CRAWFORD | Seven takeaways from Louisville football media day
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville held its media day on Saturday morning at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. It was the first time the media got to speak to the Cardinals’ five candidates at quarterback, along with some assistant coaches who have major work to do to get position groups ready for the start of the season.
Some initial thoughts, gleaned from coach Bobby Petrino’s comments and a slew of interviews:
1. WILL GARDNER’S PLAY HAS BEEN A SURPRISE AT QB. Petrino knew Gardner had a good grasp of the offense, but expected to see a bit more rust than he’s seen in the first two days of practice. “I’m a little bit surprised at how sharp he’s been,” Petrino said.
Gardner said he feels even better than he did coming into camp a year ago, and noted that whoever runs the offense, he expects it to be improved, just from familiarity with the system.
“I think this can be a really great offense. It shows in the past, the great offenses coach Petrino has had. When guys get on the same page and really know the offense and understand it, I think it’ll be really great. . . . Normally, when you come in, you’re having to get to know him as well as he’s trying to get to know you. You’re not on the same page because you don’t know how he’s thinking, but having a year under your belt really makes a difference in knowing what he and coach McGee want and what they expect.”
2. JAMES QUICK SAYS HE ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE AT WIDEOUT. The former Trinity High School standout came to U of L with as much hype as any signee in school history, and that’s hard to live up to. He has come up short at times, but says he’s ready to step into a leadership position at the position.
Lamar Thomas, wide receivers coach, says he separates himself on the field by being able to go 100 percent every rep.
“It shows the young guys that it can be done,” Thomas said. “James is a more mature person now, a more mature football player. He will go hard until you tell him to stop.”
Quick said the loss of DeVante Parker after last season was a wake-up call to him.
“When I looked up and saw that I didn’t have a DeVante Parker or Eli Rogers in front of me, it really pushed me to tell myself I can be just as good as they were,” Quick said. “I just want to come out and give my all and be a leader and step up and have everybody looking at me as a leader. From DeVante, I basically just learned to work, get stronger in the weight room, get faster on the field, to do everything right. With DeVante, everything was right with him.”
3. REGGIE BONNAFON IS IMPROVED. Petrino said Bonnafon’s accuracy is better, his awareness of what’s going on around him his better, and that he has an even better presence in the huddle. But he needs to become more consistent, and to work on his footwork.
“This season is very exciting. We have a lot of young guys back with a good mixture of older guys,” Bonnafon said. “. . . For the quarterbacks, we’re all just trying to make each other better. We all get along, we support each other and help each other. The great thing about all these guys is that while we all want to play, all that anybody really wants is to win.”
4. COACH CHRIS KLENAKIS TALKS OFFENSIVE LINE DEVELOPMENT. “Everybody’s big and strong at this level. I always say there’s a thing called ‘man strength’ that a 22-year-old may have that an 18-year-old doesn’t have yet. So from a physical standpoint there’s that. And from a mental standpoint there’s learning more offense and the complexity of college defenses. So we’re working on that with your young guys.”
Kelnakis said that freshmen Kenny Thomas and Geron Christian are working out with the veterans for a reason — to get a feel for whether those two in particular can get up to speed quickly enough to make an immediate impact.
“Our focus is we’ve got to get ready to play a game in 28 days,” he said. “. . . We call it FBI — football intelligence. There’s a lot of work in the classroom and film room. It’s a growth process, from a first-year college student to a fourth-or fifth-year major. And it’s not just with the pads on. It’s a constant learning process. But what I’m seeing is a good enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, and a very coachable group. They’re exciting to work with and they’re very dedicated to get themselves better.”
5. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF DEVONTE FIELDS. Petrino was asked for his opening thoughts on the standout defensive end transfer from TCU, and said, “We’ve got to get him in shape, but he’s talented. He can really bend. He’s got great lower-body strength. He’s got good balance. When he get him in shape and get him understanding, maybe he can make a run to get in the depth chart. But right now he has to get in better shape.”
6. DON’T ASK WIDEOUTS COACH LAMAR THOMAS ABOUT TRASH TALK. When the subject turned to Georgia transfer cornerback Shaq Wiggins and how much he likes to talk trash on the field, Thomas advised reporters: “You probably don’t want to ask me about that, because I played at Miami. I don’t mind a little talk.”
7. PETRINO NAMES CAPTAINS. The coach likes to wait until camp has started to have players and coaches vote on captains. That way, players who showed leadership in the spring and during summer workouts can be rewarded.
He said that linebackers James Burgess and Keith Kelsey, and defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins were named defensive captains, with offensive lineman Aaron Epps and tailback Brandon Radcliff elected on the offensive side.
“Those guys did a really nice job of leading, going all the way back to spring ball and in the summer,” Petrino said.
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