TRANSCRIPT: Louisville's Petrino talks spring ball, Jackson and - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TRANSCRIPT: Louisville's Petrino talks spring ball, Jackson and the end of last season

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino sat down with reporters this past week for a wide-ranging discussion of spring practice, he's thoughts in retrospect from last season, and what he hopes to see in terms of improvement from Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.

A transcript of the interview:


We’ve had a good offseason. I was impressed with what our players did in the weight room and in the conditioning aspect of it, and quickness aspect of it. First and foremost, we had a really good attitude and worked extremely hard, and that sets a lot of standards. I really believe that you carry over from what you do in the weight room onto the practice field. We worked on getting, obviously, stronger and faster, some guys bigger, some guys smaller. But there was a good plan in place, and I thought our players worked hard at it. I think we’re doing a good job with our nutrition program, you know, we have a great nutritionist and the Thorntons Center over there now has really helped us with what we do at the training table, so I’m impressed with the guys that needed to gain weight, and the guys that needed to lose weight, and how we did there.

We also did a good job of studying football. One of the things you do in the offseason is try to understand your position better, try to understand the schemes that we’re doing, also get to understand the other side of the ball, really offensive players need to know what defenses are asking their guys to do and defensive players need to know what offenses are doing. And I thought our players put a lot of time into studying that, and really understanding that this preparation phase of their career is about getting better physically but also mentally. So I was happy with what we did there.

Testing week was fun. It was enjoyable. I always like it because it’s the first time you get to work and see kids compete. That’s the main reason that we test, is to see them compete, and see if they put all that hard work in, then perform. Trying to really put the pressure on them to perform and do something well, and we had a lot of guys do a great job. We had some really good lifts, had some good guys on the vertical jump, 40 times. So it was impressive to see guys, like a Caleb Tillman (6-3, 279, r-Fr. DL), a guy who came in here off of shoulder surgery, you know, we didn’t know how much he would compete this spring for a starting job, but now because of the testing and the numbers that he hit and his explosiveness, you feel like he’s got an opportunity now to really get in and help us on the defensive line. A guy like P.J. Blue (6-3, 208, r-Fr. S), who I thought did a great job in testing week, is coming off of a surgery also. So he didn’t get to do a lot of the lifting part of it, but just to see his explosiveness, and his ability to get off the ground and run, he gets a really good look this spring to say, hey, coach, I’m ready to start. So that’s a good reason why we do that. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

First and foremost our new staff, so those guys out there, (new defensive coordinator) Peter Sirmon running the defense, watch him coach and see how the players and him relate to each other. Peter has been very impressive to me, obviously has great knowledge of the game and the positions that he coaches, played the game real well. I’ve liked the way he interacts with the players right now. I like his confidence and his demand, so it’ll be fun to watch that. Get to see a couple of my old coaches out again. Lorenzo Ward (new secondary coach) and Mike Summers (new co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach). Lorenzo is a guy that’s a great coach, very, very good technically, and a great motivator. Then we have Mike back to work with our offensive line, is something we’re looking forward to. He’s also helping to coordinate the offense, and his leadership and direction there I think will really help us too. Then we get out on the field and see how the players go.  

Defensively I think we’re going to really need some leadership from Stacy Thomas (6-1, 240, r-Sr. LB) and Drew Bailey (6-5, 289, Sr. DL) and guys like Chucky Williams (6-2, 207, r-Sr. S) and Jaire Alexander (5-11, 192, Jr. CB). Those guys are really going to have to give us the leadership because we lost some really good players and great leadership over there. And offensively it’s time for Geron Christian (6-6, 318, Jr. OL) and Lukayus McNeil (606, 324, r-Jr. OL) to step up and really lead on offense. Obviously Reggie Bonnafon (6-3, 208, Sr. WR) and Lamar Jackson (6-3, 200, Jr. QB) are going to be counted on for a lot of leadership, and Jeremy Smith (6-2, 224, Sr. RB), and I think Jeremy has done a nice job in this offseason, really motivating himself and dedicating himself to getting bigger and faster, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him throughout the entire offseason.

