CRAWFORD | Petrino says he's "not close" to naming starter at qu - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Petrino says he's "not close" to naming starter at quarterback

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Bobby Petrino speaks at today's Louisville Football Kickoff Luncheon. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bobby Petrino speaks at today's Louisville Football Kickoff Luncheon. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — We’re kind of a quarterback-fixated society in the sports world. If a center had deflated those footballs in the AFC Championship game, I doubt we’d ever have heard about it.

For University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, it means a daily update on his quarterback candidates. Give him credit for a variety of answers.

Petrino said he usually likes to name a starter two weeks out, and he might be able to do that after the team’s next scrimmage on Saturday. But it doesn’t sound like he expects it.

“I’m not close to a decision at all,” Petrino said Friday before the program’s annual Football Kickoff Luncheon at the convention center. “I think they’ve all had days where they played real well. They’ve all improved. They all understand the offense better. We are throwing the ball better as far as our timing goes and our accuracy goes. Then they’ve all had moments where they haven’t done what we expected them to do or execute the way we needed them to execute. They’ve all improved, and that’s the biggest thing we’re looking for, is improvement.”

Sophomore Reggie Bonnafon was the leader after spring ball and probably is the best bet to get the nod. When Petrino talks about what he wants from a quarterback, being able to get out of bad plays or making things happen with your feet is a big deal. Bonnafon has an edge there.

But Will Gardner, coming off knee surgery, by all accounts is moving well and throwing the ball well. My feeling is that Kyle Bolin might yet be a step behind those, and freshman Lamar Jackson is a wild card. There’s no way Petrino is going to throw a freshman into a starting situation against Auburn, unless he has to. But I’d be surprised if there aren’t plays for Jackson in specific situations.

Petrino said he’ll take another look at them in a scrimmage Saturday, but doesn’t know if he’ll be able to make a call.

“Ideally, after tomorrow’s scrimmage, you’d like to have a starter named,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s going to work out. I guess we’ll wait and see how it all plays out. But usually what I like to do is have two weeks where you work and know who your starting quarterback is. This has been a very close competition where they’ve all had their moments, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes, then evaluate the film.”

All of this is adding up to an “I’m not telling you” scenario for Petrino. Increasingly, I suspect that when Petrino does come to a decision, he won’t be in any hurry to alert the media — or the Auburn University coaching staff. Might that happen, I asked him.

“Sounds like a good idea,” Petrino said.

Don’t put that on me.

“No, I’m going to tell everyone I got that from you, Eric,” Petrino said. “Great one.”

Write that down. It might be the first time a football coach ever listened to a writer — or at least pretended to.

Later, when Petrino was asked which of the quarterbacks played the best in last week’s scrimmage, he said, “Geez, that was a week ago. I can’t remember. I can’t remember that far back.”

Translation — you’ll probably find out about the Cardinals starting quarterback when the game airs in Atlanta. And that’s probably the move that makes sense.

Petrino likes to stand behind his QBs in practice and watch them make decisions on the field, and when they begin to make the same decisions he would’ve made, he knows he has his guy. You get the feeling that he hasn’t quite gotten full comfortable with any of his quarterbacks in that way, just yet.

“The first thing you have to do as a quarterback is to really be trustworthy and be coachable, and do what the coaches want you to do, without surprises,” Petrino said. “That’s the biggest thing, to go out and operate the scheme and manage the game the way we want it to be done. You have to be a great leader, because the No. 1 thing for a quarterback is to make the guys around them better, elevate their game, their intensity, how hard they play, how hard they study and get prepared.

“. . . What you’d really like to do is have enough trust in your quarterback to go out and call everything very aggressively, then they can get you out of a bad play,” he added. “If the defense shows something, they can get you out. But they’re going to have to make plays when things break down, protection breaks down or receiver slips and falls. Your ability to make plays with your legs after the play starts, even if its moving in the pocket, sliding right, sliding left, delivering the ball. You need a lot of instincts to play the position.”

And to coach it, and if Petrino is leaning one direction or another, he isn’t saying. And he might not be saying for a little while longer.

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