CRAWFORD | Louisville kicks off football practice -- 5 thoughts on Day 1
WDRB's Eric Crawford outlines Day 1 of University of Louisville football practice.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The first day of football practice is a little like the first day of class – the teacher just expects you to already have memorized the playbook.
Otherwise, the first day in shirts and shorts with no pads is a fairly ritualistic affair each year, designed to condition players, see who knows the drill and who doesn’t, who is focused mentally and who needs some sharpening, and to a great degree, what young players look like they may feel comfortable and which will need some time to keep their heads from spinning.
For the University of Louisville and coach Bobby Petrino, Day 1 in the new NCAA world of no two-a-days went smoothly. There wasn’t much chance it wouldn’t – the Cardinals held a walk-through of their practice on Monday morning before hitting the field for real in the afternoon.
“There was a lot of carryover to what we’re doing,” Petrino said. “Some of the new guys have done a great job of really learning and understanding what’s going on. There’s some really talented young men in our incoming class. I thought we practiced hard, really worked on giving great effort. I think we practiced smart, practiced fast and physical but also taking care of our teammate, knowing when to pull off and avoided some collisions in the secondary. There was a lot of good teaching that went on so that we could practice that way. I like the depth on the team. I feel like we’ve got a chance to be pretty good if we come out each day and get better.”
If you’re looking for conclusions after Day 1, I always tell people, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Without hitting or pads, reliable intel is tough to come by.
But here are five first impressions from the Cardinals’ first day:
1). REGGIE BONNAFON LOOKS COMFORTABLE IN THE BACKFIELD. The senior who has started at quarterback and receiver now is taking snaps at running back and looked natural taking handoffs and heading upfield. Granted, no one was waiting to tackle him, but his running style looked lower to the ground and more like a legitimate running back than it has in the past.
Bonnafon also has added muscle – he’s near 215 pounds. With Petrino saying that one of his goals this season is to get Bonnafon more touches, the Trinity High School product is ready.
“Really, I just need to try to be a playmaker, whenever my number is called,” Bonnafon said. “Just try to extend yardage, whether it’s touchdown or first down. All the positions that I’ve played, they kind of tie in together. Football is football at the end of the day. Things I learned at quarterback – protections and things like that – I need to know at running back. It’s just refreshing stuff that I already learned. So it hasn’t been too much of a transition.”
More than that, Bonnafon looks like a leader on the field. If there’s a drill, he’s the first in line, every time.
“When you’re a senior, a lot of younger guys are looking up to you,” he said. “I take that personally.”
2). TREVON YOUNG LOOKS GOOD, BUT STILL HAS WORK TO DO. Physically, the senior linebacker looks great. He played in the spring, and coaches expect him to be close to 100 percent.
“I’m just really proud of him and happy for him,” Petrino said. “He can really get off on the count, on the ball, he’s a good pass rusher. He’s excited to get out there and obviously did a great job all summer.”
But in some ways, Young said, he won’t feel completely comfortable until he gets back into his first game. He hasn’t played since a severe hip injury early in the Cardinals’ Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M the season before last. He finished that season with 8 ½ sacks.
“I feel pretty good,” Young said. “I think it was a pretty good idea to get out in the spring. . . . I feel like I’m stronger than I was. I feel like I need to get a little back on my cuts and my get-offs, but that will come. . . . There were moments through the first few months of the recovery where I really couldn’t do much without assistance. There were definitely moments where it crossed my mind that I might not get back. I feel like once I get back on the field and take a couple of reps, the worries about injury will go away.”
3). CHRIS WILLIAMS HAS BEEN DISMISSED FROM THE TEAM AFTER ARREST FOR THEFT. Petrino told reporters Monday that the junior college transfer has been let go for an unspecified violation of team rules, though a subsequent Courier-Journal report says that Williams is alleged to have stolen $2,300 from teammates by obtaining banking information from them. He was arrested on June 23.
Williams had the potential to be a stopper on the defensive front and was vying to play a significant role. He had six tackles, three unassisted, in the loss to Kentucky and four more in the bowl loss to LSU last season.
Depth on the defensive line is at a premium for everyone. Losing Williams isn’t the best development for Louisville.
4). IT WASN’T A GREAT DAY FOR THE QUARTERBACKS. There were far more balls on the ground and balls flying over the heads of receivers, than you expect to see at a Louisville practice, and Petrino made note of it.
“I didn’t think our timing was as good as it needs to be,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do on that. We just didn’t throw the ball as accurately as we usually do. We didn’t have as good an execution as I want. It’s typical of early camp, the timing is a little bit off. But we have a good group of receivers. They need to make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be, on time, finish routes, deep ball down the field. But I think we’re going to see guys push each other to get playing time.”
Lamar Jackson looks great physically. He looked fine in the skeleton drills under center. The quarterbacks worked with a rotation of linemen snapping the ball.
Jackson didn’t look any more accurate than he has in the past. That’ll be something to watch. (For the coaches, the rest of us won’t see anything until the first game.)
Jackson didn’t speak to the media today.
5). SECONDARY STACKED. The Cards have depth, speed and experience in the secondary. Safety Chucky Williams and cornerback Jaire Alexander are good – and more important, they know they’re good. Cornelius Sturghill brings depth and great speed in the nickel package.
“Ronald Washington will be in the mix, a big, physical guy,” Petrino said. “Russ Yeast, I think will be in the mix. He’s a real talented guy who is a fast learner. I really like watching him catch punts, too. He really accelerates. I think there will be a lot of competition at the corner position.”
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.