We will have a few guys that will be out, that won’t be able to to be out there. Jaylen Smith will be out the whole spring. Jaylen had offseason surgery. He had what’s called a “hot spot” and a stress fracture in his foot, and what they recommend now is that they go in and fix it before it completely breaks, and you’re looking at a Jones fracture, similar to what we’ve had around here before. So we went in and did the surgery as a precaution and unfortunately we won’t have him this spring, which is too bad because he’s a great player and I was looking forward to how to use him more. Jonathan Greenard (6-4, 245, r-So. RB)  will be out. He also had surgery in his his. He’s doing real well. We anticipate he’ll be back and doing great. We will get some work from Trevon Young (6-4, 255, Sr. LB), which is exciting. You know, he’s been working hard. I think he surprised himself with how well he lifted and how well he verticaled in the testing aspect of it. He says he’s feeling well. We will really monitor it, take it slow. But he should be able to, at least the last couple of weeks, get some team and group work in there and see if he’s going to be able to go. That would be a huge bonus for us if we could get him back to where he was. Also Cornelius Sturghill (5-11, 180 So. CB) will be out there and get some work. Again we’ll monitor it and build it up slowly. He’s very impressive. A year ago he blew out the 40. This year, we do run it on the track so it’s a little bit different, a little bit faster times, this year we were just having him run a 20 just to get him feeling good and get going, so he burst through, and then glided in and ran a really good 40 time, wasn’t even a full-speed time, it was just a glide. So he is that explosive and that fast, and it would be great to have him back. London Iakopo (6-0, 212 r-Jr. S)  will get some work in. It’ll be all non-contact. Khane Pass (6-1, 207, r-So. S), who had shoulder surgery, will get work in but will be all non-contact. And we might get Malik Williams (6-3, 215, Sr. RB) in here late in spring to see if he can get out there and do some individual work. They all are doing well off of their surgeries.

Q: What will you be looking for when you watch Coach Sirmon coach and interact with the players?

A: You know, just his style and his teaching ability, different ways you go about things. I was always under the understanding that I go out on the field and I learn just as much from other coaches and players and anything, so it'll be fun for me to get out there and watch.

Q: Has the transition with the new coaches seemed pretty smooth?

A: Yeah I think so. I think the players are excited about it and relate real well to each other. Obviously they respect his knowledge and the style that he uses, so it'll be fun to see it.

Q: You've been around Mike Summers for a long time. What makes him such an effective offensive line coach:

A: First he's a great teacher. Mike does a really good job of details and teaching, relating with the players and motivating them to practice. He's got great knowledge and experience. When you have the experience, you know how to fix things. That's what we've got to make sure we get done is to be able to fix things.

Q: How about James Hearns (6-3, 249, r-Sr. RB) and Henry Famurewa (6-2, 275, r.-Jr. OLB) [ who were shot at a party in December]?

A: Yeah, James is full go. Henry will be out there some. I don't think he's full go yet. But he should be out there and be able to participate some.

Q: What's Alphonso Carter's (6-3, 206, Sr. CB) status [Carter pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed deadly weapon]?

A: He's been suspended from the team.

Q: What are one or two things that you really, really want to get concrete answers on this spring?

A: We've got a lot of things to work on. It's not one or two things. Offensively I think it's real important for us to be able to turn around and hand the ball to a running back and feel good about getting positive yards down hill, and not relying just on the quarterback and quarterback options and that way to run the football. I think, you know, try to learn stuff from Peyton Manning, when he said sometimes I don't want to have to make every call at the line of scrimmage and change every play. Sometimes you need a breath of fresh air. And I think that will help Lamar. I think it will take some pressure off of him. He's making a decision on every play, who he throws the ball to, and also if he's running the ball whether he's handing it off or keeping it. So, we've got to be able to mix that into our offense better and run with power. Obviously, offensively we've got to be able to take care of the ball, work hard on securing the football and not putting it on the ground. Defensively one of the things I'd really like to see us do is a better job of rushing the passer with four guys. You know, being able to get the type of pressure you need on the quarterback with just a four-man rush. And then we need to work on our tackling and get better at tackling.

Q: You feel like all those things you just mentioned were shortcomings last season?

A: I don't -- I'm just saying that's what we need to get better at. I think that'll help us be a better team.

Q: With Lamar last year, obviously you wanted him to be a quarterback, not just a football player. What's the next steps for him?

A: Yeah, I mean, he's got a lot of things to work at. No. 1 would be work from under the center and get more comfortable from under the center. So we'll spend some extra time this spring on doing that. I think it's real important for him to be able to continue to get better at progression reads. Going from one to two to three, I really felt like early in the year, mid-year, he was doing a good job of that. And then he got a little greedy down the stretch and didn't really get to No. 2 and No. 3 like he should and tried to force it too much to No. 1. So he's got to do that. He's got to do a better job of setting every time in the pocket, getting back, getting set, standing tall, then his accuracy rate is real high. When he starts moving before he sets, his accuracy went way, way down. So we've got to do a better job of doing that. He needs to make the transition into knowing when do I throw the football away. How do I neglect negative yardage and not take negative yardage when I can throw the ball away when I'm outside the pocket so I can get to the next down without losing yards. And that's a huge step, because that hurt us a lot down the stretch.

Q: How do you think he has responded to all the adulation?

