in 2013) at cornerback and Josh Harvey-Clemons (who started 11 games in 2013) at safety.

Alexander, Trumaine Washington and De’Eric Culver all looked solid at cornerback in the spring. Chucky Williams is a standout at safety.

“On the back end with Josh and Shaq and Jaire Alexander, a true freshman, is going to be a great corner before it’s over with, it’s just how soon is he going to get it all going,” Petrino said. “We moved (redshirt freshman) Cornelius Sturghill from receiver to corner. He’s very talented, very fast. Chucky Williams did a great job at safety in the spring. He’s feeling better about himself because he’s getting bigger and stronger. He’s a good tackler who plays the ball well in the air. So hopefully he’ll be able to read routes and provide some interceptions for us.”

For U of L coaches, it figures to be a busy fall.

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