CRAWFORD | Harvey-Clemons gives Louisville options against hurry - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Harvey-Clemons gives Louisville options against hurry-up offenses

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Josh Harvey-Clemons stares down a receiver during last season's loss to Auburn. (AP photo) Josh Harvey-Clemons stares down a receiver during last season's loss to Auburn. (AP photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before the season, University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino knew he could be looking at two early-season opponents running spread offenses with hurry-up elements and decided to do something to help deal with it.

It’s why you’ll see so much of Josh Harvey-Clemons in the game when things start to get frantic. Harvey-Clemons is listed as a safety, but often plays a linebacker role in the defense’s dime package, and can line up inside or out.

That versatility gives defensive coordinator Todd Grantham the ability to do many different things, even on the fly.

“The reason that we put (that dime package) in was because in these first two games you’re basically playing spread offensives and four wide receivers in a bunch,” Petrino said. “So that’s the reason we were in it last week, and you’ll certainly see it again this Friday night.”

The more players you have who can do multiple things, the more you can adjust on defense without having to change personnel -- and against hurry-up offenses, you often don't get that option. Petrino said he liked what he saw from Harvey-Clemons in that hybrid role in the opener.

“I thought he did a really nice job,” Petrino said. “He slips blocks, and he understands schemes, and he’s a really good tackler. He’s got good match-ups in his cover skills, and, it’s like you said, we now have him playing three different positions, so he has great knowledge of our schemes. But he’s just a really good football player. He knows what offenses try to do. He doesn’t hesitate, he makes his decision and goes full speed with it, so I think you’ll continue to see him play fast and make a lot of plays for us.”

Petrino liked the speed he saw from his defense overall. Whether that was because it was going up against a much slower unit in Charlotte, or a natural speed-up because of game speed, Petrino was happy with it.

“I thought our front guys were real strong,” Petrino said. “Played fast. You know that’s the fastest we’ve looked all fall with our defense. We gave up one big play on a double move where we just weren’t real disciplined with our eyes. We were looking in the backfield, but I like the way we played on defense.”

Syracuse is getting used to a new up-tempo system installed by first-year head coach Dino Babers. The Orange ran 81 plays from scrimmage against Colgate, though they struggled a bit with the run (3.3 yards per carry) and didn’t get the snap off quickly enough for Babers' liking.

“That is the slowest game you’ll ever see us play,” he told reporters after the game.

At times, Petrino thinks the Syracuse offense might be a little too fast.

“That’s one of the things they brag about, is how fast they go," he said. "We’ve got to see if all of that’s legal because there’s a few times they’re snapping the ball and the down markers haven’t even been moved yet. So we do need to check into that and see how that works. But I think they look good. They’re very well coached.”

Of course, Louisville can counter with some offensive speed of its own. Petrino said quarterback Lamar Jackson’s play wasn’t as good as his stats in the opener might suggest, but it was still pretty good.

“It’s always that same deal, nothing’s as ever as good as it seems, and nothing’s as ever as bad as it seems,” Petrino said. “Reality lies somewhere in between. So we’re going to go with that. . . . We need to be better with our footwork. We need to be 100 percent correct on all our reads. I did think that he really delivered the ball well, and it was good to see him keep his focus down field and deliver the ball as he’s getting hit standing in there. I thought the two-minute drive was probably great for him because I thought he made three of his best throws in the two-minute drive.”

The Cardinals are 14-point favorites heading to Syracuse, where Petrino has generally had success. They’ve turned up the noise in practice to prepare for playing in the Carrier Dome. Now Petrino wants to see if they can move forward off a big performance against an overmatched team.

“I think it will be a very hard-fought game,” Petrino said. “ We’re going to have to work hard and get better as the game goes on, you know, and take a step forward from last week’s game.”

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