LOUISVILLE MEDIA DAY BLITZ | Sturghill injured in drive-by shooting, McCrae on his way, defensive talk and more
The University of Louisville lost reserve cornerback Cornelius Sturghill for the season when he was injured in a drive-by shooting during the offseason. The Cardinals will get a highly touted junior college linebacker when full practice begins Saturday, and other notes from the annual football media day.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Cornelius Sturghill did not have a prominent spot on the pre-season depth chart with the 2016 University of Louisville football team. He was not expected to be a starting cornerback.
But Sturghill became a leading topic during U of L’s Media Day Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium when coach Bobby Petrino said Sturghill will not play in 2016 because of a foot injury the player suffered during a shooting incident this summer.
Sturghill, a sophomore, played in seven games last season, emerging as a punt return option late in late October. Petrino said Sturghill ran the fastest 40-yard dash time on the defense, a sign of the potential Sturghill showed while drawing scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Missouri, UCLA, Purdue, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
“Sturghill is out,” Petrino said. “He won’t play this year. . . . Unfortunately when he was home this summer in Memphis, he was walking down the street, there was a drive-by shooting. He took off and ran and all of a sudden fell to the ground. There was a bullet that hit his foot. It shattered a bone in his foot. He’s went through letting that heal and then an operation to rebuild the bone. So he’ll be out this year. They think the operation went well. It will be a process.”
Rated a three-star prospect by Rivals and Scout, Sturghill was expected to become a contributor at cornerback as well as on special teams. That development will be on hold for one season.
“Hopefully we’ll have him back, maybe for spring ball,” Petrino said. “But it’s a really sad deal. He wasn’t going to go home and then he decided to go home. It’s the timing of life, I guess … it was great to hear that there was no fear for his life or anything like that. That’s the first thing you’re thankful for. Then you worry about, ‘Can he get back on the football field or not?’ He did a good job in school this summer. He’s been around. He’s a great young man.”
More takeaways from Louisville's media day:
CARDS TALK FLORIDA STATE-CLEMSON CHALLENGE
If Louisville wanted the opportunity to play the No Respect Card, it’s there. The Cards were picked to finish third, behind Clemson and Florida State, in the ACC pre-season media poll.
Then on Friday, the Cards were ranked 23rd nationally in the USA Today coaches’ pre-season Top 25. Clemson was ranked second, Florida State fourth.
Louisville has gone 0-4 against the Tigers and Seminoles the last two seasons.
“I think we’re ready to take the ACC by storm,” reserve quarterback Kyle Bolin said.
“We’ve lost a couple of great players from last year but we were so young that it allowed us to get a year of experience under our belts. The great athletes we had last year who were young are even better this year.”
“That’s the hump that we’ve had these last two years,” halfback Brandon Radcliff said. “We’re looking forward to getting in one of these trucks and getting over that hump. That’s our motto now. We’re just trying to get over that hump. We’re looking forward to it. They’re in our way so that’s what we’re looking forward to do.”
But the rankings suggest that Florida State and Clemson remain better.
“Rankings don’t mean nothing,” Radcliff said. “You can’t rank a guy’s attributes on the field. You can’t rank his heart. You can’t rank any teams. If you ask me, you definitely can’t rank us because they don’t know what we’re coming with.”
LOUISVILLE LOOKS LIKE LINEBACKER U
Louisville has been blessed with solid inside linebacker play for years and coach Tony Grantham expects that to continue this season despite the loss of James Burgess. (For the record, Burgess is trying to make the Miami Dolphins as a free agent. Grantham said he intercepted a pass during a scrimmage Friday.)
Keith Kelsey has started 26 consecutive games at one inside linebacker start. Stacy Thomas will replace Burgess at the other position. Thomas contributed 13 tackles in the final two games of the 2015 season.
“We’ve had some talent guys come through here and I feel like the group we have this year will continue that,” Tony Grantham said.
“Stacy Thomas has been an outstanding special teams player for us the last two seasons. That’s kind of how we found him. He went out there and proved himself and made a lot of plays on that unit. You could tell he was a different guy in the off season and going through the spring.”
With Kelsey there are no questions. None.
“He understands our defense inside and out,” Grantham said. “He understands where offenses are going to try to attack our defense and what the weaknesses in our schemes are. He understands how people are going to try to attack us. He knows what’s coming.
“He will call out and let you know what the play is. He’s taken his game from the physical aspect of understanding skills to now it’s the mental approach. ‘Hey, coach,’ this right guard right here is light in his stance. I could tell that he’s pulling. Or the running back, if you look at his eyes, they’re looking outside. He’s pointing that out to young guys.”
FOR DEFENSIVE RETURNEES, THE TALE WILL BE THE TAPE
Coaches will tell you, sometimes having players pass on the NFL (or NBA) Draft to come back to school for one more season is a mixed blessing. You’re getting a talented player, but how motivated will he be?
U of L defensive coordinator Todd Grantham isn’t worried about that problem with the quartet of players who passed on the NFL to return to the Cardinals for their senior season this year.
Kelsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Devonte Fields and DeAngelo Brown announced their return en masse, and Grantham says they had a great example to watch last season for how to improve their stock as seniors.
“Sheldon Rankins was the perfect example,” Grantham said. “He was the 12th pick in the draft and at this time last year, no one thought he would be that. . . . All he did was work every day and perform on the field, so when it came time for him to go to the next level, people studied the tape and realized that this guy is a good player. Relative to the tape he put out, and his measurables and all the things he did at the combine, as well as his character and work ethic, launched him into the first round. It’s a great example of why you stay in school, why you tape, why you prepare. At the end of your day, your tape is your resume.”
The goal for this quartet, Grantham said, will be to pad that resume by lighting up the video all season.
“It’s pretty simple to me, because your tape is your resume, so when people watch the tape, your most recent tape is who you are,” Grantham said. “So as these guys move forward, if they don’t have good tape, they’re not going to go up, they’re going to go down. I think the thing of it is that most players want to be good and improve their craft. There’s a pride thing involved, and I know there’s a lot of pride among these guys. There’s nothing like flashing in front of your peers with your playmaking ability.”
McCRAE ON HIS WAY TO JOIN TEAM
Outside linebacker Gary McCrae has completed his degree at East Mississippi Community College and was en route to Louisville Saturday morning, Petrino said.
McCrae was a four-star prospect out of Cuthbert, Ga., and a University of Georgia signee out of high school but did not qualify academically. He was also recruited by Michigan State and Mississippi State out of junior college.
“I think he’s in his car,” Petrino said Saturday morning. “He should be in here Saturday evening.”
PETRINO PLEASED WITH CARDS’ DEPTH
Particularly in games against Florida State, but throughout ACC play, the need for more depth has been apparent for the U of L program. Petrino says looking at this season’s depth chart, the program is getting there.
“I feel good about where we are now,” Petrino said. “That’s one of the advantages of having so many returners. You have more depth. We have competition in practice that makes the ones and twos better, everybody is trying to hold spots and get spots. That’s how you get better. And we know most of our games will be won or lost in the fourth quarter, so you have to have depth and be in great condition, and we’re going to have to be able to rotate guys in and have them make plays. There’s no question, we’re a lot better right now than we were a year ago at that.”
Copyright 2016 WDRB Media All Rights Reserved.