CRAWFORD | Six takeaways from Bobby Petrino's game-week news conference
WDRB's Eric Crawford has some takeaways from Bobby Petrino's preview of the University of Louisville football season opener against Purdue on Saturday in Indianapolis.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Game week has arrived for the University of Louisville football team. The No. 16-ranked Cardinals held their final dress rehearsal in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium last Friday night, and Bobby Petrino sat down for his first game-week news conference on Monday.
Here are five takeaways from Petrino’s Q&A with reporters, in advance of the Cards' opener against Purdue Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis:
1). PETRINO DOWNPLAYED THE JEFF BROHM STORYLINE. Jeff Brohm has many coaching influences, but Petrino is the most recent. Brohm served on Petrino’s staff at Western Kentucky, and his past with U of L is well-known. And he’s not the only member of Purdue’s staff who has worked for Petrino.
In fact, when Petrino’s daughter, Katie, got married earlier this summer, many of the Purdue coaches were at the wedding.
But the two staffs won’t be doing the Electric Slide this weekend in Indianapolis.
“I'm excited for Jeff,” Petrino said. “Obviously, congratulated him on getting the job. Like I said, they were all at Katie's wedding this summer and it was great to see them. Other than that, I haven't thought at all about it. He's the enemy now. . . .
“(Jeff) is very knowledgeable. He just needed to make a decision that coaching was really what he wanted to do. I think it's always hard for a guy that's been in the NFL, then do I really want to work at night? I like going and playing and having my nights free, and do I really want to go on the road recruiting? Some guys do and some guys don't. When I went to Western Jeff called me and he said that I have made the decision that I really do want to be a head coach now and that's why I'd really like to come to Western with you, I think that, to me, said more than anything else that he was ready to be a head coach and he was working toward it and truly believed that he would be one.”
2). DEVANTE PEETE IS OUT FOR THE SEASON. Peete, a 6-6 junior who was a four-star recruit at wide receiver, sustained an injury in practice and won’t play this year, Petrino said. Peete had gotten positive reviews for his postseason play and figured to be a key contributor on special teams as well as in the offense.
“It hurts us,” Petrino said. “He was one of our leaders on special teams and was doing a great job at wide receiver. But he's got a great attitude, he's a great worker, he'll be back. He has a redshirt available, so that helps too.”
Cornelius Sturghill, listed now as a third-stringer at wide receiver after initially being slotted at defensive back, has a leg injury and is day-to-day. Petrino said he’s the team’s fastest player in the 40-yard dash, even after missing last season with a gunshot injury after being hit by a stray bullet in his hometown of Memphis.
3). PETRINO HIGH ON SPECIAL TEAMS. It’s no secret U of L coaches believe their kicking game is much improved, but Petrino thinks his entire special teams unit could be a strength this season.
“I'm excited to see how we'll be on special teams,” he said. “I feel like we're fast and our cover team should be really good. We've got some elite returners. . . . Blanton (Creque) had a really nice camp. He's come back stronger. I knew he would with the offseason and the flexibility he worked on. I feel like anywhere 51 yards in that he's going to have a great chance to put three points on the board. Last year it was at 46 yards where we felt comfortable. (Punter) Mason King had a great year last year for us and I think he's more consistent now, so hopefully he comes out and continues that.”
4). FINAL SCRIMMAGE THOUGHTS. The scrimmage Friday night was the team’s last before playing a game, and Petrino tries to make everything before those final scrimmages as much like game conditions as possible, right up to the way the team prepares in the locker room before the game, simulating game warm-ups, all the way through the game’s opening script.
In all, Petrino said the experience and seasoning of his team showed in that kind of exercise.
“I thought it went well,” he said. “it's kind of what we call a mock game. You scrimmage, but you also hit all the things that come up during a game with the special teams, and our players did a good job preparing for that. We didn't have any substitution mistakes, we executed very well. The one thing we've really been trying to do defensively is play the good principles of defense. We did a good job with that. We shed blocks, we ran full speed to the ball, we tackled well and we created some turnovers. I think it's the best scrimmage we've had defensively. They were really focused and played extremely fast. I thought our defensive linemen did a really good job controlling the line of scrimmage. As far as the offense goes, I like where we're at there. I think our offensive line is going to be a lot better. I think we have some good weapons around Lamar (Jackson) that we can use. Jaylen Smith and Seth Dawkins have had a really good fall camp. Both of them are catching the ball well and getting open, and we were able to do different things with them. All our running backs are doing a good job in the three areas they need to.”
5). LAMAR JACKSON UPDATE. When asked what areas the Heisman Trophy winner has improved upon in the offseason, Petrino said, “I think he’s better at just about everything.”
Probably the area that excites Petrino the most, however, is in Jackson’s recognition of what he’s seeing on the field, and his ability to execute the offense, and more of it, than a year ago.
“He's more experienced, so he really understands what we're trying to do, his feel for the game and the defenses and his recognition and then not hesitating,” Petrino said. “A lot of times as a young quarterback you don't really trust what you see. Sometimes you don't really believe it, so you hesitate. But he trusts what he sees, he trusts his knowledge, so his decisions are quicker and better and he's doing a good job with his technique, his sets, his transferring weight. He's had really good scrimmages and been very accurate and done a nice job of getting us out of a bad play into a good play.”
6). PETRINO THINKS THIS IS HIS FASTEST TEAM. He got the question straight up – is this the fastest team you’ve had since you’ve been at Louisville? And he answered pretty clearly.
“I think so,” he said. “It's a combination of not only recruiting speed, but our players know what they're doing. Playing fast is not just your 40 time, it's understanding your job and what you're supposed to do, understanding what the other side of the ball's trying to do and not hesitating and being able to go. Get to your technique before they get to theirs. I think we're going to be a fast team. I like what I've seen so far.”
WDRB will televise a live 90-minute pregame show before Louisville's game at Purdue is televised by Fox Sports on Saturday night. The pregame show airs at 6 p.m.
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