A: I think it's been a grind on him. There's a lot of stuff out there he had to do. I think it's been good that he's been able to get it over with, get back with his teammates and work. You know, we have his weight up above 200 pounds and we still have a ways to go there but he was able to do that. He's stronger and tested better than he ever has. Not where I want him yet, but better than he has. I think he's anxious to get back on the practice field. He's a kid that loves going to practice and enjoys every day being out there.

Q: What's his ideal weight?

A: I think he needs to get right around 208, 210 by next fall. Right now I think it was two weeks he tipped the scale over 200 pounds for the first time in his life. And there's no fat, there's no body fat there. He's eating. Not enough, but he's eating better.

Q: Do you talk to him about NFL goals and what he needs to reach that level.

A: What you do is, I do believe that part of our job is to prepare our players for the possibility of an NFL career. That's why we'll do some of our stuff from under the center, making sure we get to the right plays, being able to call the cadence at the line of scrimmage, being able to operate out of the huddle, because some of those things, we'll do this spring, we might not do as much in the fall, that'll help him when he does go to a camp, and start his NFL career. It's just really working on being a better football player and a better quarterback that will carry over for him.

Q: What do you expect from Reggie, and how has his offseason been so far?

A: Yeah, Reggie, I've got to do a better job getting him the ball more. You're going to see him play more positions, be in the backfield more, you know, hand him the ball, let him run with it, throw him the football and let him be a playmaker. I felt like I didn't utilize him as well this past year as we did the year before. So we've got to get him more touches and he'll be a great threat and a real good player for us.

Q: How much time did you spend in your offseason analyzing the final three games?

A: I probably don't handle things like that real well. Like to say I did. But, a lot. Spent a lot of time with it. Some in private and by myself and some with the staff. I really feel like offensively we need to learn to be more patient, and be able to earn our way down the field and into the end zone. Sometimes when things come so early that you expect that, you start pressing and then you don't just understand, let's just get a first down, and another first down, and then get the ball in the end zone. So I think we learned that. Defensively you can't give up the big play. You can't let people throw the ball down the middle over your heads and think that you're going to win the game. And that really killed us. And then the ability to get a pass rush with four guys, not having to bring extra guys to pressure the quarterback. So we learned a lot there. We need to finish, and we've been working hard to finish everything.

Q: Did the way the season end kind of linger in the complex or serve as a motivator?

A: Yeah, you try not to linger. You try to move on and move forward and get going. Our players have. Kids do a good job of that. They get over stuff a lot easier than coaches do. There's no question about that. I remember back when I was a graduate assistant and we got beat at Long Beach State. I was complaining to one of the other coaches about, 'I can't believe these guys are back here laughing and joking.' He said, 'Man, it's a 12-hour bus ride. And players get over things a lot easier than coaches do.' So they do. They move forward and get ready to go. But you have to learn from it, and then try to go out and improve.

Q: You mentioned on signing day about being able to redshirt a lot of guys last year. Is this where those guys get thrown in?

A: Exactly. And I think that, you know, from everything we did on our Sunday night practices to our bowl preparation for those guys, put them in position now to compete for playing time. And that's really what spring football is all about. Making moves up the roster, down the roster, finding out where our depth is -- who's going to challenge, who's going to be the starters, where are we going to put this guy in a position where he can help us play. You know, like Tobias Little (6-0, 248, So. FB). Tobias is very, very strong, one of our strongest guys, upper body, lower body. We felt like last year, during bowl preparation, let's look at him at fullback for a couple of days. And I think he'll come out and help us next year as a fullback, and help us win some games. A lot of that was just from bowl preparation and experimenting with position flexibility.

Q: To get back to what you were saying, moving on, how have you done that yourself?

A: Yeah, we're looking forward to practice tomorrow, so I can get some of that lingering out of my system. How's that sound? It should be fun.

Q: What do you think of that depth at pass rusher?

A: Yeah, before it's over with, we're going to be real good coming off the edge. I'm going to take a positive look at it and say you're going to see James Hearns and Trevon Young line up there, with backups Greenard and Tabarious Peterson (6-3, 250, So. LB), who really showed his speed and had a great offseason, a guy who I think before it's over with will be one of the next guys on the edge. So I think we're going to be very strong there.

Q: How will you handle Kyle Bolin (6-2, 214, r.-Sr. QB) and Jawon Pass (6-4, 220, So. QB), will they get the same amount of reps, basically?

A: I don't know about the same amount, because I think Jawon needs to get more. He needs to get in there and we need give him a ton of reps. This is a big spring for him. I'm anxious to see how he does. Last year I thought he did a great job as a redshirt paying attention in practice every day, listening, answering questions right. But now it's time to get out there and execute. He'll have decisions to make and he'll have to execute the plays, so it'll be good to see how he does.

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