BOZICH & CRAWFORD | Five highlights from Bobby Petrino's pre-practice presser
Bobby Petrino updated some roster changes for his team on the eve of the start of fall practice, plus items from Reggie Bonnafon, DeAngelo Brown, Lamar Jackson and more.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's that time of year, with University of Louisville football practice set to begin on Wednesday, when asking Cardinals' coach Bobby Petrino a question about anything other than the team or practice is pretty much a waste of time.
Asked at a practice preview news conference on Thursday what he thinks about a new NCAA rule that permits coaches to retweet recruits, Petrino said, "I have not thought about that at all."
Be on alert, folks. Expect few RTs from Petrino. But he did provide some long-form news on his program as he begins to open his third season since returning to town.
The Cardinals have tabbed running back Brandon Radcliff, center Tobijah Hughley and quarterback Lamar Jackson as offensive captains, with tackle DeAngelo Brown and linebacker Keith Kelsey as captains on the defensive side. A special teams captain will be named later.
Other updates from Petrino:
1. ROSTER CHANGES. The coach delivered good news and bad news on a couple of anticipated arrivals. Michael Boykin, a three-star defensive end out of Carrollton, Ga., who picked U of L over Auburn, was declared ineligible and has enrolled in a junior college, Petrino said, without elaborating. The news was better on JUCO transfer Gary McCrae, an outside linebacker who was a four-star recruit for Georgia. He's been rushing to finish his junior college degree early.
"He still has a few things he's working on," Petrino said. "We're very optimistic that he'll be here soon, but it hasn't been stamped just yet."
Another Georgia product, offensive lineman James Dematto, was slated to grayshirt this season but has been added to the active roster, according to Petrino. The 6-4, 280-pound three-star signee will enroll in classes and be with the team when workouts begin Wednesday.
2. REGGIE IS READY. Junior wide receiver Reggie Bonnafon has no previous player film to study to learn his role on the Cardinals' football team, because no player in modern times has done what he'll look to do on offense this season. Bonnafon has been working out with the receivers and working out of the receiving room in the offseason. He says he's lost 10 pounds, added muscle and come to a good feeling about his role on the team, which will include making plays from the receiver spot but also running the ball and keeping the defense honest with a potential pass here and there.
"I'm excited to see Reggie and his development as a receiver," Petrino said. "He's in a little bit different shape than he was a year ago. He's dropped some weight, he's running really well, he's one of our strongest guys, pound for pound, on the team. He's got that 43 1/2-inch vertical, which would put him up there around the rim. . . . We're going to find ways to get the ball in his hand as much as we can. He's one of the most impressive young men to me, because he truly is all about what's best for the team, from the day he stepped foot on campus here."
Bonnafon said he feels like he's in a better position to make an impact from multiple spots than he was a year ago, when much of his time was spent preparing to be the starting quarterback.
"I'm really grateful that the coaches believe enough in my ability to change my position to begin with," Bonnafon said. "Whether it's coming out of the backfield or catching a ball down the field, whatever I can do, I'm ready to do it. . . . Just by learning concepts of the quarterback positions, I can line up in multiple spots at receiver and know what I'm supposed to do."
3. DEANGELO TALKS DEFENSE. With Sheldon Rankins gone to the NFL, Louisville will need a new, aggressive Stop Sign in the middle of its run defense. DeAngelo Brown, a fifth-year senior, is expected to be that guy.
Brown contributed 40 tackles last season, including 6 1/2 for a loss with a pair of sacks. He has started 16 games the last two seasons. Listed at 6 feet and 310 pounds, Brown said he has improved his physical condition.
“I feel like I’m much quicker,” Brown said. “I feel like I’m healthier. I’ve got my body fat down to the 20 percent range.
“I feel like that’s going to help me to be able to stay on the field longer and I won’t get as tired as quick and continue to play hard.”
Rankins had 58 tackles last season, including six sacks. Brown was asked about the challenge of playing without Rankins, who was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s going to be different,” he said. “That was my guy – on and off the field. It’s going to be a little different but I feel like we’ve got great guys to come and step in for him.
“Drew Bailey and Johnny Richardson, they can play. They’ve just got to continue to learn and continue to grow. I feel like they’ll be ready come Sept. 1.”
As a player starting his fifth pre-season camp, Brown was asked if he had advice for freshmen.
“Go to bed,” he said. “Do not stay up late. Just come in and have your mind ready to work, each and every day.”
4. GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Louisville was picked to finish third in the Atlantic division of the Atlantic Coast Conference at the league’s media day. The Cardinals are expected to start the season ranked in the AP Top 25.
With games against Florida State and Clemson in the first half of the season, Louisville has a prime opportunity to join the national discussion.
“I expect us to be great,” Brown said. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent coming back. I feel like we can do great things this year. And I feel like we can be a special team.”
Bonnafon did not try to dial down the hype. Not at all.
“Like coach said, our expectations are high, winning a championship,” Bonnafon said. “That’s been the goal since spring.
“We have elite players on the team. We have elite competition that we’re playing against so now that camp is a day away we’ve just got to put in elite work and start basically from scratch and build on what it is what we want to accomplish.”
Championship? An ACC championship or a national championship?
“Both, really,” Bonnafon said. “Take one step at a time. Everybody on the team believes that we have the potential to do that. Now we’ve just got to put in the work.”
5. JACKSON ACTION. Fall practice will continue what Petrino began with sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson in the spring, developing his skill, patience and presence as a pocket passer. Jackson demonstrated his ability to improvise with the run a year ago, now Petrino wants him to use intelligent improvisation, knowing the offense, and knowing where his lanes will be if he needs to take off.
Bonnafon said knowing Jackson will be the starter has made for a more settled offseason.
"The offense is not too much different, it's just, we've finally got the guy," he said. "Everybody now knows their role, what we have to do and need to do and we can focus on becoming experts at our position."
Petrino said Jackson has made strides since the spring, and he's been particularly pleased at the way he has embraced the position, the leadership that comes with it, and the details he needs to improve in his games.
"We want him to become an overall quarterback, throwing the ball, going through progressions, throwing it down the field when it presents itself, dumping it off to a running back, all of the things that we worked so hard on during bowl preparation and spring ball, and things he showed great improvement with, his footwork, his delivery and his ability to keep his vision downfield," Petrino said. "And when he tucks it, I want to see him run it faster than he did last year. I thought he got caught from behind too many times."
That last line, by the way, is a standard Petrino instruction: Run faster.
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